News Archives

NCC issues call for submissions to ecumenical film festival

July 11, 2006

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

Cannes. Toronto. Tribeca. Oberlin, Ohio.

An open call has been issued for submissions to a different type of film festival ? original short films that focus on ecumenism and church unity.

The first-ever Oikumene Film Festival will be part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches. The event takes place July 19-23, 2007, in Oberlin.

Oikumene, a Greek word meaning “the whole inhabited earth,” was used to describe ancient Christian councils and later was used to coin the English word, “ecumenical,” referring to the worldwide Christian church.

R. Keelan Downton, who is coordinating the festival, told United Methodist News Service the idea came about “as a result of thinking through some creative ways to engage issues for the 50th anniversary.” So far, he added, he’s been pleased with the positive reaction to the festival.

Downton said his own experience as a summer media intern in 1998 at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio, “was a leap up for me in terms of the visual arts.” Ginghamsburg has been a forward-thinking church in its use of media and technology.

He received a doctorate from the Methodist-owned Edgehill Theological College at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is serving as the first Faith and Order Postdoctoral Fellow with the commission.

Downton would like filmmakers to be creative in their efforts. “We want to direct people away from a documentary style,” he said.

Six submissions, which must be under 21 minutes long, will be shown over two nights of the anniversary celebration. “There will be some opportunities for the filmmakers to present,” Downton said. “What we’re encouraging is for the films to be part of the ongoing dialogue at the scholarly conference.”

A panel will select the six finalists, but it is hoped that some of the other films submitted can be shown through the commission’s Web site, he added. The submissions also will be collected in an archive.

The work of the Faith and Order Commission, according to its Web site, “affirms the oneness of the church of Jesus Christ and keeps before the churches the Gospel call to visible unity in one faith and one Eucharist communion, expressed in worship and in common life with Christ, in order that the world may believe.”

These issues of unity are at the heart of the ecumenical movement, as “people of different faiths struggle with how to relate to each other and work together on mutual concerns in our communities, nation and world.”

Oberlin College, where the celebration will take place, is significant because the commission traces its beginning to a 1957 Oberlin conference on the theme “The Nature of the Unity We Seek.” Since then, the commission and its denominational members have worked to strengthen unity through dialogue and research on theological differences.

For the 2007 event, the theme is “On Being Christian Together: The Faith and Order Experience in the United States.”

The deadline for film submissions is Feb. 16, 2007. Rules and entry forms can be found at on the Web.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

Related Articles
Celebrating 50 years of faith and order
Faith & Order Commission launches online journal
Oikumene Film Festival
Commission on Faith and Order
National Council of Churches