European Baptists Remember the Czech Reformer Jan Hus
P r a g u e – European Baptists honoured the memory of the Czech reformer and martyr Jan Hus (1370-1415) at the festive opening of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) council sessions on 22 September in Prague’s reconstructed Bethlehem Chapel. Hus had preached in this chapel in Czech for the first time in 1402 and introduced congregational singing to worship services. „Hus strove for freedom of conscience - as we Baptists also do,“ stated EBF-President Billy Taranger (Drammen near Oslo). One cannot relent in the struggle for persons „who are persecuted for their faith“. Hus was burned at the stake in Constance in 1415.
Keith Jones, Director of Prague’s International Baptist Theological Seminar (IBTS), noted parallels between today’s Baptists and Hus. In his tract entitled „De Ecclesia“ (Regarding the Church) Hus had spoken out against a hierarchical church. Only Christ himself can be the head of the true church. This is true for Baptists even today, according to Jones. As with Hus, Baptists also ask themselves how Christians can best serve as „salt and light“ in society. This can be answered only in the context of a God-given, deep and close fellowship. „We all need each other.“
The British pastor David Coffey (Didcot), President of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), called on Baptists to no longer inquire about their own personal identity. They are only one example of the tremendous variety in God’s kingdom, which is today more necessary than ever: „The world today needs nothing more than unity in diversity.“
Jan Titera (Prague), General-Secretary of the Czech Baptist Union, stressed the necessity of a spiritual revival in his country. Today, 600 years after Jan Hus, the Czech Republic is Europe’s most atheistic country. The Baptists with 33 congregations and 2.300 members do not play any major role, but they have been able to construct four new churches in recent years.