The Conference of European Churches (CEC) Assembly in Budapest is debating “The Uppsala Report” on restructuring the CEC in the light of work done by the Revision Working Group since the last Assembly in Lyon.
Saturday morning saw the Assembly debating the place of partner organizations, such as the European Baptist Federation (EBF), all the Europe-wide networks for women, youth, higher education, chaplains and the like who, in the past, have been integral to the life of the CEC, been involved in Commissions, working groups etc.
Now, the desire of the member churches (well, some of them) is to have an ecclesial structure which focuses on member churches and, in the view of many, marginalizes partner organizations. This was being discussed in plenary on Saturday when the leader of the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany), itself not a church, but a federation of the German Protestant State Churches (Landeskirche), made a proposal to discuss the key issue of participation in private.
Then we saw “big church powerplay” with quick conversations between the EKD leadership and the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Orthodox) and members of the Church of England delegation.
There was a spirited move by a young female representative of the Methodist Church of Great Britain to keep the plenary open in the “spirit of transparency”, but the EKD came back with a demand that a vote by taken to exclude everyone except the voting delegates of the member churches. From my vantage point at the back of the hall in the non-voting place allotted to the EBF the voting was clear enough. The “big three” (EKD, Anglicans – England, Ireland, Wales and the Orthodox) voted to exclude, whilst the Free Churches, Old Catholics, small churches and some of the Nordic-Baltic Lutheran churches, voted to remain in open plenary. The “big three” just won the day in a formal card vote and so a significant part of the European ecumenical family was excluded from the room to gestures of sadness and disbelief from representatives of the so-called smaller churches.
Can true European ecumenism be built in this way ? Sadly, I doubt it.
– Keith (one of those ejected)