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Organisers of ‘Together for Europe 2016’ in Munich believe “500 years of division is enough, unity is possible”. Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I supported the meeting.
1,700 representatives of about 300 Christians denominations met in Munich for the ‘Together for Europe’ Congress (30 June to 2 July).
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, several Orthodox Churches, Protestant denominations and free evangelical denominations (including some Baptists and Pentecostals) debated for 3 days about how to walk towards “encounter, reconciliation and hope in a better future.”
“We want to contribute towards reconciliation of Christians and of Churches. Through our witness of unity and reconciliation we also hope to impact on society as a whole. We want to encourage all people of our time to respond with a decisive and hopeful yes for going ahead together and overcoming barriers among people, nations, social and cultural groups”, the organisers said on their website.
Among the speakers were Roman Catholic Cardinal Walter Kasper, Evangelical Protestant Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm and German Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Hartmut Steeb.
GERMAN PROTESTANT AND EVANGELICAL VOICES
“If it [unity among Christians] was so important for Jesus, who prayed for it intensely, then we should not be apathetic about it”, Secretary General of the German Evangelical Alliance Steeb said during his intervention, according to news agency Idea. But this unity, he added, should not be imposed.
President of the Evangelical Church Germany (EKD, Protestant Church) Bedford-Strohm said it was time to speak only of 'Christians', instead of 'Catholics' or 'Evangelicals'.
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Vatican, Kardinal Kurt Koch, said he could not understand that some Christians do not “suffer” when they see the lack of unity among Christians in Europe.
The Congress finished with an open air rally, under the motto: “500 years of division is enough – unity is possible”. About 5,000 people gathered for this final event.
Organiser of “Together 2016 Muhich” and German YMCA leader Gerhard Pross said: “The division amongst Christians in Europe is a wound, but it does not have to be open forever.” Looking ahead to the 2017 commemoration of the Protestant Reformation, he concluded: “500 years are enough.”
ALL EUROPEAN EVANGELICALS IN FAVOUR OF ECUMENISM?
Although some representatives of evangelical denominations actively participated in this Congress, many other evangelical leaders do not believe ecumenism is the best way to impact Europe’s societies with the gospel.
A group of evangelical scholars met in Rome for the first meeting of the ‘Rome Scholars Network’ (RSN), also last week. “Given that the fifth centenary of the Reformation is just around the corner, the message coming from many Catholic quarters and some Evangelical leaders is that the Reformation is over. We at RSN do not agree. The Reformation is as relevant as ever since the gospel and the five solas are as relevant as ever”, theologian and Vatican expert Leonardo de Chirico said.
Other evangelical organisations in Europe have expressed the need to be honest about the profound theological differences that separate the main Christian confessions.