On Tuesday, 7 March 2017, the European Parliament (EP), together with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) and the office of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), organised the conference on “500 years of Reformation: Shaping Europe – Daring change!” In the presence of more than 150 participants from the EP, the European Commission and other organisations,
Ms Maired McGuinness, Vice-President of the European Parliament and responsible for the dialogue with the churches, and Mr Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission opened the event.
Mr Timmermans highlighted that all communities, as well as religious ones, in Europe have to be self-critical reflecting the past and have not to follow those who glorify the past. But also the European Union should reflect its current past: The common market and the common currency were taken as goals and not as tools to achieve the goals such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality as defined in the Lisbon Treaty.
The conference was structured by 2 panel discussions. The first panel comprised Mr David McAllister, MEP (EPP), Bishop Prof. Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chair of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, Moderator Eugenio Bernardini, Waldensian Church in Italy and Archbishop Dr Dr h. c. Antje Jackelén, Church of Sweden. They discussed to what extent the legacy and the achievements of Reformation can contribute today under very different conditions in daring changes in Europe. Coming from different backgrounds and church contexts in Europe the church leaders all agreed that the Reformation crosses borders and enables a global perspective from a local point of view. Archbishop Jackelén explained that a spiritual sustainability is needed that counters phenomena like polarisation, protection, populism and a post-truth perception. Bishop Bedford-Strohm pointed out that nationalism is a sin as Luther describes the personal state of sin as “incurvatio in se”, which can also be translated into the behaviour of a community or nation, which only looks in upon itself. Moderator Bernardini expressed that variety and diversity have been discovered as gifts and richness in the last decades, without hiding the difficulties they pose in daily life. The Waldensian Church has started to establish humanitarian corridors for refugees together with ecumenical partners in agreement with the Italian state. It should be understood as a way of the spirit of the Reformation to seek an answer to this humanitarian catastrophe which is taking place in the Mediterranean Sea.
Bishop Dr Michael Bünker, General Secretary of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Bishop Dr Tamás Fabiny, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, Rev. Dr Michael Jagessar, Former Moderator of the United Reformed Church, United Kingdom, and Ms Anneli Jäätteenmäki, MEP (Liberals Group) made up the second panel. They exchanged views and experiences on the relation between diversity, differences and unity, which are characteristics of Protestant churches but also for Europe, but which seem to divide increasingly the political Europe. CPCE General Secretary Bishop Bünker explained the achievement of the Leuenberg Agreement, which developed a common understanding of how the different Protestant churches connect. An understanding which allows to keep diversity and plurality and which gives an authentic account in Europe, where most of the Protestant churches are minority churches. Bishop Fabiny affirmed that the Reformation is commemorated in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary as a global event. The current dangers are the nationalisation of religion and the sacralisation of the nation. Dr Jagessar underlined that the notion of the Reformation of justification creates the basis to strengthen intercultural life in society and which also keeps the parishes in England, Wales and Scotland together, knowing about the differences in the UK EU-referendum.
The event finished with the presentation of the Pop-Oratorium “Martin Luther: project of thousands voices” in the Yehudi Menuhin Hall of the European Parliament, organised by the EKD, the “Kreative Kirche”, and the MEP Herbert Reul (EPP). Afterwards the delegation of Protestant representatives was welcomed by the recently elected President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, for an internal meeting and exchange.
He highlighted the significance of the European heritage of the work for the future of Europe. Education as well as building of relationships by religions could be a force against nationalism and populism. He welcomed very much the opportunity to meet the Community of Protestant Churches and expressed the wish for continuing exchanges and meetings.
Photo: Erin Green/CEC (more pictures available - please contact geke(at)leuenberg(dot)eu)