Bishop Christopher Hill is the new CEC President

Bishop Christopher HillThe new Governing Board of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) has chosen the Anglican Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev. Christopher Hill as the President of CEC.

Bishop Christopher was chosen at the first meeting of the new Governing Board on Monday.

Very Rev. Karin Burstrand, the Dean of Gothenburg in the Church of Sweden is one of the two vice-presidents along with His Emminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France who stepped down as President.

Before CEC’s new Constitution came into effect on Monday, CEC had a 40-member Central Committee that met annually to oversee the implementation of the decisions of the Assembly.

A presidium of 10 members served as executive to the Central Committee.

The new CEC Constitution approved on 7 July establishes the Governing Board as the main governing body.

Striving for an eco Assembly

David Bradwell
Co-opted Staff, Writer, Church of Scotland

There is a tension between the environmental commitment of Churches and hosting a major international conference.

The churches in Europe are increasingly aware of their responsibility to care for God’s creation, including reducing carbon footprints, using fewer natural resources and caring for diversity and ecosystems.

There are strong links to this green agenda and the message from Rt Rev. Julio Murray to the Assembly on 3 July: “the concept of ‘good living’ in contrast to ‘living well’ as we seek an “economy of efficiency”.

The challenge for CEC is that Assemblies are costly events.

Travel for around 400 participants, electricity, and reams and reams of paper; there are serious questions that need to be addressed about how a green churches can be when hosting such big events.

To be true to the Old Testament imperative to care for creation it is important that environmental management is considered during the Assembly planning process.

Loving our neighbour is also a critical commandment in this regard, as Churches in industrialised countries recognise that those who suffer from the worst effects of climate change (such as drought or rising sea levels) are our neighbours who have often done least to contribute to carbon emissions and are least able to adapt and survive.

To this end the Assembly strove to be green; here are four practical examples:

– Reducing paper.  When registering, each participant was given the option of being paperless during the Assembly, and everything is printed on recycled paper.

– Meals.  All the meals served at the Assembly have a vegetarian option as standard, as meat production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  The Friday evening meal was meat-free.

– Recycling.  The Assembly tote bags, the plastic water beakers, the notepads and pens provided to all participants are made from recycled materials.  The Assembly venues (the RaM Coliseum and Helia Hotel) both have their own environmental policies.

– Travel emissions compensation.  Each participant was warmly invited to donate €15 towards an ecumenical project in Hungary to plant fruit trees.

Seventy church parks, gardens and areas of land have been identified for planting, which will be done in co-operation with the Plant Diversity Centre, an institute supported by the Hungarian Government.

Delegates and participants can donate by cash at the Assembly or through bank transfer:

Name : Commission Eglise et Société de la CEC,
Address : Rue Joseph II 174 1000 Bruxelles – BELGIUM
IBAN : BE43 2100 9891 5501
Communication: Budapest – CO2 compensation

This project, which works with local churches, is an opportunity to compensate in a small way for the environmental impact of the Assembly.

CEC President and General Secretary show satisfaction with the journey

Theodore Gill, coopted staff, WCC
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, outgoing president of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), has said the 14th Assembly in Budapest has been “a long but fruitful journey on the Danube”.

At the end of the meeting, he said, CEC finds itself “sailing again with really favourable winds that will bring us to peaceful ports.”

(From Left) CEC General Secretary Rev. Dr Guy Liagre, press conference moderator Rev. Klaus Rieth and CEC President Metropolitan Emmanuel of France on July 2, 2013 in Budapest address the media on the future of the Conference of European Churches.

(From Left) CEC General Secretary Rev. Dr Guy Liagre, press conference moderator Rev. Klaus Rieth and Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.

Rev. Dr Guy Liagre, speaking together with Metropolitan Emmanuel on Monday 8 July at the final press conference of the CEC Assembly, praised the skill of three moderators who chaired Assembly sessions on the central issue of adopting a new constitution.

