European synod members agree common objectives

2nd meeting, Budapest

CPCE President Dr. Klára Tarr from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary extended a warm welcome to around 90 synod members from all over Europe at their gathering in Budapest from 30th January to 1st February. CPCE Council member and senior church councillor Barbara Rudolph from the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland had organised the event on behalf of the CPCE, which was attended by delegates from 49 Protestant church synods from all over Europe. It was also a great pleasure to host Dr. Freddy Elbaiady from Egypt as the delegate for the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches. The event was the second of its kind to be organised by the CPCE with the aim of examining the European churches’ keenest concerns and searching for common solutions. In the opening service of worship, organised by the Reformed Church in Hungary, an address was given by Bishop Sándor Zán Fábián from Ukraine, which painted a very clear picture of the suffering and worries that beleaguer our fellow church in Transcarpathian Ukraine. A collection taken at the service was donated to the guests who had travelled from that troubled region. Participants in the “Journey in time” session led by Dr. Dieter Heidtmann from the Evangelical Academy in Bad Boll, Germany, discovered the differences between their ecclesiastical structures and offices as they discussed their churches’ origins and development over time, even where relatively close neighbours were concerned. Prof. Dr. Daniele Garrone from the Waldensian Church in Italy delivered the keynote speech entitled “What did the Reformation achieve for laypersons in the Church?” Based on the observation that there is no mention of the contemporary concept of the ‘lay ministry’ in the New Testament, he turned the question on its head to ask just whom we should actually consider ‘laypersons’? The people closely acquainted with daily parish life? Or ‘spiritual’ church leaders and office holders in the church hierarchy? Professor Garrone’s closing question, in particular, offered plenty of food for thought: Have we really understood the true cause pursued by the Reformation? The numerous different aspects of the Protestant churches’ endeavours in Europe were clearly reflected in the topics addressed by the sub-groups. Delegates presented introductions into each of the different subjects, which prompted lively discussions in the fields of medicine and social welfare, culture, politics and democratic participation, education and teaching, family and the generations, economics and finance, and global responsibility. To give an example, the group examining “global responsibility” is of the opinion that Europe’s refugee policy has failed. The churches are doing their utmost to help, but the legislation is often inhuman and obstructive to the humane treatment of refugees. In a similar manner, the group debating “politics and democratic participation” concluded that the churches should urgently seek a means of voicing their opinion in the institutions of the EU. The participants issued a closing statement outlining their most pressing concerns and demands. The spirit of church fellowship was most keenly embodied in the two services of worship and sharing of the Lord’s Supper. This gathering of synod members was felt to provide a positive model by which vibrant ‘European church fellowship’ can be enacted with resounding commitment and energetic interaction. The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches will be hosting the third gathering of synod members, scheduled for 2017, in Switzerland. E. Martin The full closing statement can be found below!

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European City of the Reformation