Breakfast Talk

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A talk by Dame Mary Tanner – 29th April, 2023 – 9.30am – at the Parish Church of St. Laurence, Hawkhurst

The best job ever’: friendship, reconciliation unity

Over breakfast together on Saturday April 29th Mary will describe how she came to have ‘the best job ever’. It was all about understanding others and making friends across the divide of churches – Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal and trying to understand what were those things that caused division, about discovering how we had so often misrepresented one another, how we had grown over the years further and further apart, and how, through the ecumenical movement, the new movement of the twentieth century, we might receive gifts from one another and offer our gifts to others. It was about coming out of our isolations, building friendships, discovering how much common faith we shared and how we might worship, witness and serve together in the world, working together for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. It was about how we might become more faithful to the prayer of Jesus, ‘May they be one so that the world might believe’


About  Dame Mary Tanner

For seventeen years Mary taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Hull and Bristol Universities and Westcott House, Cambridge. Her increasing involvement in the ecumenical movement led her in 1982 to join the staff of the Board for Mission and Unity of the General Synod of the Church of England, later becoming the first General Secretary of the Council for Christian Unity.

From 1974 Mary served as the Church of England’s representative on the Faith and Order Commission, the theological commission, of the World Council of Churches becoming its first woman Moderator in 1991. She chaired the Advisory Committee of the study on ‘The Church as a Community of Women and Men’.

Mary was a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.  She was secretary to the Conversations with the Evangelical Church in Germany which led to the Meissen Agreement and was awarded by the President of Germany, the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit. She also served on the Conversations with the Nordic and Baltic churches which led to the Porvoo Agreement bringing Anglican churches of the British Isles and Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches into a close relationship of communion. She was awarded by the King of Sweden the Order of the Polar Star.

After retirement in 1998 Mary continued her ecumenical ministry. As President for Europe of the World Council of Churches she travelled to many parts of Europe and was a visiting Professor in New York, Jerusalem and Rome.

Throughout her ecumenical work Mary was concerned to bring the results of the ecumenical regional and international agreements into the life and witness of local churches.

In 2008 Mary was made a Dame of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her work for the Anglican Communion and the Ecumenical Movement.