Nicholas Ayres Jesson
Nicholas Jesson describes his ecumenical
and inter-religious commitments as a "gospel imperative" which he has identified
through diverse lifetime experiences and a family that derives from at least four
Nicholas originally comes from Winnipeg. He has completed a BA in Philosophy and an MA
in Religious Studies at the University of Manitoba
and St. Paul's College. His MA
thesis was on ecumenical ecclesiology from a Roman Catholic perspective. He has experience
in lay ministry as a student campus minister, co-ordinator of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg
summer camping retreat for young adults, and an interim youth co-ordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of
Saskatoon. He was the Director of the Saskatoon Centre for
Ecumenism from 1994 to 1999. He also served as the ecumenical officer for the Diocese
of Saskatoon during the same period. He is active in local, regional and national
Nicholas has participated in the World
Council of Churches' Assembly at Canberra, Australia (February 1991); the Canadian Council of Churches' Triennial
Assemblies (May 1991 & June 1997); the Summer Ecumenical
Institutes (Montréal 1996, Calgary 1997 & Saskatoon 1999); the Association of Interchurch
Families conference (Edmonton, 2001) and the North American Academy of Ecumenists annual conferences
(1996 to 2002).
Nicholas has presented or facilitated numerous workshops around Saskatchewan and
elsewhere, including: the Saskatoon Lay Formation program; the Prince Albert Vita
Nova (lay formation) program; the Saskatoon Foundations (adult religious
education) program; study days for the Roman Catholic dioceses of Saskatoon, Prince
Albert, Regina, Winnipeg, St. Boniface, Edmonton and Calgary; conferences for the Western Diocesan & Eparchial Coordinators of Ecumenism; and
the national Summer Ecumenical Institute. Nicholas has been a
writer for the Growing Together ecumenical
bulletin insert series, has published four articles on ecumenical concerns, and assisted
in writing a Justification by Faith study guide for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
With the assistance of local planning committees, Nicholas organized the Summer Ecumenical Institutes in 1997 (Calgary) and 1999
(Saskatoon) and the Western Diocesan & Eparchial
Coordinators of Ecumenism (ecumenical officers) conference in 1998 (St. Peter's Abbey,
Muenster) and 1999 (Saskatoon), as well as bi-annual workshops for parish ecumenical
co-ordinators across the Saskatoon region.
Since 1995, Nicholas has developed and maintained an internet website. Originally intended for the Prairie
Centre for Ecumenism, between 2003 and 2007 it served as a shared website with the Centre canadien
d'œcuménisme in Montréal. At that time its title was changed to "Ecumenism in Canada /
Œcuménisme au Canada." In late 2012 the PCE also withdrew from the website. The site continues under Nicholas' sole leadership.
Average monthly usage is around 10,000 users, from throughout the world.
In the fall of 1999, Nicholas left the PCE to begin studies leading to a PhD in
theology at the University of
St. Michael's College, Toronto School of
Theology. Nicholas' particular interest is in the area of Evangelical-Catholic
dialogue, or the prospects thereof. You can read more on his interests below.
In August 2001, Nick married Amanda Currie, a graduate of Knox College, Toronto School of Theology. Knox is one of
three theological schools of the Presbyterian
Church in Canada. Amanda and Nick share a common passion for practical
ecumenism. Together they attended the July 2003 Second World Gathering of Interchurch
Families near Rome, Italy.
Nick and Amanda moved to Saskatoon when Amanda was called to St. Andrew's
Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon in December 2003. Nick continues to work on his
doctoral thesis from a distance. Returning to Saskatoon has given Nick an
opportunity to re-engage with the ecumenical community in Western Canada.
In September 2004, Nick began teaching as a sessional lecturer at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan. He continues
his studies towards the PhD and involvement in numerous other ecumenical endeavours.
If you are interested, you can also read a description of Nicholas' research goals.
This is a statement submitted to the Toronto
School of Theology at the time of admission to the PhD programme. It has been revised
with some input from faculty mentors.
"Ecclesiological themes in Evangelical-Catholic conversations"
In my MA in religious studies (U of Manitoba, 1995) I
prepared a thesis exploring the Roman Catholic dialogue with other Christian churches
since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). I explored the ecumenically contemporary
issues of baptism, eucharist, and ministry as they were reflected in a series of bilateral
and multilateral dialogues with official church bodies and agencies. I paid particular
attention to the understandings of community and "church" that were reflected in
these dialogues and in official Roman Catholic theological documents. From this study I
was able to point towards a developing consensus amongst the Christian churches on the
nature of the church as a "communion of churches," and further to indicate the
relevance of this concept for the quest for Christian unity.
In my doctoral dissertation I will continue this study with a concentration upon the
emerging dialogue between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. Evangelicals are a diverse
collection of Protestant churches, characterised by a conviction that faith in Jesus as
Lord and saviour is central. Evangelicals also are known for their emphasis on the
personal experience of conversion, on the authority of Scripture, and on the importance of
personal witness to the Gospel. Despite the apparent difficulties of dialogue between
Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, there have been numerous tentative attempts to express a
consensus on basic convictions. An important official dialogue has been established
between the World Evangelical Fellowship (now the World Evangelical Alliance) and the
Vatican. Interestingly, the focus of the current stage of this dialogue is "the
nature of the church as communion". My doctoral dissertation will address the basic
gulf between the two traditions and their respective understandings of the nature of
community and faith.
