The theme for the 2023 General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches was ‘Under God’s blessing — shaping the future’. It was a great privilege for me to represent Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) at this event and spend time with the representatives of our member churches and the national ecumenical bodies in attendance.
I have gathered reflections from some of the representatives from CTE member churches on this critical moment in the life of the Church in Europe.
Annika Mathews from the Church of England was taking part for the first time:
“I took part in a youth assembly just before the General Assembly where we considered youth perspectives on the Assembly theme. Some of our main concerns are about how we are included and heard in the ecumenical space. We need our churches and the ecumenical bodies to recognise that we are not just ‘the Church of the future’ we are part of the Church now. In an Assembly with a future-focussed theme such as this one it’s really important to ensure that young people are not simply experiencing things being done for or to them, but enabled to do things with others.
I would certainly encourage other young people to avail themselves of these opportunities as an introduction to the international ecumenical space and the valuable networks it can provide. I would also encourage them to engage with their churches about delegate places which offer additional speaking and voting rights to ensure youth are fully represented and included.”
His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan has two decades experience of working in CEC:
“My introduction to ecumenism began with studies at (the Ecumenical Institute) Bossey, but it was in CEC where I first experienced ecumenism in action. The Armenian Church is the only Oriental Orthodox Church in membership of CEC and so it is important for us to bring our spirituality to these gatherings through our participation and by leading worship. It is especially important for us to be here at a time when Armenians are suffering so greatly from the violence in Artsakh. There are many parallels with what is happening in Ukraine, and yet this humanitarian disaster has not captured the attention of the world in the same way. Christian churches coming together at the European and global levels can provide a strong voice to raise their plight with those who have the power to protect them.”
‘the danger is to look inward rather than outward’
Rev Dr Susan Durber, World Council of Churches President for Europe has been working to deepen connections between the WCC and the churches of the European region. She said of the General Assembly:
“At a time when many churches and organisations feel diminished and under threat the danger is to look inward rather than outward. My hope is that CEC can be a place where the fellowship of Churches can become stronger and that people will stay together and commit to be there for and with each other.”
One of the main tasks of the General Assembly was to appoint the Governing Body for the next five years. The member churches of CTE and CTBI have strong representation in the appointment of H.E. Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as President and Rt Rev Dagmar Winter of the Church of England as one of the Vice Presidents. On their election, Archbishop Nikitas spoke of the role of the Church in building bridges, while Bishop Dagmar expressed the hope that CEC could help carve pathways to peace in Europe. We look forward to supporting them in this work and strengthening CEC as a voice for justice and peace in Europe over the coming years.
Main photo credit: © Albin Hillert/CEC