On a very hot afternoon in Budapest we have celebrated the opening of the fourteenth Assembly of the Conference of European Churches.
The auditorium itself is a theatre, which has been turned into a conference setting, so with bright sunshine outside we are now corralled into a cool, dark setting listening to the President of CEC, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.
We were allowed out to cross the road to a Reformed Church for the opening ceremony , which was broadcast on Hungarian TV.
Here there was much light – reinforced with the TV lighting so we all began to boil. The efficient young stewards distributed cups of water. It was a typical service of its kind with multi-lingual contributions and a symbolic act where we inscribed a cross in water on the back of the delegate next to us. I noticed many of the Orthodox clergy declined to take part in this symbolic act. I did wonder whether we Baptists should sprinkle the water on the head of the person next to us as an alternative.
Of course, such events develop unofficial liturgical acts. I noted a favourite during the worship is the “tablet bob”. Suddenly, a participant stands up, tablet in hand, snaps an image of the choir, or speaker, and then bobs back down again. This is in contrast to the classic camera clicker, who generally gets up from their seat, disappears behind a pillar and reappears to “snap” a photo.
Now, am sat behind two priest from the Old Catholic Marionite Church of Poland in their grey robes. They are sat behind the black-clad figures of the Romanian Orthodox. At lunchtime we had the first Baptist caucus meeting – the politicking has already begun, especially because the minority churches are often side-stepped by the Porvoo and Meissen churches (Anglican churches and the Nordic-Baltic Lutheran and Reformed Churches, plus, sometimes, the EKD in Germany). The first challenge came with the Nominations Committee was reduced in size by disposing of the Methodist member. We now pressing for an enlargement of the Nominatinos Committee to reinstate the Methodist and add a Baptist.
CEC does many good and important things, but at the Assembly the “big churches” like their own way in terms of the structures, so the minority churches need to work together to keep a more balanced view of the CEC.
Budapest, 3 July 2013