Echoing the hope that God has for Europe

300 delegates representing churches from throughout Europe countries are gathering today in Lyon, France, for the 13th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

Of the 300 delegates, 41 are young people.  170 delegates are male, and 130 are female.  109 are lay people and 191 are ordained.  There are 25 delegates who are black or from a minority ethnic group, or who are representing a migrant church.   

There are more than 500 other people attending the Assembly, including local volunteers, members of staff, visitors, guests and journalists.  A stewarding team of 49 young people are helping with the smooth running of the Assembly.

The theme for this year's Assembly is "Called to One Hope in Christ".  The previous Assembly was held in Trondheim, Norway in 2003.  CEC was founded in 1959, making this the 50th anniversary year. 

At the opening press conference today the President of CEC, Rev. Jean Arnold de Clermont, said that the Assembly needed to echo the hope that God has for Europe.  He asked: "What are the priorities for Europe?  Where is Christ leading us?  It is important that churches in Europe re-confirm a commitment to each other six years [at the CEC Assemblies]."  

Mr de Clermont spoke about two areas which he hoped would be a focus of the Assembly - sustainable development and relationships with other Christian churches. He said: "Issues of poverty and the millennium commitments challenge us to live in a sustainable way.  Churches need to make sure that the poorest of the poor are not left on the roadside".  He also expressed his hope that CEC would be able to work closer with the Catholic Church and evangelical churches.

His Beatitude Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania spoke at the press conference on the Assembly theme, ‘Called to One Hope in Christ'.  He emphasised the need for Christians to unite, as hope cannot thrive if there is division.  He said: "Christians dare to hope, even when fear grips our hearts and minds.  With the power of the crucified and resurrected Christ, truth, justice and love will prevail and life will triumph over death."

Ms Doris Peschke, General Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) also spoke at the Press Conference, where she stressed the importance of churches' work with refugees and how the churches can celebrate the diversity of migrant churches.  She also noted that CEC and CCME have designated 2010 as a year of "European churches responding to migration".

Moderators anticipating a co-operative and interactive Assembly


Dr Alison Elliot was appointed as the Moderator of the 13th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) during the first business session of the Assembly yesterday.  Dr Elliot is a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly. 

At a press conference today Dr Elliot said that the Assembly had got off to a good start, after many months of preparation and thought.  "Last night everyone was on tenterhooks, realising that we need to get things done" she said, commenting on the important procedural decisions the Assembly needs to take to function properly.   

Two Vice-Moderators have also been appointed: His Grace the Rt Rev. Bishop Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Rev. Arlington Trotman, a Wesleyan minister originally from Barbados and now living in Britain and Moderator of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe.

Bishop Irinej said: "There is a wonderful sense of co-operation which permeates the entire Assembly."  Rev. Trotman concurred, adding: "It has been the objective of the planning committee to be interactive.  We want people to share their views on CEC and its future."  

At the press conference the absence of delegates from the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) was raised.  Bishop Irinej explained that this action did not represent an irrevocable split within CEC, rather the issue which led to the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church to temporarily suspend its participation in the life of CEC activities is being worked through urgently.  

The head of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the 13th Assembly, Metropolitan Michael of Austria, has proposed, on behalf of his delegation, that three seats on CEC's Central Committee be maintained in anticipation of the full return of the Moscow Patriarchate to CEC's life and activities.  Under this proposal these three seats would temporarily be allocated to representatives of other Orthodox Churches.

The Serbian Orthodox Church is officially represented by its delegated members: His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Zahum-Herzegovina, Head of delegation; His Grace Bishop Irinej of Australia and New Zealand (elected Assembly Co-Moderator); and theologians Mr. Petar Petkovic of Belgrade and Ms. Julia Vidovic of Paris (elected to the Policy Reference Committee).