Report on European Matters – February 2015

European Matters

  1. Resources and courses

Resources for worship

The Church of Norway has the orders for a wedding and for the principal Sunday service (with or without Communion) in English translation. These can be found at http://kirken.no/globalassets/kirken.no/om-troen/liturgier-oversatt/the-order-for-a-wedding.pdf and http://kirken.no/globalassets/kirken.no/om-troen/liturgier-oversatt/the-order-of-the-principal-service.pdf respectively. The former is, obviously, a resource for those dealing with weddings between UK and Norwegian nationals. Both are potentially rich resources for clergy and others involved in planning liturgies.

German Protestant Kirchentag

English-language information about the topics under discussion at the 35th Kirchentag, which will take place in Stuttgart from 3rd-7th June 2015, is now available at http://www.kirchentag.de/fileadmin/_migrated/content_uploads/DEKT35_topic_tableau.pdf It is hoped to gather a group from this diocese to attend.

Old Catholic Theology

The third international summer school in Old Catholic Theology in its ecumenical context will be held in Utrecht in July. Details are available at: http://www.utrechtsummerschool.nl/courses/culture/old-catholic-theology-in-its-ecumenical-context

Institute for Ecumenical Research

The 49th International Ecumenical Seminar will take place in Strasbourg in July. The theme will be “Ecumenism in the Arts”. The Christian faith has been expressed since its earliest beginnings in works of art. These works cross the boundaries between the churches. Therefore it is valuable to ask whether and how art can be helpful in seeing and experiencing the unity of Christians. Details of the Seminar can be found at http://www.strasbourginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Flyer-Seminar-e-2015.pdf

Climate Change

The Catholic Church in France is preparing for COP21 (see 7 below) in Paris. A declaration of the Council “Famille et Société” of the French Bishops’ Conference, entitled “Climate Change: a planetary Kairos”, was published in January. The text (in French) can be downloaded at http://www.eglise.catholique.fr/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/01/fiche-161-Kairos.pdf.

Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women

Registration has opened for a “Pop-Up Monastery” event for women to be held in August at a monastic setting in Mariensee near Hannover. Details can be seen at www.popupmonastery.com.

2. Our Partner Churches

2.1 The Porvoo Communion (Anglican Churches of Great Britain and Ireland and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches)

The appointment of the Revd Libby Lane as Bishop of Stockport and her consecration as the first woman bishop in the Church of England has been widely welcomed among the Lutheran churches of the Porvoo Communion. The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church has recently elected a new archbishop. He is young (aged 41) It is thought likely that he will continue on the same conservative path as his predecessor.

2.1.1 Church of Denmark

Messy Church has made it to Denmark. The parish of St Clement, Randers is pioneering this. There is a Danish-language website: http://www.messychurch.dk/.

2.1.2 Church of Sweden

The English-language pages of the Diakonia website (http://www.diakonia.se/en/) currently include stories about climate change, a fair finance guide and a reflection on the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

2.1.3 Church of Finland

The Church of Finland’s recent redesign of its website (mentioned in my previous report), although excellent, has the disadvantage that it too does not allow access to current news in English. I am, again, investigating.

2.2 Meissen Matters (The Church of England and The Protestant Churches in Germany [EKD])

The Diocese of Lichfield has entered into a 5 year Covenant with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of North Germany (The Nordkirche). This expands and renews the covenant made in 1999 with the Landeskirche Mecklenburgs which joined the North Elbian Church and Vorpommern to form the Nordkirche at Pentecost in 2013.

News has been received of the death of Bishop Emeritus Professor Dr Friedrich Weber, Co- Chair of the Meissen Commission and (until his recent retirement) Bishop of Braunschweig. He was also President of CPCE (see below). The recent death of former Bundespräsident Richard von Weizsäcker leaves another huge gap in the German Protestant Church. It was during his tenure as federal president that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Germany was reunited. He saw German reunification as an opportunity to meet the obligation to work for peace and common security for all countries of Europe. For many years he was engaged with the work of the World Council of Churches and with the German Protestant Kirchentag.

In anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican are planning a joint celebration in autumn 2016. The event is intended to recall the “solid ecumenical development” between Lutherans and Catholics, the LWF announced in Geneva on Thursday. The venue and setting have not yet been decided. Progress in Catholic-Lutheran relations is outlined in “From Conflict to Communion”, published in 2013 and available as a pdf download at http://www.ekd.de/english/download/From_Conflict_to_Communion.pdf

Church leaders in Germany have been prominent in calling for more solidarity and social acceptance of migrants in the face of Pegida and its offshoots. Bishop Jochen Bohl of Saxony noted in a televised New Year service from the Frauenkirche in Dresden that “if people were less concerned to set themselves apart the world would certainly be more peaceful”. There have also been reminders of the role of Protestant congregations in eastern Germany in bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall (something completely ignored in British media retrospectives) and the reunification of the country. The EKD has recently published statements on “Communicating the Gospel in a Digital Society”, on peace in the Middle East and a lengthy text on sustainable development, “In the Path of Righteousness there is Life” (downloadable as a pdf from http://www.ekd.de/english/download/ekdtext117_global_governance_en.pdf).

2.3 Reuilly Matters (The Anglican Churches of Great Britain and Ireland and the United Protestant Church of France [EPUdF], a member church of the Fédération Protestante de France)

The French Protestant mission agency Défap now has a well-presented website at http://www.defap.fr. The web-page “Actualités” links to stories from the global South. Pasteur Brice Deymié has produced an interesting reflection on Christian and Muslim approaches to prison chaplaincy. It can be downloaded at http://www.protestants.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Protestantisme_et_Societe/documentation/20150127-article_aumoniers_de_prison.pdf.

The General Assembly of the Fédération Protestante de France (FPF) met at the end of January. The main topics discussed were climate change and the situation in the Middle East. Three recent publications by FPF focus on climate change, marriage between Protestants and Muslims, and faith and the law. Plans for a major celebration in Lyon of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation were approved.

The FPF’s response to the jihadist murders in Paris emphasised freedom of conscience, democracy and the freedom of the press as foundations of the common life in the secular state. Members of the Protestant Churches were encouraged to take part in the walks of witness and vigils which were organised in every major city. The updated World-wide Index of Persecution lists the fifty states where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. In 2015 the five worst are North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Azerbaijan, Turkey and Mexico are three new entries on the list. A map showing the most difficult countries has been published at https://www.portesouvertes.fr/persecution-des-chretiens/

The Taizé Community held its annual European meeting in Prague. In the course of the gathering Br Alois issued an invitation to 100 young people to join him and other brothers in a pilgrimage to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, to celebrate Orthodox Easter. Last summer eight young people from Britain made a video record of their week in Taizé. It can be downloaded from http://www.taize.fr/en_article17649.html.

The Union of Protestant Churches in Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) is working, through the Swiss mission agency Mission 21, with congregations of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, which is resolutely pacifist, despite being under serious threat from extremists. Representatives of the French chaplaincies of the diocese (including Bishop Robert) have been involved in the demonstrations of solidarity following the murders in Paris.

3. Other partners in Mission

3.1 Protestant Church in the Netherlands

The current situation in the Middle East continues to concern the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. There is also a focus on climate change and on the continuing relevance of the Reformation as the Jubilee year, 2017, approaches. Comments on these matters can be found at http://www.pkn.nl/overons/protestant-church/Paginas/News-and-Columns.aspx

3.2 The Catholic Church in France

Concern about the aftermath of events in Paris extends to a number of former French colonies, particularly Niger where there has been anti-Christian violence following the publication of Charlie Hebdo which appeared after the murders. In Niamey, the capital, only the cathedral is still standing, the other churches (Catholic and Protestant) have been destroyed, along with the house of a religious community. At the church of St-Michel a group of young Muslims prevented further violence by blocking the main entrance and telling the attackers “If you want to kill our Christian brothers, kill us first.”

Members of the Chemin Neuf community are now installed at Lambeth. Information about this community, which is Catholic in origin but has a strong ecumenical vocation, can be found (in English) at http://www.chemin-neuf.org/?set_language=en&cl=en

  1. Facing the European Institutions

    1. Conference of European Churches (CEC)

The Conference of European Churches and the Church and Society Commission met at Leuven in Belgium in December to finalise their merger under Belgian law. CEC’s offices in Geneva closed at the end of 2014 and the organisation moved to Brussels. Archbishop Anders Wejryd (formerly Bishop of Växjö) was one of the speakers at a colloquium on the challenges and future under the new CEC structure. In addition CEC expressed its concerns about very serious violations of fundamental human rights, the humanitarian crisis and the security situation in the Middle East region, especially in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. For more details see: http://www.ceceurope.org/index.php?id=1774

CEC was among the many organisations who issued statements about the murders in Paris in January, expressing sorrow and grief for the victims and their families and hopes for peace in the aftermath. The Conference of European Churches also rejected religious explanations for the violence and urged the European community to respond peacefully. More details can be read at: http://www.ceceurope.org/news/news/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=515&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=17&cHash=071d9c6b6d2d8f872aaa5aba0a296fe1.