Initially, Liagre explained, strict parliamentary procedure threatened to make it “difficult to find a way out, amid the many amendments that were presented.”

“But we were led by three moderators who were so flexible that they could find a modus vivendi acceptable to all the delegates,” said Liagre, crediting this leadership for the Assembly’s “positive results.”

The moderator and co-moderators of the constitutional deliberations were Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson (Church of Ireland), the Very Rev. Dr Sheilagh Kesting (Church of Scotland) and the Rev. Dr John Chryssavgis (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople).

At the press conference, the CEC president addressed feelings of “bitterness for some people” experienced in the Assembly over changing constitutional approaches to the relationship between the Conference and other associations, especially groups representative of women and youth.

Provisions in the new CEC legal document, observed Metropolitan Emmanuel, are not perfect: “There is a lot still to be done. There is also room for improvement.” He cautioned that in attempting to heal relationships, “we look for light, not fire.” Discussion must not dissolve into emotionalism.

Liagre added, “Youth organisations represent youth, but churches also represent youth.” Young people and other particular groups of believers, he suggested, are not to be treated as separate from the churches but as constituent members of the Body of Christ.

Churches should support the marginalised

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest agrees  a statement on the financial and economic crisis calling for churches to remain on the side of the marginalised.

Delegates from the 115 Member Churches of CEC observed that the global financial crisis has left thousands of people in despair and that the gaps between rich and poor are widening in the majority of European societies.

The Churches in Europe have already sought to address issues of economic globalization by encouraging their members to consider their personal consumption of water, energy and scarce resources as well as seeking fair and just production conditions and prices for commodities.

In particular, concerns have been raised about forced labour and human trafficking.  The Assembly encouraged churches with specialised programmes of social assistance, such as education and health services.

Churches were recognised as advocates for the well-being of all humanity, especially when relating to national governments and decision-makers, and have developed policies of inclusion as well as credible alternatives on issues of wealth, poverty and ecology.

The CEC Assembly issued a call to its member churches to remain at the side of the marginalised in society and to jointly move towards credible and durable alternatives.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest has agreed a statement on youth unemployment.

There has been a “radical increase” in the number of young people in despair, resulting in a rise in suicide among young people.

The CEC Assembly agreed that youth unemployment risked creating a lost generation.

The public issues statement draws particular attention to the reality that youth unemployment is disproportionately higher among black and minority ethnic communities.

The statement encouraged all churches to offer opportunities to young people seeking employment, including offering hope.  The statement concluded with the words: “investing in the young generation we ensure long term growth in the future.  Churches should identify their role in overcoming the increasing youth poverty and promote social justice and solidarity.”

The Conference of European Churches calls for action against prejudice, discrimination and neglect with regard to Roma, Sinti and Travellers’ communities.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest agreed the call in a public issues statement on the Roma in Europe.

Noting that the 13th Assembly of CEC (meeting in Lyon in 2009) adopted a statement which expressed dismay and deep concern about the situation facing the Roma, Sinti and Travellers’ communities and the social exclusion of the largest ethnic minority in Europe, delegates at the 2013 Assembly acknowledged some of the good work which had been undertaken over the past four years by churches and the European Union.

They reiterated the call to churches to work for integration and against prejudice, discrimination and neglect.

The CEC Assembly also called on national governments to improve access to education, housing, employment and services for members of the Roma, Sinti, and Travellers’ communities.

CEC calls for dignity for undocumented migrants and a commemoration for lives lost by people struggling to reach Europe.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest agreed a statement on asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in a public issues statement.  Delegates affirmed the conviction that the dignity of every person has to be ensured, regardless of their immigration status.

The CEC Assembly underlined concerns about the EU Common European Asylum System which has led to a disproportionate distribution of refugees and asylum seekers.  During the debate, a representative from the Church of Greece underlined the importance of offering hospitality to all people, but expressed a plea for a fairer sharing of these responsibilities due to the severe financial difficulties that Greek society is facing at this time.

