Nothing less than a Copernican revolution in thinking was needed to establish a healthy European society, church and organisational leaders from across the continent heard at the annual General Assembly of the European Evangelical Alliance this week in Northampton, north of London.
Dr Michael Schluter, founder of the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge, along with several colleagues from the centre, explained to the 80 delegates from Russia to Portugal how the concept of Relational Thinking was based on Jesus’ command to love God and neighbour. In God’s eyes, he said, a developed country was not necessarily one with a high GDP, but one where relationships were healthy–in the family, community, business, church and public square. By that criteria, he proposed, many western nations with high divorce rates, broken families, lonely neighbours and old people, could still be considered undeveloped.
Europeans faced major challenges stemming from the dominant cult of individualism in society, he said, maximising the freedom of choice for each individual rather than a choice for the welfare of others. These included the demographic challenge in what Dr Schluter called ‘self-liquidating nations’ (including Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France) where birth rates of well under 2,1 meant fewer young people would have to support more elderly, thus increasing the demand for euthanasia. EU policies of mobility of labour and capital tended to destabilise families; widespread youth unemployment, debt, wealth inequalities and the dominant role of multinationals all added up to huge economic challenges resulting from distorted priorities, argued the former World Bank economist.
Churches, organisations and schools could effect a silent, unseen revolution in thinking, he urged, acting like yeast and slowly permeating society, by prioritising healthy relationships above economic and personal advancement.
Other contributors reported growth in the evangelical movement in traditionally resistant regions, such as France, where a new church was being planted every eleven days. New levels of cooperation and partnership were being experienced there among evangelicals and also with other Christian traditions. Through a series of books, published by the French Evangelical Alliance (CNEF) the assumption and practice that all religion is banned from the public is being challenged. It is pointed out that Laïcité is actually not saying that and that a wrong practice has been established over time.
Dutch delegate Jan Wessels reported on fruitful ongoing dialogue with other Christian traditions, noting that while liberalism was diminishing, evangelicalism was growing across denominations. Common ground was being rediscovered in the historical Nicene Creed of 325AD, he observed, and a growing sense of mission was now widely shared, in recognition that the Netherlands, and Europe, had become a secularised mission field.
Swiss delegates told of a creative response to a national AIDS-prevention media blitz in the summer showing explicit love-making couples, both same-sex and hetero. Using social media, an alternative campaign was launched replacing a condom with a golden ring as the ‘O’ in the slogan ‘LOVE LIFE’. Photos of happily-married couples of all ages carried a message that faithfulness was the most effective in AIDS prevention, a method overlooked by the official campaign. This alternative presentation received widespread national media attention, the delegates reported.
At the official annual general meeting of the EEA held during the assembly, delegates voted Frank Hinkelmann (47), a German living in Austria, to succeed the Czech Jiří Unger as president, for a 4-year term. Hinkelmann has worked with OM for 18 years, and since 2011 was the OM European Director International. He is also a member of the International Council of the World Evangelical Alliance.
Jürgen Werth (63), formerly CEO of ERF and chairman of the German Evangelical Alliance, was also elected as EEA board member.
The dates for the General Assembly 2015 are October, 5-9.
Written by: Jeff Fountain