As a Baptist ecumenical theologian, I'm pleased to pass along reports that on September 24 in Rome the European Baptist Federation and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe signed an agreement that, while stopping short of full Baptist membership due to remaining differences regarding baptismal theologies and practices, makes the two European communions "mutually cooperating bodies." The Associated Baptist Press has reported on the agreement ("European Baptists, Other Protestants Sign Cooperation Pact"); the joint press release issued by the EBF and the CPCE appears below. (In the photo are CPCE General Secretary Michael Bünker and EBF General Secretary Tony Peck. left and right respectively; Peck is a fellow member of the Baptist World Alliance delegation to the bilateral conversations with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on which I serve.)
The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) and the European Baptist Federation (EBF) are becoming 'mutually cooperating bodies' and have pledged to work together more closely.
Press release 16/2010 - jointly with the European Baptist Federation EBF
Europe's protestant churches and Baptists are seeking closer ties and better relations. Michael Bünker and Tony Peck, general secretaries respectively of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) and the European Baptist Federation (EBF), signed an agreement for this purpose in Rocca di Papa, near Rome, on 24 September. This means the two Europe-wide organisations are now "mutually cooperating bodies".
The European Baptist Federation comprises 51 national Baptist Unions in Europe and the Near and Middle East. The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe numbers 105 Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist member-churches in more than 30 countries of Europe and South America. Formal and informal relations have existed between CPCE churches and EBF unions for quite a long time. Countries where this has happened include Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
The cooperation agreement was signed during the meeting of the EBF Council. It pledges both bodies to take a series of specific steps towards cooperation. Thus CPCE and EBF will invite each other to council meetings and general assemblies. The General Secretaries and their respective staffs are to meet regularly, while the exchange of information will continue and become more extensive. Conferences and consultations will explore unifying factors and common positions. This will include continuing the theological dialogue which has been in progress since 1999. Theological differences such as the issue of baptism have not been set aside yet. Baptists practise believers' baptism and do not recognise the baptism of infants. Hence there is no question of full Baptist membership in the CPCE.
EBF General Secretary Tony Peck welcomed the agreement as a "clear sign of closer cooperation. Both branches of the Reformation have much to give to each other and much to receive from each other." CPCE General Secretary Michael Bünker endorsed these comments: "the agreement has strengthened the common voice of Protestantism in Europe," he noted.
Vienna/Berne, 28 September 2010
At present 105 Protestant churches in Europe (including five South-American churches originating from Europe ) belong to the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist along with pre-Reformation churches such as Hussites and Czech Brethren grant each other pulpit and table fellowship on the basis of the Leuenberg Agreement of 1973. The Secretariat is housed in the Severin-Schreiber-Gasse 3, A-1180 Vienna, email@example.com, tel. +43.1.4791523.900, fax .110 The CPCE press officer is Dipl.theol. Thomas Flügge (Bern), tel. +41.31.3702502, firstname.lastname@example.org.
28.09.2010 Thomas Flügge