The tragedy of a high number of persons losing their lives trying to reach safety in Europe was deplored by the Assembly.  Delegates agreed to call on churches in Europe to commemorate people who had died in their attempt to reach Europe.  They also issued a call to national governments to increase sea rescue services for migrant boats.

The Assembly in addition offered its support to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands for its ‘collective complaint’ to the European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe regarding the treatment of undocumented migrants in the Netherlands.

European Churches offer solidarity for all working for peace and human rights in the Mediterranean and Middle East Regions.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest has adopted a statement on the situation in the European neighbourhood, affecting church and societal life in the Middle East and North Africa.

Delegates agreed a public issues statement which expressed solidarity with brothers and sisters, Christians and Muslims, living in those countries involved in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.

The CEC Assembly appreciated the efforts for democracy and stability, as well as for building a society in which human rights are respected.

The Assembly called on member churches to build and strengthen bilateral partnerships with religious communities in the wider Mediterranean region, and to continue to pray for peace, stability and prosperity for all people.

The CEC Assembly expressed sincere and anxious concern about the situation in Syria.

In particular, it appealed to those who had kidnapped His Eminence Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo of the Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch and His Eminence Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi of Aleppo and Alexandretta of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch to immediately release them.

The statement said that “keeping them far from their people is a sin against humanity.”  The Assembly agreed to send a letter to His Beatitude Patriarch John X and to His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I, whose respective Metropolitans from Aleppo have been kidnapped.

A message of solidarity to the Churches in Syria was also agreed.

During the meeting of the Assembly (3-8 July), the situation in Egypt has become violent and chaotic.  The public issues statement expressed sympathy and solidarity with the citizens of Egypt.  The Assembly appealed for all to refrain from violence.  CEC member churches were invited to support efforts for peaceful reconciliation, and particularly to pray for the Coptic Church and for their efforts for Christian-Muslim co-operation.

The situation for migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe via the western Mediterranean was also highlighted in Assembly’s statement.  Many get stranded in Morocco, living in destitution.  Churches are among the few actors providing practical support.  The CEC Assembly calls on member churches to keep these people in their prayers, and to support all those involved in this important and difficult ministry.

European Churches Assembly expresses concern about electronic surveillance

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest has criticised surveillance which impinges human rights.  In a statement on public issues, the CEC Assembly acknowledged the new possibilities for spiritual freedom brought about by electronic media.  It noted that there was a tendency in several countries to limit freedom of expression through means of surveillance.

The long-standing concern of CEC for the protection of human rights was underlined, with strong concern expressed by delegates to safeguard freedom of expression, an obligatory prerequisite for religious freedom.

Churches express common desire to protect cultural heritage of Europe; calls to end violation of rights in Cyprus

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches adopted a public issues statement expressing that the religious and cultural heritage of Europe as being of paramount importance to European identity.  Delegates approved the statement which called for the protection of important religious sites.

Particular recognition was given to the positive steps taken by the Turkish authorities regarding religious freedom issues, especially for the Ecumenical Patriarchate (a member Church of CEC).

On-going concern was expressed about the violation of religious rights and the desecration of religious sites in the Turkish occupied areas of northern Cyprus, including issues around freedom to access sites, restoration of property and freedom of worship.

The Conference of European Churches calls for a fair trial for a leader of the Orthodox Church in FYROM, and his immediate release pending his trial, in accordance with the rule of law.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches expressed its concern about the arrest and detention of Archbishop Jovan and noted that it is believed that his detention is a result of him exercising his fundamental right to religious freedom.

Delegates at the CEC Assembly affirmed the call by the World Council of Churches for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Religious Freedom and Belief, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights to urgently investigate this case, in particular whether the detention conditions are in line with standards set out by the Council of Europe.

The Government of FYROM and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski were urged to release Archbishop Jovan immediately, and to ensure that any trial is in accordance with the rule of law as FYROM is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The member churches of CEC were requested to join in prayer and solidarity with Archbishop Jovan by sending letters of protest to the appropriate authorities.

