Workshops informationWorkshops information

1. Dialogue with the European Institutions

An ever more substantial amount of national legislation of EU Member States is prepared or adopted by the European Institutions: the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. Other European organisations, such as the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also play an important role in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law in a wider Europe. These institutions and organisations thereby considerably shape the living conditions of people in Europe and beyond.

For the churches it is important to be present and to give a Christian witness, where the life of people is being shaped. In the Charta Œcumenica the churches commit themselves to "seek agreement with one another on the substance and goals of our social responsibility, and to represent in concert, as far as possible, the concerns and visions of the churches vis-à-vis the secular European institutions".

At the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, 2007, the representatives of the European institutions welcomed the involvement and the engagement of the European churches. The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso said: "The European Commission has always been attentive to the engagement of the Christian churches, and in particular to the Conference of European Churches, which since the beginning have accompanied and encouraged the big adventure of the European construction". In Art 17 of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union commits itself therefore to an "open, transparent and regular dialogue" with the communities of faith and conviction – a phrase also often cited by the other European organisations, although the Lisbon Treaty still awaits its ratification.

This workshop, building on some of the hearings at the Assembly, will review just a few examples of where and how the churches made a difference in the dialogue with the European institutions and organisations over the last six years. Its emphasis, however, will be on looking into the future: on which issues do the churches need to address the European institutions? Which mechanisms and means will serve the churches best in order to live up to their commitment in the Charta Œcumenica and to make their (common) voice heard?

2. Social Justice in Europe

In the Charta Œcumenica the European Churches state: "We are convinced that the spiritual heritage of Christianity constitutes an empowering source of enrichment and inspiration for Europe. On the basis of our Christian faith we work together for a humane, socially conscious Europe in which human rights and the basic values of peace, justice, tolerance, participation and solidarity prevail."

CEC’s Assembly takes place at a moment of unprecedented global economic downturn with an “exceptionally uncertain economic situation”. (European Commission Economic Forecast 2009). More than 79 million people in Europe– or 16% of the population – currently live at risk of poverty. (Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2009). The EU has designated 2010 as the "European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion". Nevertheless a number of churches and faith-based organisations significantly reduced their activities in this field in recent years. This leads to a decreasing presence of the church in a sector of society, which marks to a large extent people’s daily life.

The workshop shall discuss the specific responsibility of CEC and its member churches with regard to social and economic policies in Europe. In an open letter to the Presidents of the European institutions in May 2009 CEC expressed the concerns of the churches about the impact of the economic crisis: "We are convinced that the current crisis is much more profound than the analysis of the EU institutions has suggested so far. The crisis calls into question a number of assumptions, which have underpinned the EU's economic policies over the last decades, such as deregulation, the primacy of economic criteria in all areas of life as well as an overemphasis on profit and growth. The letter stresses the non-economic aspects of the current situation: "The crisis has an important ethical dimension: Our societies are suffering from a lifestyle which is focusing on individual profit, consumption and greed rather than taking responsibility for the common good, the well-being and the future for all people and for the world we are living in."

The workshop shall give input for the work of CEC in the social and economic field for the forthcoming years.

3. Globalisation

Globalisation has long been a theme for churches' work. Churches in Europe and CEC have contributed significantly to the world-wide ecumenical debate on globalisation as initiated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) at their Assembly in Harrare and further strengthened at the Porto Alegre Assembly.

The economic and financial crises brought a new impetus to this effort. With its far reaching implications, these crises force churches to think anew about the immediate impact of economic factors on the lives of millions of people. At the same time, at stake are the questions of fundamental values of freedom, justice, human dignity and solidarity and their role in the life of the churches in this particular context.

Globalisation is a challenge to think anew on the link between economy and politics and the link of both of them to ethics. It raises as well the question of contacts and cooperation with churches from other continents.  A recently started a joint work of the Church and Society Commission of CEC with Latin American Council of Churches offers a sign of an emphasis given to this work by the churches in Europe.

In the European ecumenical context, the topic of globalisation was addressed with significant strength during the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu. The Final Message of the Assembly reads: "Throughout the world and even in Europe the current process of radical market globalisation is deepening the division of human society between winners and losers." Recommendation eight of the Assembly Message stated: "that a consultative process, addressing (…) European responsibility for the just shaping of globalisation (…) be initiated by CCEE and CEC, with the Churches in Europe and with Churches of other continents." 

This workshop will build on the work of several hearings of the Assembly and provide a reflection on the issue of responding to the challenge of globalisation within the further work of CEC.

4. Human Rights begin in the Churches

As Christians, we believe that God's creation of human beings in His own image and likeness constitutes the dignity of each individual. The Gospel teaches us: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law", Romans 13:8-10.   

