Baptists gather in Bratislava for EBF Council
A large turnout of Baptist leaders, pastors, teachers and other delegates have gathered in Bratislava, Slovakia for the 2013 European Baptist Federation (EBF) Council. They have been receiving reports and recommendations and reflecting on issues affecting the family of Baptists in Europe at meetings being held from September 25-28.
Baptists from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria updated the council on the situation in the Middle East and the work and ministry of Baptists in meeting the challenges in the region. The EBF, which is one of six regional or geographical expressions of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), includes Baptist conventions and unions in the Middle East and North Africa.
Nabil Costa of Lebanon, a Baptist World Alliance vice president, said, 'We need to remain focused on our role as the church.' The church's focus, he said, 'needs to be values-driven, affirming and seizing the opportunity and possibility of increased freedom and human dignity, driven by a concern for the protection and preservation of human life.'
The Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, which Costa heads, is one of the BWA main partners in ministering to the needs of people displaced by the civil war in Syria.
Syrian Baptist pastor Mazen H. shuttles between that country and Lebanon, bringing relief supplies to roughly 1,600 Syrian families displaced by the war. He told the council the ways in which God is making a difference in the lives of the people being helped through the ministry of the Christian church, including Baptists. He said that since the war began, "more people are going to church."
A new slate of leaders was elected to serve the EBF. Otniel Bunaciu, president of the Baptist Union of Romania, was elected president. Asatur Nahatetyan of Armenia succeeds Bunaciu as vice president. Tony Peck of Britain was reappointed EBF general secretary. Ian Bunce, Mission and Media co-ordinator at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, was elected chair of the Division of Mission and Evangelism for the European Baptist Federation for the next five years.
The process of relocating the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) from Prague, Czech Republic, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, continues. The seminary is to be transformed into an International Baptist Study and Research Center that will become an embedded institution within the Department of Theology of the VU University Amsterdam.
The new site is in a Baptist church building in Amsterdam that will also house the Baptist Seminary of the Netherlands, the offices of the Baptist Union of the Netherlands, and the offices of the EBF. The property in Prague is to be sold with the proceeds going toward meeting the financial needs of the relocated and reconfigured entity.
Council members also received reports from the EBF Mission and Evangelism, Theology and Education and External Relations divisions; the Resolutions Committee; the Youth and Children's Committee; and the Indigenous Mission Partnership program.