Eine neue Verfassung

Anikó Schuetz – Co-opted staff writer, Church of Scotland 

Um 21:20 Uhr am Sonntagabend wurde die neue Verfassung der KEK mit einer überwältigenden Mehrheit (160 Ja-Stimmen, 7 Nein-Stimmen, 7 Enthaltungen) von der Vollversammlung angenommen. Auch die Dritte Lesung der Verfassung brachte zahlreiche Diskussionen, Fragen und Kommentare mit sich.

Die neue Verfassung löst die vorhergehende, die 1992 beschlossen worden war, ab. Sie trifft Vorkehrungen für den Umzug des KEK-Sekretariats von Genf nach Brüssel, obwohl dafür kein konkreter Zeitplan erstellt werden konnte, da die notwendigen legalen Prozesse sowohl in der Schweiz als auch in Belgien diesen Umzug verlangsamen könnten.

Sobald dies praktisch und rechtlich möglich ist, werden die KEK-Büros, die sich seit 1959 in Genf befunden haben, nach Brüssel verlegt werden. Das Büro in Straßburg wird erhalten bleiben, um Beziehungen zum Europarat und anderen Behörden besser aufrechterhalten zu können.

Die Vollversammlung setzt sich aus Delegierten der fast 120 KEK-Mitgliedskirchen und Kirchenvereinigungen zusammen. Die neue Verfassung wird am Dienstag, dem 9. Juli 2013, nach dem Abschluss der Vollversammlung in Kraft treten.

Der bisherige Zentralausschuss wird nun in einen Verwaltungsrat mit zwanzig Mitgliedern  umgewandelt. Dieser Rat wird mindestens zwei jährliche Sitzungen abhalten, um die KEK-Geschäfte zwischen den Vollversammlungen, die nur alle fünf Jahre stattfinden, fortzuführen. Der Verwaltungsrat wird von einem Präsidenten oder einer Präsidentin und zwei Vize-PräsidentInnen geleitet. Der Generalsekretär oder die Generalsekretärin wird die alltägliche Arbeit im Sekretariat leiten.

Bestehende Kommissionen der KEK werden in ein einheitlicheres System umgewandelt werden. Verhandlungen mit anderen Organisationen wie der Kirchenkommission für Migranten in Europa (CCME), die eng mit der KEK zusammen arbeitet, werden fortgesetzt, um über eine mögliche Fusion zu entscheiden.

Trotz des langwierigen Prozesses der letzten Tage, in denen die neue Verfassung aus dem vorgeschlagenen Dokument geformt wurde, wurde die Annahme des Schriftstücks mit rauschendem Applaus gefeiert. Allerdings wurde auch betont, dass der Weg zu der neuen Verfassung nicht immer einfach war, und dass einige der Versammlungsteilnehmer und -teilnehmerinnen Verletzungen erfahren haben. Eine der Delegierten erklärte, dass sie sich, wie viele andere weibliche und JugendteilnehmerInnen der Versammlung, marginalisiert fühlt. Obwohl die Gründe für die Abschaffung des obligatorischen Jugend- und Frauenanteils von Delegierten nachvollziehbar seien, hätten sie doch zu Kränkungen geführt, die mit Sensitivität behandelt werden sollten.

Nach dem Abschluss der Verfassungsdebatte bedankten sich die Moderatoren bei dem Dokumentationsteam und den anderen Mitarbeitern, Stewards und Volunteers der 14. Vollversammlung, ohne die der mitunter komplexe Ablauf der Versammlung sehr viel schwieriger hätte sein können.

Die Verfassung wird offiziell veröffentlicht, sobald sie auch in die anderen Versammlungssprachen, Französisch und Deutsch, übersetzt und legal geprüft wurde.

