Saturday, 24 September 2011

EBF Council - Day Four

The final day combined business and pleasure with an afternoon tour taking in the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum, concluding with another great meal including St Peter fish and chips!

The morning included a report from Paul Montacute from the Baptist World Alliance, who reminded me that globally Baptists number some 110 million! This was Paul's last Council as he soon retires and I was reminded of my first contact with him back in 1988 when we were both involved in the Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference in Glasgow. I was conducting the orchestra alongside Graham Kendrick's band.

The two resolutions agreed by the Council were on topical issues. The first concerned the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine and included a call for unity among the EBF and an invitation to the world family of Baptists to pray and work for freedom and justice in the Middle East and Arab world. The second resolution expressed sorrow and solidarity with the people of Norway and the Baptist Union of Norway following the recent attacks in Oslo and on the Island of Utoya.  The resolve is that as member Unions of the EBF we stand up for the rights of those marginalised in their countries.

We said farewell to Valeriu Ghiletchi, the outgoing President, and inducted and greeted Hans Guderian as the new President.  Hans spoke movingly of his three visits to Israel, the first as a self-conscious German visiting Israel. He set out three challenges that face the EBF: secularisation - which leads to a tiredness and a lack of expectation; nationalism - which provokes anxieties concerning the stranger; and injustice, which is the cry not only of the people in North Africa but also the people in Madrid and Tel Aviv.

We were formally invited to the Council next year which meets in Elstal, Germany, not far from Berlin.

On Sunday morning I preach at the Nazareth Baptist Church, the oldest Baptist Church in Israel, and then head for home. It's been a good Council, made special by the location. This sort of event is a reminder to me that I'm part of something bigger. I'm constantly struck by the diversity among us, and at the same time an obvious and expressed unity. Once more I'm challenged by the very limited resources that some of the Unions have in comparison to ours. Again I've enjoyed making new friends and getting to know existing friends better.

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