Archive for May 2010

The Way – Orthodox learning from Alpha

May 18, 2010

The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, has just announced the late Spring launch of a new teaching programme suitable for use in Orthodox Churches  and which closely models the teaching methods of the British Alpha programme. Called The Way each session of the 12 week programme involves a small group meal together, a talk or presentation, discussion, and questions and answers.

The creators of The Way write that it  “aims to present the basics of Orthodox Christian faith in an atmosphere of friendship, free exchange and trust, where no position is forbidden and no question treated as foolish or unworthy of attention.” It assumes that human relationship, worship and teaching are central to the transmission of faith.

The Way will be available as a boxed set of 4 DVDs at an rrp. of £20 and will be available via Amazon.

German church decline prompts call for ‘deep spiritual renewal’

May 17, 2010

The latest news item from the European Baptist Federation paints a rather depressing picture of membership decline within the German Federation of Evangelical-Free Churches (Baptist and Brethren). Titled ‘We will continue to grow smaller’ the article reports from the recent annual conference in Kassel.

The number of churches within the Federation has dropped by five to 823 in the last year; membership declined by 0.5% to 83,285. A total of 1,905 persons were baptised – the lowest number since 1995. Some congregations are bucking the trend. During the last 12 years, 187 congregations have increased membership by more than 15%; yet the membership of 323 has diminished by more than 15%.

A final observation is made that only 386 congregations out of 690 sent delegates to the conference. Several delegates called for a deep spiritual renewal and closer integration with the 450 Baptist and Mennonite congregations whose memberships of 120,000 are largely made up of arrivals from the former USSR.

The tying together of the decline in an indigenous European denomination and the presence of migrant congregations is becoming a familiar theme. It remains to be seen how effectively the mission of Christ in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, will be served by closer co-operation and integration. The years ahead are likely to be challenging for these churches and in this they reflect the reality of the historic Christian presence in Europe.

The decline prompts a call to passionate prayer, informed support, commitment to faithful ministry and mission, and a courageous decision to face the future with renewed reliance on God’s Spirit.

For the original article at EBF, see: http://www.ebf.org/articles/display-article.php?article=319&cat=home&lang=eng

Mission alongside European ministry

May 17, 2010

Thanks to the team responsible for the blog at Christian Colleges Online for their alerting us to short term mission opportunities in Europe. Among the sites they feature is that of Alongside Ministries International which offers opportunities to work alongside established parishes and congregations in Scotland, France, Estonia, and elsewhere in Europe. Serving Christ alongside existing European congregations in this type of mission is a welcome example of US mission agencies working in closer partnership with European Christians. This is one way to help avoid the damaging effects of further dividing and diluting evangelical Christian witness in Europe.

Danish Church confirms 75 percent of all 14 year olds

May 17, 2010

Views about how secular Europe is becoming often quote figures relating to baptisms, confirmations, and weddings in a church; the so-called ‘occasional offices’. Figures recently released by the Lutheran Church in Denmark highlight the cultural significance of confirmation and raise the question of a missional response to the issues. This is how the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe reported on confirmations recently carried out:

‘Every year in late April or May three-quarters of all 14-year-olds are confirmed through the Danish Lutheran Church.

The coming-of-age ritual is prepared through the preceding winter with pupils beginning the school day once a week at their parish church. This year around 38,000 youngsters are being confirmed, 53% from Jutland, 25% from Zealand and the remainder from Funen and the other islands.

The content of the confirmation teaching is the tenets of the Christian faith and an understanding of the rituals of the Morning Service. Most churches require their youngsters to attend at least 8 Sunday services as well as follow the confirmation classes – taught by the church pastors or catechetes. Parents are invited to meetings in the course of a season and pastors are always on hand to answer questions. But for most youngsters the party overshadows the pledge.’

Human Rights and the European Churches

May 11, 2010

The draft version of a Human Rights Manual for European Churches is available for download at http://press.ceceurope.org/fileadmin/filer/csc/Human_Rights/HumanRightsManualWorkinProgress.pdf

This is likely to become all the more important as the discussion about Human Rights in Europe is put under the spotlight by Islamic communities as well as the more traditional Christian communities of Europe. The fundamental question is how universal are universal human rights? If they’re not, how are the churches to respond to challenges that confront the consensus of the last fifty years or so? Tricky questions and of immense important in the ongoing debate about Christianity and its relationship to public life.


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