Istentisztelet a várakozás jegyében

Passalacqua Stella
Steward, Hungary

A CEC XIV. Nagygyűlése vasárnapi istentiszteletét felekezetek szerint Budapest különböző gyülekezeteiben tartották. Én a Budai Református Egyházközség istentiszteletén vettem részt. Külön angol nyelvű beszélgetésektől hangos buszokkal vittek minket a kijelölt gyülekezetekbe. A megérkezés pillanatában mindenki ámulatba esett, hiszen a templom leírhatatlanul gyönyörű és nagy mind kívülről, mind belülről. Az istentisztelet kezdete előtt a gyülekezet lelkipásztora, Lakatos Enikő – a külföldiekre való tekintettel – az összes éneket előre elénekeltette, hogy később majd könnyebb legyen kiejteni a magyar szavakat. Ez egy nagyon kedves gesztus volt a vendégek felé.  A szertartás több fordítatlan részt tartalmazott, de az ige (1 Sámuel 1, 4-20) és a példabeszéd angolul hangzott el Luca Baratto római lelkész tolmácsolásában. Ezt pedig Lakatos Enikő fordította.

Stella1A mai evangéliumi rész Annáról szólt, kinek Isten bezárta méhét, így nem szülhetett fiúgyermeket férjének, ami nagy bánatot okozott neki, mivel „riválisa”, Peninna már több gyermeket hozott világra közös férjüknek. Elkána nagyon szerette Annát, ezért próbálta vigasztalni, ám ebben a helyzetben egy nő nem vigasztalásra, hanem áldásra vágyik. Isten áldására, hogy egy apró lényt hozzon a világra, aki bearanyozza családja mindennapjait. Anna hevesen imádkozott, szája mozgott, de hang nem jött ki a torkán. Akkoriban mindenki hangosan imádkozott, ezért ez feltűnt Éli pap számára, aki meg is kérdezte Annát, hogy részeg-e. Az elkeseredett nő persze szerényen válaszolta, hogy nem ivott semmiféle alkoholt, ő csak a lelkét öntötte ki Istennek, akitől áldást remél. Ekkor Éli pap mást nem tudott tenni, mint békével útjára bocsátani Annát. Természetesen, mi mást is tudott volna tenni, csakúgy mint az egyház. Nem ő adja az áldást, hanem Isten. Ő az egyetlen, aki nem csak vigasztalni vagy meghallgatni tud bennünket, hanem tenni is valamit,  azonban sokszor már az is jót tesz, ha valaki meghallgat, hiszen nem minden probléma megoldója az ember, de ha magában tartja, óriási stressznek teheti ki magát. Végül Anna és Elkána visszatértek Rámába, majd Isten áldását megkapva az eddig elkeseredett nő boldog anyává lett. A fiúgyermeket Sámuelnek nevezte el és Isten szolgálatába ajánlotta.

Luca Baratto lelkész három fő tanúlságot vont le az evangéliumi történetből. Az egyik a mások iránti tisztelet szükségessége. Szörnyű az, ha az ember annyira nem tiszteli a másikat, hogy gúnyt űz gyengeségéből, megalázza és érezteti alsóbbrendűségét, ami rajta kívül álló okokból fakadhat. A második a várakozás volt. Várakozás az áldásra, várakozás a jó dolgokra, várakozás a változásra. A harmadik pedig a templom, mint az a hely, ahol az ember kiöntheti lelkét Istennek, hiszen ott az Úr vendége lehet. A lelkipásztor elmesélte, hogy Rómában a templomukba járt egy dél-amerikai nő, aki minden istentisztelet előtt egy órával érkezett a templomba, és magányában, zokogva imádkozott. A lelkész első alkalommal azt hitte, hogy ez egyszeri alkalom, de amikor látta, hogy ez rendszeresen megtörténik, és a nő nem keresi a társaságát, ő melléült. Isten áldását kérte a nőre, és kérte, hogy Isten nyújtson gyógyírt a gondjaira.