Amongst the faculty complement at St. Michael's College and the Toronto School of
Theology, I have the opportunity to study with a number of theologians of international
stature who have extensive experience in ecumenical dialogue. Of particular importance for
my dissertation is Dr. George Vandervelde (Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, an affiliate of the Toronto
School of Theology) who is the Evangelical co-chair of the above mentioned Evangelical
Vatican dialogue. My academic supervisor is Dr. Margaret O'Gara, participant in a
number of dialogues in Canada and the USA, as well as the international Lutheran-Catholic
Selected conference presentations
- "Evangelical & Roman Catholic dialogue", Collaborative
Ministries Conference, Saskatoon, 2005.
- "Interchurch-Families", Collaborative Ministries
Conference, Saskatoon, 2005.
- "Jubilee and Justice", National Summer Ecumenical
Institute, Saskatoon, 1999.
- "Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith through Grace: the Lutheran Catholic
Dialogue", Study Days for the Archdioceses of Winnipeg and St. Boniface, 1998.
- "Ecumenism in L'Arche: Eucharistic Sharing", Study Day for L'Arche Edmonton,
- "Faces and Phases of Christian Unity", National Summer
Ecumenical Institute, Calgary, 1997.
- "Lutheran - Catholic dialogue on Justification", Western Diocesan and Eparchial Co-ordinators of Ecumenism, 1996.
- "Pastoral Issues in Ecumenism: the Vatican's New Ecumenical Directory", Study
Days for the Diocese of Prince Albert, 1995.
Papers on ecumenical themes
The following papers have been written as part of the doctoral coursework that Nicholas
has pursued since 1999. The papers are available for your consideration. Perhaps some day
elements of these papers will be prepared for publication elsewhere. Your comments will be
These papers are copyright by Nicholas Jesson, and all rights are reserved. You may
print and study these papers, and hopefully you will find them of assistance. You may not
repost these papers, or distribute them in any format without permission of the
author. You are encouraged to send the links to your friends and colleagues and list them
on your webpages.
All papers listed here are found in the Ecumenism in Canada /
Œcuménisme au Canada document archive in PDF format.
- Doctrine divides, service
unites: Towards a "vital and coherent theology" (April 2003)
A consideration of the perennial ecumenical division between
"Faith & Order" and "Life & Work." Explores the WCC's
"Ecclesiology and Ethics" study.
- Lex orandi, lex credendi: towards
a liturgical theology (November 2001)
A consideration of the ancient adage 'lex orandi lex credendi" as
an entry point to an ecumenically sensitive liturgical theology.
- Orthodox contributions to
ecumenical ecclesiology (October 2001)
A Roman Catholic evaluation of the continuing contributions of Eastern
Orthodox theologians to the ecumenical reflection on ecclesiology. Particular attention is
paid to the concept of "church as communion / koinonia."
- Paradise regained: Indulgences
in light of the Joint Declaration (May 2002)
In November of 1998 the Vatican issued revised norms on indulgences to
accompany the jubilee indulgence proclaimed for the Holy Year of 2000. At the same time
the Lutheran World Federation was considering the adoption of a joint consensus statement
on the doctrine of justification together with the Vatican. The two developments appeared
contradictory and ecumenically problematic. This paper explores the patristic and medieval
development of the sacrament of penance and the doctrine of indulgences, considers some
contemporary re-articulations of the doctrine of indulgences, and assesses them in the
light of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
- Reading Wesley in light of the Joint
Declaration on Justification (February 2002)
A Catholic reading of John Wesley's doctrine of justification and
sanctification in light of the recent Lutheran-Roman Catholic consensus on justification
- Schillebeeckx: Revelation and
Experience (October 2002)
A study of the epistemological theology of Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P.,
one of the most influential 20th century Roman Catholic theologians. Schillebeeckx
combines elements of political and existential theologies with a hermeneutical theology
sharpened by Critical Theory.
- Where is the Church of
Christ?: The developing teaching of Vatican II (January 2000)
A paper on the ongoing development of Roman Catholic recognition of
ecclesial reality in other Christian churches. This paper was prepared prior to the
publication of Dominus
Iesus, the CDF's August, 2000 instruction on the
unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.
- Where two or three are gathered:
Myroslav Volf's Free Church ecclesiology (March 2003)
A consideration of Volf's book After our likeness, and the trinitarian
free church ecclesiology developed therein.
- Towards an ecumenical ecclesiology: The Roman Catholic Church in dialogue, MA
thesis, University of Manitoba (1995). 224 pp.
- "Comments on Peter Staples' Ultimates as Paradoxical Limits", Ultimate
Reality and Meaning 18, no. 2, (1995), 151-154.
- Justification by faith through grace: the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of
Justification, Study resources for congregations and parishes, (Ottawa: Canadian
Conference of Catholic Bishops; Winnipeg: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada,
- "Congregational ecumenism on the Prairies", Ecumenism
129 (March 1998), 30-33.
- "Œcuménisme communitaire dans les Prairies", Œcuménisme
129 (Mars 1998), 30-33.
- "Christian unity: Do not become too comfortable," Our Family, 49, no.
7 (1998), 37-39.
- "Book review: Margaret O'Gara, The ecumenical gift exchange," Catholic
Register (November 1998).
- Growing Together: an annual series on ecumenical education,
Saskatoon Centre for Ecumenism, series 11-15 (1994-1999).
- Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, s.v. "Saskatoon Council of Churches."