Most evangelicals enjoy the quiet life and appreciate the apostle Paul urging his readers to obey those in authority. Praying for those in authority is far less common, if the average Sunday intercessions are a fair indication. Even where prayer is offered for the authorities, we assume that Paul meant we were only to pray for national authorities. When was the last time you heard your pastor or another church leader praying for European political leaders?
I suspect that few readers of Encounters will know who the President of the European Union is and, although we are responsible for the election of the European Parliament’s MEPs, very few of us appear to appreciate the extent to which it is shaping the lives of ordinary citizens across Europe. It needs our prayer. HOPE II will see 600 national church and agency leaders gather in Hungary in a few months’ time. The proposed educators’ track has been withdrawn due to a lack of interest in European themes on the part of theological educators. If we’re not praying for European legislators and decision-makers, we’re certainly not thinking about them, or their policy making, in any sustained or serious way.
When MEPs, European Commissioners, and the ‘eurocrats’ of Brussels frame legislation and policy with reference to purely secular assumptions, perhaps Christians in Europe are getting the decisions they deserve. The time is well overdue for Christians to be taking Paul seriously and praying for those in positions of authority within the various European institutes.
Jeff Fountain captures the irony of the scenario I have described in his finely portrayed biography of Robert Schuman. Schuman is considered by many as the ‘father of the European Union’. It was his vision for a Europe united against the prospect of yet another catastrophic European war that captured the imagination and minds of German and French leaders in the aftermath of the Second World War. Constantly throughout the book from which Fountain’s paper is extracted, Schuman and other European politicians are shown to have been individuals committed to prayer, individual retreat, and to a Europe rooted in Christian values. The legacy of faith laid down by Schuman demands constant attention, not the least by Christians with a concern for wise and good government across Europe.
The importance of wise government is illustrated by Joanne Appleton’s paper exploring immigration in Europe. She tackles the contentious issue of immigrants and their integration into European societies. Appleton writes against the backdrop of debate focussed on the issue of multiculturalism and its related political policies and programmes. Her argument in favour of a nuanced and reciprocal process of migrant integration deserves close attention. She raises precisely the kinds of questions that European Christians must face if they are to understand the serious issues facing European policy makers. Migration will continue to hold the policy spotlight for some time to come and if European leaders are to make good and wise decisions regarding the fate of many millions of people, they require our informed prayer and support.
Chris Ducker’s paper is also essential reading for anybody trying to understand the inter-relation of faith and secularisation in Europe. There are certainly many avowedly secular MEPs and European Commissioners. Equally, there are very senior leaders who regularly attend prayer breakfasts in Brussels and some for whom spiritual retreat is a central part of their Christian discipline. This cameo is played out against a wider engagement of faith with secularisation across Europe. Ducker’s paper highlights the main issues through a very useful summary of Grace Davie’s various writings about Europe. If Davie is correct about her development of the idea of ‘vicarious religion’ then the implications of this for Christian mission in Europe, highlighted here by Ducker, will bear close attention.
Schuman’s legacy to Europe has been the vision for a community of reconciled nations engaged in an ongoing search for purpose and identity beyond the language of the financial marketplace and the secular corridors of Brussels. Appleton, Ducker, and Fountain represent a very small number of Christian theologians and writers giving the contemporary European context serious missiological consideration. Schuman would have approved of their contributions to the search for European identity and purpose.
Guest editor and Director, Nova Research Centre, and Lecturer in European Mission, Redcliffe College.
And finally, a single PDF of the whole issue. Ideal for using offline or to make printing easier.
Issue 36: Single Document Version (in full) (pdf 586 KB) PDF