Stella2A gyönyörű istentiszteletet úrvacsora követette, majd Lakatos Enikő lelkipásztor a vendégeket egy kötetlen beszélgetésre és falatozásra invitálta a parókiára. A szeretetvendégség során lehetőség nyílt, a különböző egyházak találkozására, egymás megismerésére, valamint egymás helyzetének kipuhatolózására. Érdekesnek találtuk a Valdens Egyház helyzetét Olaszországban, hiszen a valdens hívők százalékban kifejezett aránya az össznépességhez viszonyítva 0.5%, ami a kisebbségnél is kisebbnek mondható. Éppen ezért egy olyan kisebbségi, közös egyház megvalósításán munkálkodnak, melyben egymást kölcsönös tisztelet övezi, és egy közös helyen együtt áhítoznak Isten szavára.

La KEK transfère son siège de Genève à Bruxelles

Gérald Machabert
Co-opted Staff – Writer, United Protestant Church of France

Plenary sessionLa Conférence des Eglises européennes (KEK) a voté une nouvelle Constitution qui contient le choix du transfert de son siège de Genève à Bruxelles.

Dans le préambule de cette nouvelle Constitution, la KEK s’engage à « aider les Eglises européennes à partager leur vie spirituelle et leur action de service, et à promouvoir l’unité des Eglises et la paix dans le monde. »

La 14ème Assemblée de la KEK à Budapest a ainsi remplacé sa base légale précédente qui avait été adoptée en 1992 et amendée en 2009.

La nouvelle Constitution a été adoptée le 7 juillet par un vote de 160 personnes pour et 7 contre et 7 abstentions.

Les délégués à l’Assemblée sont les représentants de près de 120 Eglises et fédérations d’Eglise.

Mardi 9 juillet 2013 marquera la date d’entrée en vigueur d’une Constitution sensée conduire la Conférence des Eglises européennes dans un futur de collaborations plus étroites.

Le siège de la KEK, qui se trouvait à Genève depuis sa création en 1959, sera transféré « aussi rapidement que possible » dans les locaux de la Conférence à Bruxelles ; siège de l’Union européenne et de ses institutions.

Les transferts légaux entre législation suisse et belge risquent cependant de reporter ce changement de deux ou trois années.

Il est proposé que le bureau existant à Strasbourg soit maintenu pour poursuivre les relations de la KEK avec le Conseil de l’Europe et d’autres institutions.

Un comité exécutif d’une vingtaine de personnes remplacera l’actuelle Comité Central composé de 40 personnes.

Ce comité se réunira « au moins deux fois par an » pour conduire l’organisation entre deux Assemblées qui se retrouveront tous les cinq ans. Les structures exécutives seront conduites par un président et deux vice-présidents.

Le Secrétaire général pilotera le travail quotidien depuis le Secrétariat de Bruxelles.

Les commissions actuelles composant la KEK seront restructures dans un système qui les intègre plus fortement.

Les discussions doivent se poursuivre avec la Commission des Eglises auprès des migrants en Europe (CCME) qui travaille déjà de façon étroite avec la KEK et avait envisagé son rattachement complet.

Les cinq jours de travail et d’amendements en assemblée plénière et en petits groupes ont culminé lors de la troisième lecture du document dimanche après-midi et soir.

Au cours de cette lecture, le texte a été lu littéralement et intégralement alors que des délégués étaient appelés à faire d’ultimes propositions et ajustements.

Certains participants d’organisations associées représentant les mouvements de jeunes, de femmes et d’autres courants du mouvement œcuménique ont exprimé leur déception à voir leur statut devenir celui d’ « organisations partenaires ». Ils ont exprimé leur crainte de voir cette catégorisation, contenue dans la Constitution, les exclure des décisions au profit des Eglises membres.

Bien que les débats aient eu lieu en Anglais, Français et Allemand, c’est à partir de la version anglaise que l’Assemblée a travaillé.

La Constitution ne sera rendue publique que lorsque la traduction aura été effectuée en Français et en Allemand et qu’une relecture juridique aura été effectuée sur les trois versions.

