Press Release No: 03/23
03 March 2023
As preparations for the 2023 CEC General Assembly are under way, seventeen general secretaries of the National Councils of Churches in Europe gathered in Brussels, in a meeting hosted by the Conference of European Churches (CEC). Together they engaged in dialogue about just peace in the region, and the role of churches in European societies. The heads of NCCs also discussed in detail the work of CEC on public theology and advocacy towards the EU Institutions.
The meeting held from 27 February to 1 March, was an opportunity for the heads of NCCs to share their experiences of working with diverse Christian streams at national level.
“Public theology should be about engaging government institutions with practical programmes,” said Bishop Mike Royal, General Secretary of Churches Together in England. “The church may serve as warm welcome hub, especially for those faced with crisis stemming from high cost of living.”
He added that public theology is also about challenging systemic structures of injustice. “Where necessary, we should never fail to make governments feel uncomfortable with the status quo.”
Ms Ksenia Eggert, CEC intern and a graduate of the Catholic University of Leuven, pointed out the tension between religion and state. She shared how the relationship between the church and state in European societies is changing. “Increasing expansion of the state attests to a simultaneous shrinking of religious space in the public sphere,” she added.
Dr Vincent Depaigne, European Commission Coordinator for religious dialogue, established under Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, spoke about the history, framework, and contemporary challenges to the treaty. He stressed the need to address the war in Ukraine.
The meeting discussed CEC’s Pathways to Peace Initiative from different geographical and ecclesial perspectives. Dr Verena Hammes, General Secretary of the Council of Churches Germany, reiterated Council’s affirmation after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. “Spreading war and suffering stands in contradiction to the confession of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that can justify violence. The message of Jesus Christ is binding for all of us. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’,” Hammes added.
While reflecting on the church’s call to peace, Rev. Dr Petr Jan Vins, General Secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, referred to German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spoke about “costly and cheap grace” in the face of Nazi totalitarianism. The cheap grace was the grace without the cross, without effort, by which one only deceives oneself.
“I support churches’ efforts to advocate and pray for peace in Ukraine,” he said. “I want to believe that in doing so, we are not just advocating for a cheap peace, which is in fact an appeasement of the aggressor at the expense of the attacked. I want to promote and pray for a peace that might be costly, but is just,” Vins stressed.
The heads of European NCCs discussed the upcoming CEC Assembly that will take place from 14-20 June in Tallinn, Estonia, exploring the theme “Under God’s blessing – shaping the future.” They affirmed the significance of the CEC Assembly, especially in strengthening CEC’s role as a European fellowship, opening doors for dialogue and opportunities for encounter, in complex contexts.
For more information or an interview, please contact:
Conference of European Churches
Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 486 75 82 36
YouTube: Conference of European Churches
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