Despite our duty to take a stand and act in defense of our sisters and brothers, violations of human rights are a daily reality in God's creation. The challenge, therefore, remains with us today and it is feared that it will become ever more pressing as the consequences of the current economic and financial crisis become visible. 

This workshop emphasises the churches' responsibility regarding Human Rights. It will focus on the churches' work to protect human rights and human dignity through international organisations, i.e. the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the United Nations. Themes addressed include, inter alia, freedom of religion or belief, church-state relations, human rights education, minority/majority issues, rights of the child.  The workshop will give recommendations for the work of CEC in the human rights field for the forthcoming years.

5. Spirituality

Learning “the worship and other forms of spiritual life practised by other churches” (Charta Œcumenica, 5)

As Charta Œcumenica describes it the “ecumenical movement lives from our hearing God's word and letting the Holy Spirit work in us and through us”. In this respect during the last period of time “many different initiatives now seek, through services of prayer and worship, to deepen the spiritual fellowship among the churches and to pray for the visible unity of Christ's Church”. It is also true that some churches still have difficulties with prayer at ecumenical gatherings. Therefore it is important to take into consideration that the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches clarified, to a great extend, the issue of praying at ecumenical gatherings.

The Churches in Dialogue Commission (CiD) of CEC jointly organised with the Institute for Evangelical Ascetic from Neuendettelsau, Germany, a consultation on Prayer and the Spirituality of Worship at Ecumenical Conferences (23-25 April 2009). The final statement adopted at this consultation underlined that "spiritual life, including acts of worship, should not be regarded as being of less importance than the theological discourse, not least because of spiritual life often  results in an strong impulse to unity". The Neendettelsau consultation showed how important it is at ecumenical gatherings to be aware of the different worship traditions. These traditions could be represented at specific meetings acknowledging the spiritual implications of each worship tradition. In this respect the Neuendettelsau consultation considered that "participation in acts of worship in other traditions is a good preparation for joint worship at ecumenical conferences".

The CiD workshop for the Lyon Assembly will first offer the possibility for an exchange between representatives of different traditions in relation to the spirituality of the worship life in their respective traditions. This exchange should offer the basis for reflections about praying at ecumenical gatherings.

6. Mission

Witnessing to Christ in Europe Today

The Charta Oecumenica stands firm in stating that “The most important task of the churches in Europe is the common proclamation of the Gospel, in both word and deed for the salvation of all”. As the Conference of European Churches we turn to our member churches and associated organizations and to all who acknowledge the priority of mission in Europe with the urgent call to carry out our missionary activity under the aspect of our common task, making every effort to reach greater unity with regard to our call to mission. Because we proclaim one God and follow one Lord, we have one message and our mission has one goal. This realization leads to greater unity in practical work: in cases when the priorities might be different, we can learn from one another; in cases when different methods are being used we can respect and pray for one another. Acknowledgement of an ultimate unity helps us in matters of ecumenical trust to be free from fears for our individual existence. Only in this way will we experience anew the power of the Gospel which transcends all barriers and can reach even those who have distanced themselves from the church.

In this spirit the workshop on “Witnessing to Christ in Europe Today” aspires to address a number of questions inviting the churches to reflect and discuss on the meaning of witnessing to Christ in Europe today and the way this is actually fulfilled in different contexts. The different dimensions that this witness can have will be discussed, addressing issues such as the empowerment of the churches in contexts of secularisation and, at the same time of spiritual resurgence. Moreover the challenges of how to witness Christ in popular culture (e.g. atheistic propaganda, financial crisis) and how to re-commit the churches to their common task of mission in Europe today, will be addressed.

7. Hope for justice: Protecting Refugees in Europe

The Biblical command of extending help and fellowship to strangers, who have fled persecution in their home land continues to inspire the ministry of churches across Europe. European Churches offer practical help to refugees and engage in advocacy for their rights, on national as well as European level.

This workshop will look at current challenges and opportunities in policy and practice of refugee protection in Europe, take stock of European churches´ activities in refugee protection and identify where CEC's work can best strengthen and support the work of European churches on the issue.

In view of thematic coherence for CEC's future work on the issue, particular attention will be given to the issue of relations with other areas of CEC's work, in particular to:
-    the Biblical-theological foundation of refugee protection
-    the importance of refugee protection as Christian witness in European society, in particular in relations to the European institutions
-    the importance of joint commitment of different churches to refugee protection
More information CCME info@remove-meccme.be

Proposed Agenda
Background Information Number 1
Background Information Number 2
Recommendations for the EU "Stockholm Programme"

8. Hope for Unity: Uniting in Diversity- Being Church Together with migrant, black and ethnic minority churches

Migration has brought many Christian believers from different countries and denominations to European countries. The landscape of Churches in Europe is changing: more diverse denominations are now present in many countries, but also within various denominations an increased diversity of languages and cultures can be found. (see: D. Jackson, A. Passarelli, Mapping Migration – Mapping Churches’ Responses, CCME/WCC 2008)

Which and where are the concrete examples of Being Church Together? The European reality is fragmented and it is difficult to identify a common approach for being the Church together reconciling different cultures and traditions. Many local communities are very actively “welcoming the stranger” and have a lot of experience, while others still have to tackle with this issue. The participants of this workshop are encouraged to share their own experiences.

