For Immediate Release
European Evangelical leaders on Saturday were challenged to live out their "true identities" as "Christian nobodies" by becoming God's catalysts for change.
"Christendom is dead, and thank God," said Gordon Showell-Rogers, General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance, during the closing session of the joint EEA, European Evangelical Missionary Alliance (EEMA) and Hope for Europe conference. "Europe desperately needs God to visit us and for God's people to live as God's people."
The four-day gathering in Tavira, Portugal focused on the theme, "Gospel Relevance in Europe Today," and gave the continent's top Evangelical leaders a chance to reflect, bond, pray, renew their faith, and share their stories.
"As a group of evangelical Christian leaders, we have benefited greatly from being together and thinking about our respective responsibilities in Europe," said Showell-Rogers. "Our hope is that what's happened this week might become strategic for the welfare of European society."
The meeting also featured special seminars on Religious Freedom and the European Union that gave the leaders new insights and resources on how to engage with and transform the secular culture.
"I think of my role as helping Evangelicals around Europe to become the salt and light in society," said Julia Doxat-Purser, EEA's political representative and religious liberties coordinator, who led one of the seminars on Saturday afternoon. "We try to engage, consult, train, and teach about best practices."
Attendees learned about new developments in the EEA Brussels office, which was established several years ago to represent Evangelicals before the European Union. Tove Videbaek, a veteran journalist, longtime politician, and new Brussels representative, said politicians are slowly starting to take notice of the EEA´s united Evangelical voice.
"We will do everything we can to further Christian values," said Videbaek, who also asked for prayer for her office. "In Brussels, we can have an impact on the politics of all of Europe because it goes from here to 25 countries.?"
Forging new Relationships
Another highlight of the assembly was the establishment of new relationships.
EEA members voted unanimously to accept the membership applications from the United Christian Council in Israel and the Protestant Evangelical Alliance in Bosnia and Hercegovina (EABH), raising the number of EEA-member alliances to 35.
EEA voters also unanimously accepted the membership requests from the European Evangelical Accrediting Alliance ? an agency that accredits schools of Christian higher education, and JANZ team international ? a missions group that serves in several European countries. Both the EEAA and JANZ already have work across Europe associated closely with national Evangelical alliances.
That same day, they adopted a statement recognizing a close partnership with the European Evangelical Mission Alliance - a grouping of national missionary associations in 12 European countries. The agreement outlines and formalises the cooperative relationship that has already been established between the two groups; in many countries, members of the EEA and EEMA have been working together since the Mission alliance's birth in 1984.
"I think this is useful for both the EEA and EEMA because we now have the official backing of church community leaders to help new mission initiatives to be started," said Cees Verharen, head of the EEMA. "Our vision is for every country in Europe to develop a national missions movement."
Meanwhile, in separate agreements, the EEA and EEMA thanked God for positive initiatives from Hope for Europe (HfE) networks. Both the EEA and the EEMA are developing memorandum of understanding with Hope for Europe.
At the closing ceremony on Saturday evening, representatives from the EEA and EEMA sealed their partnership with their signatures, and leaders of Hope for Europe joined the others for blessings and prayers.
European Evangelical Identity
"Who are we? Where are we? Being who we are in Europe in the early 21st century." These were the three points Showell-Rogers addressed as the final focus of the assembly.
"The identity question is central in the world's trouble spots, and is part of the questions many are asking about the way forward for the EU," he said. "This is part of the question that HfE, the EEA and the EEMA have been asking this year, as we have tried to understand what the best way to relate together is."
Ultimately, Showell-Rogers said, "we are Christian nobodies."
"God has, in His grace, touched our lives and chooses to take our lives and make them count for something," he explained. "To make a difference in 21st century Europe, we do not need something that God has not already given.
"Europe needs us to be who we are, where we are at this stage in history," he concluded.
Over 200 Christian leaders representing 35 countries attended the joint assembly, making it the largest annual gathering in history. The assembly was held at the Vila Gale hotel from Oct. 19 to 23.