Recognition of the need for, and the potential of, a new organization that would provide a gathering place for individual leaders in theological education from the different traditions goes back several years, at least as far as a meeting of a handful of evangelical, Pentecostal, and historical protestant leaders in February 2013 at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. The topic was taken up again in July of that year in Seoul at a joint meeting of AFTE (Asian Forum of Theological Education) and WOCATI (World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions), where the need for a new, intentional cross-tradition organization was named—even as the need was illustrated by members of one tradition stating that it was awkward, if not completely inappropriate, even to be present with members of another tradition, while others stated categorically “there would be no interest” by members of their ecclesial family in attending any meeting organized by a different family.
The need for a new organization was again discussed by a few attending the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea later in 2013. A formal meeting was held in Chicago in May 2014 where an executive committee was named and plans for the first global meetings were drafted. The executive committee met in September 2014 at Familienferienstätte Dorfweil, a church related conference center located not far from Frankfurt, considering it to be a potential venue for the first global meeting given the relative ease of access for travelers from various parts of the world. The executive committee was expanded to include at least one member from each of the six Christian ecclesial families, the name Global Forum of Theological Educators (GFTE) was established, and the date for the first global consultation was set for May 2016. The executive committee met again at Dorfweil in March 2015 to plan the program and process, identify participants, and work out logistics of the global meeting. A final planning meeting took place in Oxford in September 2015.
In order for participation by the six ecclesial families to be as balanced as possible, the executive committee decided not to open participation to everyone who wanted to attend, but rather to offer specific, intentional invitations. The goal was a balance of participants with attention first to the balance of the six families, then to geographic balance, gender, and age. The committee was also committed to inviting individuals to participate as individuals, not as representatives of organizations or denominations.