The Euro is coming. Soon the Euro will be money in our pockets. Like it or not, we will probably pay our fees for the next European Leaders Consultation (the last week of January 2002) in Euros.
So what? How should we be interpreting these “ever-encroaching signals” of “ever-increasing union”?
About ten years ago, there was a lot of euphoria about the New Europe, “1992” and all that. As I asked around about how we as Christians should view developments in the European Community, not many Christian leaders seemed to be thinking much about it. I noted that the further north one went, the more one was likely to meet a fatalistic acceptance of the “Europe as Beast” theory.
Eventually, I went to Brussels with the YWAM European Leadership Team. Jan Piet de Visser arranged a meeting with an EC official in the basement of the star-shaped Berlaymont building, at that time the heart of the EC’s bureacracy. Here somewhere, the rumour went, was the Brain of the Beast, the super-computer storing data on all European citizens.
We passed through security checks and waited in a small conference room. Soon the official strode into the room, greeted us, and said, “Well, brothers, shall we begin with prayer?” Our jaws dropped in surprise. We sneaked glances at each other as he led out in prayer. This was not quite what we had expected.
It turned out that this Irishman, Eamann O’Ruairc, headed a prayer network among EC staff. His son was active with Kings Kids in Brussels. As Eamann shared about how the EC had come into being, he talked about the key role of a movement led by an evangelist named Frank Buchman in bringing reconciliation between Germans, French and other Europeans after the Second World War. He explained how that only those nations humbled by occupation or defeat had come to the place of seeing their need for each other, and the need to interlink their economies in mutual accountability, thus reducing possibilities for war.
This was not conspiracy-laden language about Europe that I had grown up with in the English-speaking world. If Eamann’s story was true, we needed to learn more about these developments. We needed a forum for evangelicals to gather regularly seeking biblical direction on social and political developments in Europe. What would a biblically responsible position be concerning European union?
So I asked Eamann to help organise such an event, and in 1992 we held the first of what has since become the annual New Europe Forum.
These events have helped confirm my suspicion that, yes, Europe will become a beast – if God’s people are not actively involved in helping to shape tomorrow’s Europe. And if we as evangelicals simply opt out of the process of shaping tomorrow’s Europe, who will be to blame when non-biblical worldviews become the prime shapers?
At the first Forum, Sir Fred Catherwood, evangelical leader and former vice-president of the European Parliament, spoke of Europe as a “house swept clean” (see Luke 11:25,26). Europe had been swept clean of fascism and communism over the past 50 years, but what would fill the vacuum, he asked?
This year’s New Europe Forum (Paris, 7-10 June) wrestles with issues of Church-State relations in Europe. This is a hot subject in Central and Eastern European countries, where Catholic and Orthodox churches have historically dominated. In Northern Europe, religion has been all but pushed out of the public square by a post-modern pluralism. In Sweden, the recent separation of the Lutheran Church from the state in Sweden was seen by many as a precursor of what could happen in Norway, Germany and England – with great long term consequences.
Speakers at the NEF2001 include Henri Blocher, professor at the Free Faculty of Evangelical Theology, Vaux sur Seine; Jean Bauberot, director of the National Scientific Research Centre’s group on sociology of religion and secularism at the Sorbonne; Zekai Tanyar, pastor of the Izmir Turkish Church; and Nick Nedelchev, of Bulgaria, president of the European Evangelical Alliance.
Registrations close on May 1, 2001. Costs are 1500-1850 FF (around 225-300 Euros).
To register, or for more information, contact Sarah Legon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: +44 20 7207 2112.
See you in Paris?