How are ethnic minority Churches influencing the ecumenical dialogue and what is their role in it? The hope and work for the unity of the Church beyond linguistic, ethnic and cultural barriers is indeed an ecumenical challenge. Participants in the workshop are requested to reflect how the process can be pursued of uniting in diversity with migrant believers joining traditional European Churches, and between ethnic minority Churches and traditional Churches.

Proposed Agenda
Background: Schär in EN FR DE

9. "Faith-ful Investments - Churches and Socially Responsible Investments"

Responding to a proposal from the CEC Finance Committee, the CEC Presidium decided to make Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) one of the topics at the CEC Assembly in July 2009. In May 2008, the Church and Society Commission (CSC) of CEC initiated a conference about SRI for the CEC member churches. The feed back of the participating spiritual and financial leaders was very positive and showed the need to go ahead with the issue of SRI within CEC. The financial crisis which intensified beyond all expectations in autumn last year promoted the issue of SRI even more.

Churches deal with substantial amounts of money through their investments, pension funds and real estate. On various levels they have financial resources they need to invest. Financial returns are necessary to fulfil various obligations like maintenance of buildings, payments of salaries and pensions, financing of special projects. The total volume of church related investment capital is not known, but it certainly constitutes an enormous market power. This huge potential of having impact on the economy entails a lot of responsibility to make use of it.

The way churches participate within the economy bears witness to the values they are striving for. One way that churches and individual Christians can demonstrate their social and environmental stewardship and responsibility is by using the power of their investments.

What does “Socially Responsible Investments” (SRI) mean and how can it be implemented? Links to existing working fields of CEC will be identified and relevance of SRI for CEC will be discussed to conclude whether and how SRI should be included into CEC’s working program for the coming years.

Document: Time is ripe – meeting challenges of globalisation and financial crises - Birgit Weinbrenner
Document: Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) - What does it mean?
- Birgit Weinbrenner

10. Commitment and Trust

The active participation of the churches in the life of CEC, as well as their financial support, is crucial for the future.

Increasing the commitment of the churches within the CEC fellowship and  building trust among themselves, and so displaying transparency in its business and mission, has to be a fundamental issue in all areas of work and not least in the decision making bodies of CEC.

Therefore CEC shall in the years to come

•    Find ways and methods of working appropriate to the goal of strengthening commitment and trust within its own life and between its member churches.
•    Implement flexible structures which assure that transparency, accountability, and acceleration in decision making procedures are achieved. This includes clarification of the size and the role of the Central Committee, the Presidium and the Commissions as well as their relationship one with another, and of the responsibilities of the General Secretary.
•    Reflect on methods of discussion and decision making in its governing bodies including a system of consensus decision making
•    Prepare for consideration by its 14th Assembly a thoroughgoing revision of its legal texts.
•    Bring forward an improved system of sharing in the financial support of CEC.
•    Invest in and support opportunities for the member churches to develop mutual respect and understanding.

11. Dialogue and Strengthening of Relations

The intention to strengthen dialogue and relations between the churches directly follows the policy line of building trust and increasing commitment.

Dialogue has a deep rooted connection to trust-building. More than in the last years, dialogue shall offer opportunities for the churches to learn from each other related to themes and issues which are important for their theological reflection and also in their practice. Therefore it is recommended that the work of the Commissions will be inter-related in a more systematic way. The coherence and inter-relation of the work of the Commissions is to be developed further. Theological reflection, socio-ethical questions, work with the European Institutions and advocacy work all belong together.

Dialogue is a task of all Commissions. This has to become more visible in the future. The agenda of the Churches in Dialogue Commission  will for example take up issues which are also relevant in the work of the Church and Society Commission (CSC) or in the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) and vice versa. The work of the Commissions as a whole has to reflect the major policy lines and has to make clear which are the goals and issues which CEC stands for.

In order to implement this, the Commissions will work with a wider mix of people to ensure that academic theology, socio-ethical expertise and experiences from church-leaders can be brought together.

Dialogue and strengthening of relations should not only include people who have taken responsibility in the Governing Bodies or in the Commissions; opportunities should be created for more exchange and ecumenical learning, through consultations, fora, seminars, and virtual encounter etc.

It will also be very important for ecumenical relations and the ecumenical movement in future to have more young people (especially theologians) involved. Therefore ecumenical formation is crucial and CEC will engage more than in the past in this field of work, e.g. by organising summer universities and creating other opportunities to learn about other Christian confessions and traditions.

