Navigation Menu


Austin, Evanston, and Chicago

Austin. Research into Existential Theology included development of a Religious Studies Curriculum. Joe and Lyn Mathews traveled to Europe to visit centers of church renewal and experiments in corporate ministry and mission, including the Taize community in France and conversations with Lord George McLeod, founder of the Iona Community in Scotland.

Contemporary Form of the Daily Office,” used at the CFLC in Austin, was adapted and used. Experimentation was done with the use of contemporary poetry and secular language in worship (History).

Evanston and Chicago.

As I remember our traditional pitch about our EI origins: “There was a resolution at the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches meeting in Evanston stating that there be an Ecumenical Institute in the Western Hemisphere similar to the one the WCC operated at Bossey, Switzerland. There was no enabling legislation to go along with the resolution. After a while a group of Chicago North Shore Churchmen acted on the legislation and established The Ecumenical Institute at its first location in Evanston with Walter Leibrecht as its first Dean. They used theological faculty from various Chicago seminaries to do their various presentations or courses. When Leibrecht was chosen by his State Church (Landeskirke) in Germany to be its observer at Vatican Council II, EI was left without leadership and with failing financial resources. Then, the Church Federation of Greater Chicago (the Council of Churches-type organization for greater Chicago) stepped in to help with the situation, and EI became a Division of the Church Federation. The Church Federation began to search for a new dean, and finally selected Joseph W. Mathews who was Director of Studies at the Christian Faith and Life Community in Austin, Texas and formerly on the faculty at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. He agreed to come if he could bring a significant core of the faculty of The Faith and Life Community with him, and if they could be at liberty to live as community sustaining themselves. The Church  Federation agreed and seven or eight families moved to Evanston. After a year or so people in the neighborhood became uncomfortable with the “community” living in this rather large house in “up-scale” Evanston, and so the staff and the Church Federation began to search for a more suitable location. They found a recently vacated Church of the Brethren seminary campus on the near west side of Chicago. The Church Federation assisted in finding funding for the purchase of the campus. The Address was 3444 W. Congres Parkway. The group moved there in latter part of 1963 or early 1964. The Bossey Ecumenical Institute was still operating in the Autumn of 1966 when Doris and I and Joe and Carol Pierce touched base there as a part of our research trip to NAME (North Africa and Middle East).

Grace and Peace (Charles Hahn, Dialogue, July 18, 2011).


See Chicago Tribune (1957, February 23) Church Study Group Planned for Evanston. Part 1,
p. 18. [Vote taken to establish an Institute for Ecumenical Studies in Evanston]

When the Ecumenical Institute was established in Evanston I was a student at Garrett and I attended several lectures by visiting theologians. It is my understanding the Church Federation of Greater Chicago later “recruited” Joe Mathews from the Faith and Life Community to come to Evanston as the Dean of the Ecumenical Institute.

(Bill Bailey, Dialogue, July 16, 2011)