“Synods an innovative force in the Protestant Churches”
Last weekend members of the protestant synods as the parliaments of more than 50 churches from 17 European states gathered for the very first time in a conference meeting in the Protestant Academy in Bad Boll. The conference was arranged by the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) in co-operation with the Protestant Church in Württemberg and the Synod of Württemberg. The aim of the meeting was to strengthen co-operation between the protestant churches in Europe.
In a joint statement the delegates of the synods emphasised their wish to deepen the fellowship of the protestant churches at the synod level. “This first conference meeting has revealed many possibilities and opportunities lying in closer synodal co-operation. We wish to work in our synods and leadership conferences to extend such co-operation.” The synod members stressed the importance of the church parliaments for the future of the churches. “The synods are a force for innovation in the protestant churches.”
The delegates responded to the current political and economic crisis in Europe with a confession of the responsibility shared by the churches for the process of European unification. “We are finding that the unity of Europe cannot be reached without common values. With their closeness to places and people, European protestant churches carry an important responsibility for sharing in the shaping of Europe. Cross-border meetings like today's between synods even the way for this joint co-operation.“
The Württemberg Bishop Frank July, D.D., expressed appreciation for the engagement of the synod representatives for European co-operation. “Europe is again in danger of becoming a mix of smooth talkers and small calculators, a reality of great social differences, a body without a soul.” It was the task of the protestant churches to accept from the Spirit of God responsibility for the future of Europe and to sharpen human consciences.
Rainer Wieland MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, welcomed the engagement of the protestant churches for Europe. “The current crisis also holds new opportunities for talking about Europe. We must bring the European ideal, which is an ideal of peace, into the current public debates. In that we need to have the churches striving with us for Europe.”
Materially, the conference took up the motto of the approaching CPCE General Assembly in Florence, “Free for the Future”. The President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Swiss Protestant Church Federation, Theres Meierhoffer-Lauffer, illustrated for the conference the protestant understanding of freedom. “We must repeatedly free ourselves from something in order to be free for the new.” That was why the protestant churches must ever and again reform themselves anew in order to be able to meet their responsibility for society in the future as well.
The President of the host Synod of Württemberg, Dr Christel Hausding, had already emphasised at the opening of the conference the importance of the church parliaments for the future of the protestant churches. “Those who want to change anything in our churches must reckon with considerable resistance and delays. They need courage – but above all patience. And there the laypeople who are not employees of the church are a vital innovative force.”
CPCE President Dr Thomas Wipf was happy about the great interest of the synod members in the strengthening of European co-operation. “We shall take these concerns with us as concrete suggestions for the CPCE General Assembly in Florence next September. At a time when the mildew of resignation is creeping into some churches in Europe, we have experienced here in Bad Boll living church community, sharing and future-oriented co-operation.”
At the conference the delegates of the synods also approved a joint message to the Community of Protestant Churches in the Middle East in which they expressed their solidarity with their sister churches in the region in the present difficult situation.