Following the 20th session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru, CEC expressed deep ambiguity and frustration with the Lima outcomes, commenting that the decisions from Lima show a disheartening dilution of global commitment to addressing catastrophic climate change and an ongoing marginalisation of those most affected by climate change. The 21st session will be in Paris.

4.2 CPCE (Leuenberg Fellowship of Churches)

The British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) are continuing their pilgrimage towards the goal of “full visible unity”. At a meeting in Switzerland in October participants discussed how an exploration of our shared Christian heritage might lead to a deeper understanding of and need for each other in an increasingly secular and pluralistic Europe. The aim is to root Christian Witness and Service in a changing Europe in a shared theology and an understanding of the Gospel.

CPCE also voiced its dismay and extreme concern at the attack launched by gunmen on the staff at French magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris, the shooting of police and deaths of four other victims in a Jewish supermarket, linking both events with the need for a renewed commitment to living together in diversity and an intensification of inter-religious dialogue

The Forum is launching a campaign to choose an act of denial or frugality on a Friday. The action can be used as a means of reflection and money savings may be used to support an appropriate cause. The act itself may act as a saving for the environment. Materials are being produced about following Frugal Friday. There is a twitter account: @FrugalFri

4.3 CCEE (The European Catholic Bishops’ Conference)

Pope Francis addressed the European Parliament at its plenary in Strasbourg in November. His words were widely reported. A summary can be found at http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/pope-francis-says-world-sees-eu-as-elderly-and-haggard-27336#ixzz3LQYfc1Pk

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a joint declaration on St Andrew’s day. It touched on many matters of common concern, including ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and the civil war in Ukraine. The text can be found at http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=en&id=1995&tla=en/

4.4 COMECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community)

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been very much on the agenda of COMECE. COMECE also joined with CEC to issue a call to the EU to implement the legal framework already in place in relation to human trafficking and to intensify cooperation with civil society and church organisations that work with victims at the grassroots level. Both organisations have held joint discussions with the new Latvian team holding the EU Presidency. These were wide-ranging and touched on religious freedom and tolerance, climate change, migration, security strategy and conflict prevention and EU neighbourhood policy.

  1. Together for Europe

The next event organised by this network of Christian movements and communities will focus on the timely theme “Towards an economy for the common good”. It will take place in Italy, at Loppiano near Florence, from 6th-8th March.

Preparations are in train for a major European event to be held in Munich on 30th June and 1st July, 2016 followed by an outdoor rally on 2nd July in one of the city’s squares. The planning group, which met in Slovenia in November, hopes that “the main focus of the Event [will] be a noteworthy act of reconciliation, expression of a strong yearning for unity. Together for Europe can be a driver in this direction, on account of the ongoing multiple experiences lived throughout the Continent, particularly between people of different Churches. For this reason, the 2016 Event could also be seen as a milestone in the journey towards 2017 (500th anniversary of Luther’s reformation), offering a prophetic sign of a reconciled and united Europe”.

4.5 Faith in Europe

On 22nd January Sue Bird, who is lay vice-chair of the Council of Holy Trinity Pro- Cathedral, in Brussels and who works as a Policy Co-ordinator in the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission,, presented a briefing “The Future of the UK within the EU: Is there a Christian Case”. It developed the themes of her article in the “Church Times” of 21st February, 2014 (http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/21-february/comment/opinion/a-christian-case-for-the-eu). John Arnold (former Dean of Durham) suggested in the course of discussion that “The great achievement of the EU has been the creation of a European Germany rather then a German Europe” and expressed concern about a potential “Brexit”, noting the increasing use of English as the lingua franca of Europe and asking what happens after a British withdrawal if the only “native” English-speakers are the Irish?

A.W. Dickinson

10.2.2015