CEC to move its Secretariat from Geneva to Brussels

The Conference of European Churches has approved a new constitution that makes provision for CEC to move its Secretariat from Geneva to Brussels.

Plenary sessionIn the preamble to a newly adopted constitution, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) commits itself anew “to help the European Churches to share their spiritual life, to strengthen their common witness and service, and to promote the unity of the Church and peace in the world.”

The 14th Assembly of CEC in Budapest, Hungary replaced a previous CEC legal basis drafted in 1992 and last amended in 2009.

The new constitution was adopted by a vote of 160 to seven, with seven abstentions (160/7/7), on the evening of 7 July (7/7).

Assembly delegates are representatives from the nearly 120 CEC member churches and federations of churches.

Tuesday 9 July 2013 marks the effective date of the streamlined constitution meant to guide the Conference of European Churches (CEC) into a future of more closely consolidated operations.

The original offices that have been in Geneva, Switzerland since CEC’s founding in 1959 will be merged “as soon as possible” into the Conference’s location in Brussels, Belgium, home of the European Union and related institutions.

The legal steps necessary under Swiss and Belgian law may delay the final move for two to three years; however, this is a rough estimate.

It is proposed that an existing office in Strasbourg, France will continue CEC’s relations with the Council of Europe and other agencies, subject to legal and financial contingencies.

A Governing Board of 20 members will replace the larger CEC Central Committee. The board will gather at least twice annually to conduct business between General Assemblies to be held every five years. The governing bodies will be led by a President and two Vice-presidents.

The General Secretary will oversee daily work through the Secretariat in Brussels.

Existing commissions that make up CEC will be restructured into a more unified system. Conversations will continue with the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) which works closely with CEC and has considered merger with the Conference.

Five days of consideration and redrafting in groups large and small culminated in the “third hearing” of the constitution throughout Sunday afternoon and evening. During this “hearing” the text literally was read aloud and projected on a screen as delegates made final amendments and adjustments.

Some participants from associated organisations representing youth, women and other streams of the ecumenical movement expressed dismay at the new constitution’s approach to “Organisations in Partnership”.

They voiced the suspicion that this categorization, as defined in the document, would serve to disenfranchise these groups in comparison to the role of CEC member churches.

Although debate was conducted in English, French and German, the printed and projected drafts from which the Assembly worked were presented only in English.

The constitution will not be published officially until it is translated into French and German and there is a legal review of all three language texts.

Singing with Methodists

David Bradwell
Co-opted Staff, Writer, Church of Scotland

Budakeszi United Methodist Church won’t have a problem for animal extras if it ever wanted to put on a Nativity Play or Palm Sunday procession.

A donkey, a handful of sheep and several chickens all live in the large garden surrounding the church.

Methodist donkey

Methodist donkey

Churches all over Budapest welcomed CEC Assembly participants on Sunday morning, each to a church of their own denominational family.

Nine participants were welcomed at Budakeszi UMC.

Budakeszi is a small community set in a picturesque forest on the western outskirts of Budapest.

On a glorious summer day the buzzing of insects (and the occasional baa of one of the sheep) were the only sounds to disrupt the peace and tranquillity of the quiet valley.  The noise of the city centre (and the stress of the CEC Assembly) seemed a whole world away.

A Wesley scout

A Wesley scout

It was a special day at Budakezsi United Methodist Church as the scout group was being sent off to a summer camp in Transylvannia.  The group, named in honour of Methodist founder John Wesley, joined the service wearing their official scout uniforms, but, over lunch and before they set off on their long drive they changed into their ‘Keep Calm – I’m a John Wesley Scout’ t-shirts.

Methodism, it is often said, was ‘born in song'; John Wesley’s brother Charles was a prolific hymn-writer.

The singing at Budakezsi was robust and heartfelt.

The rendition of Fanny Crosby’s ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine’ lifted the rafters with the chorus sung in Hungarian and English: “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Saviour all the day long.”

