EPTA was formed in March 1979 in Vienna, Austria, for ‘the promotion of Pentecostal learning, ministerial training and theological literature, and the fostering of exchange and cooperation between member institutions’. EPTA’s membership was therefore both institutional and individual. Pentecostal educational institutions in Europe (many were Bible Colleges and some were seminaries) lagged behind those in North America in the sense that the Europeans were unaccredited by secular universities and therefore unable to offer degree courses recognised by the tax-funded higher educational institutions of Europe. At this point the focus of EPTA through its annual conferences and, from 1981 when the EPTA Bulletin was founded by David Bundy, was to compare practice, discuss theological training (including topics like assessment and pastoral care), review Pentecostal publications in various languages and allow colleges to broaden their horizons beyond their national borders. Over time it became possible to make pan-European comparisons and to start disentangling the multi-lingual history of early Pentecostal expansion. EPTA stimulated publications and enabled European Pentecostal institutions to network together conveniently and to mutual advantage.
During the 1980s EPTA continued to be largely an association of institutional members, although individual membership remained possible. By the 1990s Pentecostal colleges were beginning to obtain validation through secular universities with the result that their relationships with their university became more important than their relationships with each other. Even so, EPTA continued to hold its annual conferences all over Europe and to maintain its independence from Pentecostal denominational control so that it could discuss and research topics that would be inappropriate in a church or strictly denominational context. In this sense it was a progressive body prompting reflection and change, and as its scholars gained their doctorates they probed further into their national histories and the validity of their founding theologies.
In 1996 the Bulletin was relaunched as the Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association which, in 2015, was published by Taylor & Francis and broadened its scope to include theological, historical, empirical and other articles of interest to Pentecostals beyond Europe. In 2013, EPTA became a branch of PEF, the Pentecostal European Fellowship, an umbrella organisation representing and affiliating many Pentecostal denominations across the whole subcontinent. EPTA was sometimes described as PEF’s ‘theological brain’ and thereby orientated itself both inwardly towards the specific concerns of European Pentecostalism and outwardly to the world of the academy and global Pentecostalism. In addition to its journal and annual conference, it also hosts a website.
Its annual conferences, sometimes in conjunction with the European Pentecostal and Charismatic Association (EPCRA) take place somewhere in Europe and follow a specific theme:
- 2002 CTS, Brussels. Pentecostal Education in the 21st Century: promises and challenges.
- 2003 Kolding, Denmark. No theme recorded.
- 2004 Regents Theological College, Nantwich, England. The Use of the Bible by Pentecostals.
- 2005 with EPCRA in Schloss Beuggen, Rheinfelden, Germany. Pentecostals, Power and Empowerment.
- 2006 Iso Kirja, Finland. Mission.
- 2007 Warsaw, Poland. Sustainability and Theological Education: Thriving and Growing in the 21st Century.
- 2008 Senec Lakes, Slovakia. Pentecostal identity.
- 2009 ETS, Kneibis, Germany. No theme recorded.
- 2010 Mattersey, England. Justice and Pentecostals.
- 2012 Monte Esperança Bible college, Lisbon, Portugal. Missional Training: Equipping Leaders for Relevant Ministry in the European Context.
- 2013 Mattersey, England. Raising the next generation of Christian leaders for Pentecostal churches and outreach.
- 2014 with EPCRA at St Nicklausen, Switzerland. Ecumenism and Pentecostalism.
- 2015 Florence, Italy. Succession.
- 2016 Sofia, Bulgaria. The Re-evangelisation of Europe.
- 2017 Regents Theological College, Malvern, England. What on Earth has Pentecost to do with the Church?
William K Kay
Former Chair of EPTA