European Evangelicals Begin Largest Gathering

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For Immediate Release

Nearly 200 Evangelical leaders from over 35 countries gathered in Tavira, Portugal on Wednesday for the largest combined assembly of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA), the European Evangelical Missions Alliance, and Hope for Europe in history.

Dubbed “the” relationship building opportunity for European Christian leaders, the four-day assembly features worship services, round-table discussions, seminars, interactive times, Bible studies, presentations, and special closed-door meetings for national general secretaries.

“This annual gathering is a strategic meeting because it brings together more pan-European leaders within Evangelicalism than any other gathering,” said Gordon Showell-Rogers, General Secretary for the EEA. “This meeting will provide a place for mutual resourcing, equipping and envisioning.”

The 2005 assembly follows the theme “Gospel Relevance in Europe Today,” and will focus on how Evangelicals can make Christianity more relevant in an increasingly secularized society. Scheduled discussions and seminars will touch on how Evangelicals can help shape the future of the European Union, and how the Evangelical Alliance can defend religious freedom in both Western and Eastern European countries.

“We believe that what Jesus came to do and teach is as important for 21st century secular Europe as it was for the Roman Empire,” explained Showell-Rogers. The EEA already has a representative seat in the EU, but is in the process of defining its role in the new union. “Evangelicals have a significant contribution to make to the welfare of European Society,” he continued.

In addition to building external relationships in the political sphere, the assembly will consider formally aligning the EEA with the European Evangelical Missionary Alliance – a fellowship of national Evangelical Missionary movements from European nations that has worked closely with EEA member churches since its birth in 1984.

Under the agreement, the two bodies will share resources and encourage unity within all European evangelical circles, but will be financially independent.

“[The EEA and the EEMA are] at a very important crossroads,” explained Cees Verharen, General Secretary of the EEMA. “A draft agreement is on the table, and I hope that at the end of the week we can have a clear definition of how we will be working together.”

Both the EEA and EEMA are also part of a larger pan-European effort to establish a “network of Christian networks” under a common banner. Called “Hope for Europe,” the informal group brings large Christian networks together on an informal table to focus on areas of common interest. Its discussions involve the commitment of more than 20 different Christian networks.

The EEA will also consider membership applications from a national evangelical alliance, the United Christian Council in Israel, and two groups that seek associate or affiliate status, the European Evangelical Accrediting Association, Janz Team International.

Meanwhile, at the Opening Celebration Wednesday night, attendees highlighted the need for relationship building and co-work on a more personal level.

“We need to see that what we do in the macro-level has an effect in reality,” said Reinhold Scharnowski, director for DAWN Europe. “We can easily build a cyberspace network, but what I really want to see is this converting to the grassroots.”

The Gospel Relevance in Europe Today conference ends on Oct. 23, 2005.

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