EEA, EEMA: Europe on the Move, 20.-24.10.2004

EUROPE ON THE MOVE
A report from Athens 2004
(EEA, EEMA and Hope for Europe in Athens, 20 – 24 October)

In October 2004 three main players on the evangelical scene in Europe met for a joint conference in Athens. For the third consecutive year, the European Evangelical Alliance, the Hope for Europe – Round Table and the European Evangelical Missionary Alliance met for their respective Annual Meetings with time for interaction and fellowship to cross-pollinate ideas and mutual encouragement. Before 2001 these groups held their Annual Meetings separately at different times and different venues. The Hope.21 Congress organized by the Hope for Europe movement in 2000 in Budapest gave a strong impulse to seek ways of working together more closely, to avoid doubling of initiatives and to seek synergy.

This time the joint meeting was bigger than ever before, drawing leaders from 35 European nations. The growth was mainly due to the increased numbers of the EEMA and the Hope for Europe – Round Table, the participation of the EEA Youth Network for the first time and also the increased number of spouses, as a result of the added on tour offer ‘In the footsteps of St. Paul’. Surely this growth in numbers is a sign of the developing and changing picture in Europe.

The Conference was hosted by the Greek Evangelical Alliance. The beautiful weather and the very pleasant resort that they had found to hold this meeting certainly contributed to the success of Athens 2004. The Greek hosts welcomed the Conference as an encouragement for the evangelical community of their nation and they shared of the enormous efforts of the Greek Christians and their foreign partners to reach out to the millions of visitors of the Olympic Games earlier in the year. During the Conference the Hope for Europe Award was presented to ARC, the Athens Refugee Center, an project initiated by International Teams but know run in close connections with evangelical churches of Athens. This Refugee Center reaches out daily to hundreds of refugees entering into Europe, fleeing from Central Asian, the Middle East and Africa and is a clear sign of the message of hope.

During plenary sessions in the mornings bible studies were held by Dr. David Zac Nyeringi from Uganda giving helpful insights from an African point of view, dealing with issues like how to deal with poverty and how to deal with wealth as Christians. Dr. Michael Schluter from Cambridge (UK) gave two lectures on the R-factor: how political decisions and economic viewpoints influence relationships in family, church and society and the responsibility of Christians in society regarding these issues.

The Hope for Europe – Round Table consists of a group of leaders of pan-European networks from different organizations and background focusing on 20plus issues or themes ranging from the European Prayer Link (a network of European Prayer Movements) to the New Europe Forum (a network of Christian politicians and others thinking through cultural, political and ethical issues). A new development in Hope for Europe is the attempt to encourage new models of city-networks like ‘Gemeinsam fuer Berlin’ (Together for Berlin).

At the General Assembly of the European Evangelical Alliance a new Evangelical Alliance was accepted as member, namely the EA of the Republic of Ireland. The President of the EA of RoI said that he was committed to immediately take initiatives to form a Mission Committee of the EA in Ireland, the reason being that several mission agencies had approached the EA of RoI about setting up their own sending structure in RoI. This was of concern so that the  hope was expressed that old models of the existing EMA’s in Europe not necessarily should be replicated in newer sending countries but that new models could be developed to avoid multiple mission boards, mission offices, mission magazines and events and activities in a still small, but growing evangelical community.

The agenda meeting of the European Evangelical Missionary Alliance (EEMA) was heavily loaded with developments and challenges. An intense and dynamic communication and working together over a period of three days resulted in quite a few positive steps forward.

Mobilizing:

One of the main concerns over the past year had been the bankruptcy of TEMA-Mission, the association that had organized mission mobilization congresses for over 35 years in three year cycles. Due to that fact, mission agencies and mission alliances across Europe had lost an important tool for their own mobilizing. Out of discussions and meeting since then a proposal had been developed which was endorsed by both EEA and EEMA in Athens, to set up a joint steering group working towards concrete proposals for the next joint meetings in Lisbon 2005.

Martin Voegelin, General Secretary of the Swiss Evangelical Missionary Alliance is the liaise-person between this steering group and the EEMA.

Welcome-Programme:

The EEMA approved the Welcome-Programme for implementation by national mission alliances and recommend the same to the EA’s. The Welcome-Programme is set up on behalf of the EEMA to “foster the welcome of non-European missionaries into Europe to join in our Mission mandate “. It was recognized some years ago that Europe needed missionaries from around the world, but that in many cases there had been disappointments and avoidable attrition. Also it was recognized that European churches, organizations and mission agencies needed to be encouraged to welcome these missionaries in to join in their ministries and to create a situation in which fellowship, encouragement and opportunities for co-operation would be provided for missionaries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and from North America.

Regional Missionary Alliances of other Continents such as Comibam had been consulted regarding this ‘Welcome-programme’ and are now encouraged to promote the same approach from the sending side.

Kees van der Wilden, staff-member of WEA-MC, co-ordinates this ‘Welcome-Programme’ on behalf of the EEMA. The Church Mission Society (CMS) in London agreed to free up Martin Thomas, co-worker of CMS, for part of his time to write materials, develop a website and encourage implementing of ‘Welcome’ in various ways.

Member Care Europe:

Having been in fellowship with the EEMA since the beginning, the Member Care Europe Network requested a closer co-operation with the EEMA, to be validated and sponsored by this body and to have a much clearer mechanism for communication.

The Fifth European Member Care Consultation is to be held in April 2005 in Rehe, Germany and also the member care for Missionaries to Europe coming from other continents is part of the agenda of that meeting.

The European EMA’s committed themselves to a strong support of the development of this network and to signal any new ideas or needs when they should arise.

Marion Knell, co-worker of Global Connections, is the liaise-person between the Member Care Europe network and EEMA.

New Missionary Movements:

The vision statement of the EEMA is that the EEMA wants to become an alliance of missionary movements of all nations of Europe. Over the past years new movements had been identified in different countries in Southern and Eastern Europe and representatives of these movements had been invited to meet with the members of the EEMA, in fact mainly missionary alliances from North West Europe. Now a next step was taken by setting up a working group covering different regions of Europe and working towards making an inventory, working towards deeper relationships and setting up of a yahoo group to enable communication and discussion on developing new missionary movements in countries that were dominated by Catholicism or Communism in the past but now begin to send missionaries too. The hope is to welcome  representatives of these movements at the next EEMA Annual Meeting in Lisbon 2005. This working-group will be co-ordinated by Scott Klingsmith, CBI missionary based in Vienna.

Network for European Ms  Ministries:

A small group was commissioned by the EEMA meeting to make an inventory of developments, opportunities and needs regarding the challenge of I. in Europe. All national EMA’s committed to co-operate in this investigation with the aim to make further decisions in the next year.

From the summary above it is clear that the EEMA meeting in Athens 2004 was a dynamic time of mutual encouragement and growing together to a new phase. Much reason to give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest !

EUROPEAN EVANGELICAL MISSIONARY ALLIANCE

Cees Verharen
General Secretary