The Societas Homiletica had its origins in the celebration of the 600th anniversary of Heidelberg University in 1986. THe Professor of Practical Theology, Rudolf Bohren, received a grant from the University and chose to host the first international symposium on homiletics. He invited teachers of preaching from several countries, including Germany, Netherlands, England, Spain, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and the U.S.A. Other countries were also represented, though the meeting was largely German and European in character. The theme was "Analysis of Sermons".
The SH was not formed at this meeting, but the seed was sown by Bohren and his colleagues.
The next meeting was held in DeLand, Florida at Stetson University in 1990. Richard Lischer planned the program for that year. This meeting featured an unusually large number of American homileticians as well as others from the European countries, with a large turnout from Eastern Europe, and also Japan. The focus was on the contexts of preaching with the theme, "The Formation of Preachers in Church and University".
Following the meeting in Deland, a small group of planners, including Rudolf Bohren, Richard Lischer, and O.C. Edwards, Jr. went to Duke University in Durham, N.C. and began advanced planning for the First International Conference to be held in Oslo, Norway.
A second planning meeting was held in the summer of 1992 in Berlin. It was attended by the executive board. From that time on, the executive board began meeting in the intermediate year in order to plan for the next meeting. Prof. Klaus Peter Joerns hosted this meeting.
The SH actually came into being at the International Conference held in Oslo, Norway, in 1993 under the guidance and hospitality of Prof. Olav Skjevesland of the Lutheran School of Theology in Oslo. Its theme was "Exegesis-Theology-Preaching". At that Conference a constitution was adopted and a method for collecting dues was accepted. The Conference welcomed several speakers from outside the circle of SH, including Elisabeth Schuessler Fiorenza.
Later in 1993 the executive board met in October in Chemsford, England to plan the next conference scheduled for 1995 in Berlin.
The 2nd International Conference of SH was held in Berlin in 1995 and was hosted by Prof. Klaus-Peter Joerns of Humboldt University. Its theme was "Sermon on the Mount - School for Preachers". One of the great concerns of the planning group was to expand the membership from a predominantly Euro-American group to a truly International society with attendees from hitherto unrepresented countries and continents.
The next planning meeting was held in Japan under the guidance of Prof Tsuneaki Kato in the spring of 1996. The 3rd International Conference was held in June 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The theme was, "Preaching as God's Mission". Many new participants came from different parts of the world, especially Asia.
The 4th International Conference was held in Washington D.C., U.S.A in February 1999. The host was Prof. Judith. M. McDaniel and the theme was "Preaching Grace in the Human Condition".
The 5th International Conference was held in Doorn, The Netherlands in June 2001. The theme was "Creating Perspective". It was hosted by Prof. Dr. Gerrit Immink of Utrecht University. At this Conference, Prof. Dr. Albrecht Groezinger of the University of Basel, Switzerland was elected the President of SH. The Conference also decided that the 6th International Conference would be held in Singapore from 14 to 19 June 2003 with Rev Dr Ho Soon Kang as its organizing chairman. The Trinity Theological College in Singapore would be the host and the theme would be "Preaching as Shaping Experience in a World of Conflict."
However, due to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in many parts of the world, it was decided that the Conference in Singapore would be postponed to 12-17 June 2004. The 6th International Conference was held in Singapore Trinity Theological College, 12-17 June 2004. The theme was "Preaching as Shaping Experience in a World of Conflict, and the keynote speakers were Prof John S. McClure and Prof C.S. Song.