Feature Article No: 06/22
28 October 2022
By Susan Kim (*)
Anders Borre Gadegaard, chair of CEC Assembly Planning Committee, reflects below on the work behind the scenes developing the theme for CEC General Assembly: “Under God’s blessing—shaping the future”.
They thought. They proposed. They even wrestled a bit—rhetorically, that is. As CEC Assembly Planning Committee developed the theme for the General Assembly, “Under God’s blessing—shaping the future,” they considered many facets of a theme that would be meaningful for everyone yet not bogged down by flowery language.
“The theme first speaks of how we can be confident in faith, given the grace of God,” said Anders Borre Gadegaard, who chairs the committee. “We are embraced by God’s grace.”
In other words, the theme is based first on a sense of being able to rest in God’s grace—then being able to go out and meet the challenges of the world.
“We wanted to have God’s blessing clear as a condition for being actively engaged in responsibility for political issues—a combination of liberty and responsibility in our faith,” said Gadegaard. “God’s blessing gives us the feeling of freedom and lightness in life, so we can go to the next step in asking how we can contribute to changing the future—for our personal life, and for Europe of course!”
In addition to working on a very personal level with its readers, the theme also tries to engage in the ongoing larger process of changing the profile of CEC. “CEC is a very small organisation when it comes to resources,” said Gadegaard. “But it’s huge when it comes to the number and power of Member Churches.”
The theme was developed to help CEC make its priorities even clearer, and strengthen the idea that Member Churches can and will effectively engage in the political arena in Europe. “This means the European Parliament and EU of course!” said Gadegaard. “CEC is more than a house for ecumenical gatherings and conferences, and we wanted to be very precise about communicating that.”
Gadegaard said he hopes that CEC Member Churches engage in the General Assembly by asking: “What is our contribution toward creating just, fair, equal, and inclusive communities?”
With their honest answers, CEC will be posed to make churches much more visible in the political arena.
To be certain, however, the theme is biblically based. One passage Gadegaard cites is the first letter of Peter, Chapter 3:
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.
Gadegaard especially wants the ears of those who think they have nothing to contribute. “You have treasures from God with which you have been entrusted, and your duty is to use those treasures for the better,” he said. “Our challenge at CEC is to elaborate these fundamental faith and ethical values into concrete action—or at least concrete ideas.”
The words of the theme itself may seem simple, but the openness and ideas behind it allow for deep reflection, Gadegaard noted.
“We tried to avoid the kind of language that simply blows so much warm air that nobody listens,” he said. “We simply had to avoid that, and we had to be much more concrete.”
At its heart, the theme tries to answer the question: How do churches translate ethical values into modern action? “This is at the core of our assembly theme—and at the core of modern European thinking,” said Gadegaard.
As for the challenges ahead, Gadegaard believes that the theme offers churches an opportunity to focus on peacebuilding and reconciliation, especially in context of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.
“We wish to start with a socio-political analysis of what is happening in Europe right now, and then see ways churches can contribute to that,” he said.
(*) Susan Kim is a freelance journalist from the United States.