Clear sign of closer cooperation
Rome - 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.
Europe's protestant churches and Baptists are seeking closer ties and better relations. Michael Bünker (Vienna) and Tony Peck (Prague), 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 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. Baptists practise believers' baptism and do not recognise the baptism of infants. Hence there is no question of full Baptist membership of 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.