The church is a new (and still not-quite-finished) building, but Methodist mission work has taken place on the site since the 1920s.

The property was confiscated during the communist era, and was returned to the church by the state in 1995.

The large site includes a garden for flowers, soft fruit, vegetables as well as a pear orchard and a small football pitch.

The buildings house a care home for older people (who help to look after the garden) and accommodation for around 40 students, who study at different colleges around the city.  The church soon hopes to expand its work, by establishing a project to work with disabled children.

Methodist church

Methodism is a minority church in every country in Europe.

There is therefore a great deal of commonality and fellowship amongst Methodists from different places; theology, history, style of worship are all part of the special closeness which Methodists describe as connexionalism.  The easy friendship between sister and brother Methodists made the visitors to Budakezsi feel very much at home.

The warmth of the welcome was a real highlight for these Methodists of their time in Hungary.

Eine russisch-orthodoxe Perspektive: Anton aus Weissrussland

Anikó Schuetz
Co-opted staff writer, Church of Scotland

Anton Blashko, Steward von der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche in Weißrussland.

Anton Blashko, Steward von der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche in Weißrussland.

Obwohl keine Delegierten oder Beobachter der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche an dieser KEK-Vollversammlung teilnehmen, ist doch einen Vertreter der Kirche nach Budapest gekommen. Anton Blashko, von der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche in Weißrussland, nimmt als Steward an der Versammlung teil. In seiner Heimat studiert er Theologie, um später Priester zu werden. Diesen Weg hat er schon seit seiner Kindheit verfolgt.

Er arbeitet bei einem der Universitätsprojekte mit, das sich mit sozialen Projekten beschäftigt. Eines der Projekte ist das ‘Haus der Nächstenliebe’, dessen Grundriss die Form des Kreuzes nachbildet. Unter anderem gehören dazu eine Kapelle und ein Krankenhaus, und das Projekt organisiert Veranstaltungen für und mit Menschen mit Behinderungen und für Waisenkinder.

Jeden Dienstag, wenn die Studentengottesdienste stattfinden, besucht Anton die Universitätskirche. An Sonntagen nehmen die Studenten dann an Gottesdiensten in verschiedenen Kirchengemeinden teil. Neben ihren eigenen Gottesdiensten finden auch einige ökumenische Veranstaltungen in der Universität statt. Beispielsweise werden regelmäßig Konferenzen angeboten, die die orthodoxen Christen mit Protestanten und Katholiken zusammenbringen. Einigen Studenten wird die Möglichkeit geboten, ein Semester lang im Ausland zu studieren,  zum Beispiel in Deutschland und Polen. Anton hofft, dass er, vielleicht in zwei oder drei Jahren, selbst an diesem Austauschprogramm teilnehmen kann.

Die Studenten können auch an internationalen Konferenzen und Programmen teilnehmen. Die KEK-Versammlung stellt eine solche Gelegenheit für Anton dar. Sein Bischof hat ihm dabei geholfen, diesen Plan in die Tat umzusetzen. Er sieht es als gute Möglichkeit, andere Europäer und eine neue Kultur kennenzulernen, sowie neue Erfahrungen zu machen. Den ökumenischen Austausch betrachtet er als Chance, andere Sichtweisen zu hören und ein besseres Verständnis füreinander zu entwickeln.

Die Vorkonferenz für die Stewards und die jungen Delegierten hat Anton sehr genossen, vor allem die Möglichkeit, die anderen jungen Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer kennenzulernen und etwas Zeit zu haben, sich in seine Rolle während der Versammlung einzufinden. Er genießt es, ein so volles Programm zu haben und neue Erfahrungen zu machen. Er sagt, dass er diese Erfahrungen mit sich nehmen wird, wenn er nächste Woche nach Hause zurückkehrt und hofft, dass er sie mit seinen Freunden und Kommilitonen teilen kann.

Wir danken Anton dafür, dass er sich Zeit für dieses Gespräch genommen hat.