Shortly before the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March, the Council of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe emphasizes the significance of this Treaty for the European integration process. The Treaty established the European Economic Community, but its Preamble highlighted overarching aims, which are still relevant today, e.g. at “reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions” and “by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty”. During these 60 years, and with the further development of the European Union, many of these aims have since been achieved.
Today we are concerned, that the fractures, chasms and differences between the EU’s Member States, but also within European societies in recent years, have arisen again dramatically. No common response has been found to deal with refugees and migrants in legal terms nor based on shared European values. After almost ten years of crisis, the economic and social situation in some countries and societies remain oppressive and worrying. The majority of people in the United Kingdom voted for their country to leave the EU. People are turning away from the project of integration. Political parties are attracting support by promoting this sentiment and claiming that the solution to their problems lies within their national boundaries and in abandoning the EU.
In contrast, we reiterate that we can no longer conceive and imagine Protestant Church life in Europe without our community of churches from all over Europe. In the Gospel we are called to be not afraid, and to engage in a peaceful living together (John 14,1; Matthew 5,9). “Unity in reconciled diversity” has become the self-understanding of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe. This is a theological and spiritual insight, but in its praxis it has also socio-political significance. We are firmly convinced regarding the political Europe, that falling back solely upon nations, however they are defined, holds no future for peaceful and beneficial co-existence in Europe and beyond. The challenges we face – climate protection, neighbourly relations with the other continents and their developments, handling globalisation, among many others – call for European solutions.
The Council of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation during its session in Wittenberg from 17 to 19 March 2017. The Reformation profoundly changed the continent of Europe. After the divisions that arose within Protestantism during the Reformation era, we are grateful for the Protestant and broader ecumenical fellowship experienced in Europe. We appreciate and thoroughly acknowledge that these developments were also strengthened by the political awakening and integration process in Europe after 1945.
In September 2018, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe will be holding its 8th General Assembly in Basle, Switzerland, and amongst other topics discussing and clarifying the commitment of our European community. We are grateful for the incentive from the Conference of European Churches in its open letter on “The future of Europe” to actively discuss this future and consider and encourage the contribution of churches. The willingness shown by a wide range of church and inter-confessional groups and people to organise a European Christian Convention in order to promote Christian co-existence and shared faith in Europe is a welcomed reinforcement of Christian endeavour for and in Europe – besides all the existing engagement of other Christian European organisations.
The Council of the CPCE, Wittenberg
18 March 2017
Photo: CPCE/B. Jaeger