The first attempt by Prof. Robert Taft to organize, via an announcement in Orientale, the bulletin of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, a ‘Society for the Study of Eastern Christian Liturgy’ dates back to 1993. His initiative at that time was provoked by his view that existing scholarly liturgical academies or societies like the international Societas Liturgica (SL) or the North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL) failed to address adequately the needs of Oriental liturgists and scholars in associated disciplines. However, the meager response to that 1993 initiative led Taft to abandon the idea. A similar attempt somewhat later by one of his former doctoral students to organize a society of his ex-alumni was equally aborted when its initiator assumed other responsibilities.
But the success of the 1998 International Congress ‘Comparative Liturgy Fifty Years After Anton Baumstark (†1948)’ that Prof. Gabriele Winkler (Tübingen) and Taft organized in Rome, and the positive reception of its published ‘Acts of the International Congress Comparative Liturgy Fifty Years after Anton Baumstark (1872-1948), Rome, 25-29 September 1998’, edited by R.F. Taft & G. Winkler (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 265, Rome 2001), seemed to indicate interest in an academic venue to share and explore scholarship in Oriental liturgiology.
In addition, the more recent experience of the usefulness of smaller meetings with a limited number of participants of demonstrated competence was shown at the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary 40th Anniversary Symposium: ‘Liturgy in Context: Worship Traditions of Armenia and the Neighboring Christian East’, New York, 25-28 September 2002; and later at the conference: ‘The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer: Christology, Trinity, and Liturgical Theology’, at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, 24-27 February 2005.
So after consultation with a few colleagues and former doctoral students, especially the enthusiastic response of Dr. Mark Morozowich, now assistant professor of liturgy, and dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and his willingness to assist in the organizational work; plus the generous agreement of another of Taft’s former students, Dr. Abraham-Andreas Thiermeyer, the former rector of the Collegium Orientale at the Catholic University of Eichstätt in Bavaria, Germany, to host a meeting at that institution and to make available his staff to assist in the organizational details proper to a congress secretariat, the Society of Oriental Liturgy became a reality.