12. Coherence and Visibility

Given the different confessions, traditions, shapes and agendas of its member churches CEC has to act within a wide range of complexity in its own constituency. CEC is confronted with many issues which are on the European agenda today; the economic and social development of Europe, the financial crisis, Human Rights, Interreligious Dialogue, Migration issues, to name only a few.

CEC is more than ever challenged to clarify what is its specific call and task within the various ecumenical organisations and institutions in Europe.

CEC has limited resources to shape its work in future.

Therefore CEC shall in the years to come work on its coherence and visibility. CEC shall:
•    Make clear to its own constituency and to as wide an audience as possible two or three issues which will have priority in its work.
•    By the end of 2010, through Central Committee, make a decision about the location of the CEC offices.
•    Strengthen the cooperation of and between the Commissions as well as the relationship between the Commissions and the CEC decision making bodies.
•    Set work priorities through decisions of the Central Committee and/or the Presidium (Executive Committee).
•    Focus on relation-building between its member churches and clarify its relationships with churches outside CEC such as the Roman-Catholic, the Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches.

13. Witness and Responsibility

For many people in Europe CEC stood and stands for the work of CSC of CEC and CCME related to the European Institutions. It is understood as a strong attempt to bring the witness of Christian Churches into the decision making processes of Europe. It is also meant to provide guidelines in times in which the complexity of decisions in the political area and their manifold implications are confusing even experts. The capacity to live together in diversity is an important precondition for sustainable development in Europe and is at the same time reflected within CEC itself.

The big challenges of social development, justice and peace need not only laws and guidelines, not only technical and practical approaches, but also a spiritual and ethical foundation. This is what the churches, and what CEC stands for. CEC therefore needs to be heard as a prophetic voice, but also as a chorus of churches singing the song of faith and spiritual strength.

It will be important for the sake of CEC and sustainable development in Europe of the public in Europe to keep both these sides of witness and responsibility together. Theology, diplomacy and advocacy, the prophetic voice and the songs and prayers of the faithful all belong together. Only in their interrelation do they incorporate a complete witness which is credible and trustworthy to the world.

This is what makes a stronger cooperation of the Commissions and the inter-relation of all parts of CEC so important and necessary.

Given the diversity which exists within CEC itself, it is necessary that this is reflected at every level of CEC’s work and decision making.

Following this understanding, CEC shall in the years to come:

•    continue to be an instrument for the churches in Europe in relation to the European Institutions and at the same time prove itself as a fellowship of churches - based on a spiritual foundation and therefore proceeding on a common way;

•    work e.g. on Human Rights, on Migration and Migrant Churches and for other issues related to Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. More than in the past, CEC will offer a forum where questions on the border between theology, socio-ethics, policy and society can be explored and shared;

•    achieve full participation at all levels of its life and work by women and men;

•    work with the Charta Œcumenica as a fundamental achievement in the life of CEC; reaffirming the implementation of its commitments, with priority especially given to the mutual recognition of Baptism;

•    see Christianity as integral to the culture of Europe and therefore also reflect upon the different approaches and attitudes of the churches towards secularization.

14. CEC’s place in the Ecumenical Movement

CEC does not stand alone within the European ecumenical scene. Many of CEC’s member churches are members of other bodies which also work for the cause of ecumenism within our continent – the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) among them.  

In addition, there are many movements which contribute to the European ecumenical scene – among them Taizé, Iona, Focolare, St. Egiddio.

The first draft from the Initial Policy Reference Group reminds us that “CEC is more than ever challenged to clarify what is its specific call and tasks within the various ecumenical organisations and institutions within Europe”.

Participants in this workshop will reflect together on how CEC should be seen within the complex context of the whole ecumenical movement. In relation to which tasks and responsibilities is CEC best placed to take a leading role on the European ecumenical scene? With which organisations and in which context should CEC work in partnership? What is the proper relationship especially between CEC and WCC? Which roles and tasks within the ecumenical movement in Europe are best played by actors other than CEC?

15. CEC as a platform for dialogue with other Christian Churches and other faith communities

The context within which CEC operates has changed almost completely since its founding 50 years ago. In the years following 1959, the Second Vatican Council opened up new possibilities of ecumenical dialogue with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters (some of which remain to be fulfilled). Meanwhile, the strengthening within Europe of the Pentecostal tradition and the increased presence among us of migrant churches has added richness to the European ecumenical scene.

As with the Christian context within which CEC operates, the question of faith is also complex.  To the historic presence among us of those of Jewish and Muslim faith, migration into our continent has caused there to be added increased numbers of adherents to all the major world faiths.

One of the concluding affirmations of the first draft from the Initial Policy Reference Group asserts that “we believe CEC to be a platform for dialogue with other Christian churches and with other faith communities.”

This workshop is intended to open up discussion about how those several strands of dialogue can best be achieved.