In 1994, Revd. Gerhard Köberlin returned to Germany to take up a post at the Protestant Academy for Mission Studies (EMW) at the University of Hamburg. Before, he spent several years as a minister in Thailand, where he had become involved with the work of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists and made friends with Thai Buddhists. These positive experiences inspired him to set up a Network in Europe with the initial aim of cultivating friendship between Buddhists and Christians. A first meeting took place from 9. – 11. February 1996 at the Academy for Mission Studies, Hamburg. During the next meeting in St. Ottilien 1997 the European Network of Buddhist Christian Studies (ENBCS) was formally established. The Network still maintains close relationships with the EMW but also with the Benedictine Archabbey St. Ottilien near Munich. St. Ottilien plays a major role in the international Buddhist-Christian monastic dialogue and was thus considered by the founding members of the Network as an ideal partner, to which the Network maintains institutional links. Yet the ENBCS enjoys a completely independent status and all decisions are taken democratically by its steering board, which is open to all who wish to commit themselves to the work and goals of the Network. The Network is represented by an elected president. So far these have been Prof. Aasulv Lande (Sweden), Prof. John D’Arcy May (Ireland) and Prof. Elizabeth Harris (United Kingdom).
At an early stage it emerged as the main objective of the ENBCS to foster Buddhist-Christian relations at an academic level. Its aim was not to compete with but complement the work of the Lassalle-House in Bad Schönbrunn, Switzerland, which was established at about the same time and focused on spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is not excluded from the agenda of the ENBCS, but its attitude is different in that it concentrates on intellectual reflection on spiritual practice.
The ENBCS works in two different but interrelated ways: First by active networking and second by organizing high profile international conferences on crucial issues within Buddhist-Christian encounter. Networking is focused on Europe. The ENBCS sees itself as a platform which invites all who work academically in the field of Buddhist-Christian encounter to get in contact and cooperate. So far, the Network has gathered people from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Poland. The ENBCS also seeks to cooperate with Universities, as it has done, so far, with the Universities of Lund, Glasgow, Salzburg, Liverpool Hope, Muenster, Munich, Leuven, and Barcelona. Usually this cooperation is linked to the organization of the biannual international conferences, which are also regularly attended by Buddhists from Asia.
The first two meetings (Hamburg 1996, St. Ottilien 1997) were dedicated to setting up the form and profile of the Network. All later conferences were dedicated to crucial topics of Buddhist Christian encounter. Given that the ENBCS has no financial resources of its own, each conference is sponsored by various religious and secular research foundations within Europe. A great deal of time and work in organizing these conferences and publishing their proceedings is invested on a voluntary basis by members of the Network. One objective of the conferences is to produce scholarly material which may serve as a basis for further research within the context of Buddhist Christian studies. (For a list of all conferences and the publications see here.) For 2019 the ENBCS is planning a conference to commemorate the hundredth birthday of Lynn A. de Silva (16 June 1919 – 22 May 1982), one of the major pioneers of Buddhist Christian dialogue. Many of his ideas and visions are still valid and inspiring.
The Network can continue its work only if it is supported by people who are committed to further study and intellectual reflection on Buddhist Christian encounter. In particular, the Network invites students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) and junior or senior researchers whose work is in the field of Buddhist Christian Studies to join the Network and participate in its ongoing activities.
For inquiries, please contact:
Professor Martin Rötting (Secretary)
Professor Perry Schmidt-Leukel (Moderator)
Professor Andreas Nehring (Treasurer)