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REPORT FROM BELGIUM
EPTA Chair William Atkinson visited Continental Theological Seminary, Belgium, at the end of February 2017, at the invitation of EPTA member David Courey. David is the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Chair of Systematic Theology there. As part of his role, he had organised a theological colloquium on the subject of secularism in contemporary Europe, and William gave a paper. In fact, David asked him to present the same paper that he had given at the 2016 EPTA conference, on ‘The Miraculous Element in Lukan Missiology: A Challenge to Current Pentecostal Mission in Europe’ (now published in JEPTA 37:1, April 2017, pages 2–12).
The colloquium was a great success, with excellent papers given by students and graduates, as well as by other visitors including EPTA’s own William Kay. CTS is a thriving and important school serving an international community in two languages, and it is to be hoped that relationships between this seminary and EPTA can continue to be fostered in the years to come.
While in Brussels, William also had the opportunity to preach at the Lighthouse Christian Center, a largely Filipino church meeting in the city centre, and to attend the Christian Center, a large international church in the south of the city. Here, he met briefly with Daniel Costanza, Executive Director of the Pentecostal European Fellowship, who is also an Associate Pastor at the Christian Center. Here too he bumped into a couple who had worshipped many years ago at Kensington Temple in London, when William was one of the ministers there—the world is a small place!
William was given a very warm welcome at CTS. He greatly appreciates the hospitality of the Coureys, in whose apartment on campus he stayed while in Brussels, and the kindness of Dr Bob Welch, a New Testament lecturer, who with his wife met William when he arrived and took him to the Christian Center.
William forgot to take any photographs while in Brussels, and so the photos below are taken from the CTS website!
Stanka Vladev, from Bulgaria, has been involved in a serious car accident. We hear she is undergoing surgery for damage to her back. Please pray for a full recovery for her, and also for her husband, Konstantin, and their children.
Those who attended our conference in Sofia last year will remember Stanka, who did much of the organising for that conference and gave a paper on the history of Pentecostalism in Bulgaria.
Update: EPTA member Stephen Hedges visited Stanka in hospital on 7th March and sends the following report:
She was doing much better than we had expected. The scar on her forehead has faded considerably and it was our opinion, that in a month of two, most people would not even be aware that there was a scar on her forehead. She is still in a lot of pain, but that is to be expected. However, she was able to get out of bed (and get back into it) by herself. The only difficulty she is having is that since she cannot turn her head, nor move it up or down she has to use her hands to feel where things are. When we left she walked with us to the lift (elevator) and it was clear that she has no difficulty with walking.
Today (Wednesday) the doctors removed the 27 stitches (sutures) from the back of her head and neck, and released her (discharged her) from the hospital. The surgeon recommended against taking an ambulance to Sofia, saying the ride in a car would be much smoother.
I talked to her by phone when she was about 1/2 way home, aside from the fact that the motorway (highway/interstate) is far from smooth, she was glad to be getting home. I would think that it will take her a few days to get back into a schedule, but as soon as she can she will contact each of those who sent greetings to her.
Inaugural Meeting of the European Academy of Religion
Bologna, 4 to 5 December 2016
Report by William Atkinson, Chair, EPTA
This event was essentially a day conference, preceded by a dinner the evening before, which was addressed by Romano Prodi.
The venue of the main day conference was one of the buildings used by the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university, founded in 1088. Four or five hundred people attended. They included representatives of Christianity and other religions, philosophers, sociologists of religion, etc. (To give but one example, I met the President of the European Association of Theological Libraries). They came from across Europe and beyond (e.g. a team attended from Shanghai who are hoping to found an Asian Academy of Religion).
The morning of the day conference was devoted to a plenary session with introductory speeches, given largely by leaders in European and global public life (e.g., the German Ambassador to the Holy See; representatives of UNESCO and the World Economic Forum). In these, a political aspect to the conference emerged: a vision was expressed in these speeches for maintaining unity throughout Europe; and pride was expressed, if not actually called for, in being European. Also a vision was shared for: academic enquiry and discovery; a ‘scientific’ approach to the study of religion and religions; and a desire thereby to solve problems. This was all linked with the call for dialogue between religions, and the fostering of diversity of perspectives and approaches.
The afternoon gave opportunity to three different streamed discussions, on:
- Defining a statute;
- Planning the first annual convention (which discussion I attended);
- Ideas for a research platform.
The day ended with a plenary report-back from these discussions:
- There will be a charter of statute, which was discussed in first draft form. A second draft would be distributed among members of that discussion group and taken further. There is likely to be both individual and institutional membership available.
- The intention is to have annual conventions/conferences, starting probably in October 2017 or March 2018. The first conference will be held once more in Bologna. Its theme will be ‘Study of Religion[s] in Europe: Acta and Agenda.’ There will be a combination of focus groups, plenary sessions, and short talks for younger scholars and so forth.
- Early themes will include dialogue, identity, gender, and ecumenism. A web presence will be constantly updated, and email updates will regularly come out. There may be a searchable database. The ideological challenge of the research agenda was discussed: is the Academy’s focus to be journalism, teaching, or service? A worry was expressed that the Academy might focus too much on research and not enough on real-world impact, e.g., in relation to the migrant crisis, or the ravages of war. The question that emerged to float at the end of the plenary sessions was, ‘How can this Academy actually contribute?’
Any possible involvement by EPTA in the EAR will be discussed by the EPTA Exec., and then, if a proposal emerges, by the EPTA membership, at the relevant 2017 conference meetings.
REPORT FROM FINLAND
EPTA Chair William Atkinson visited Iso Kirja, Finland, in mid-November 2016 (before it got too dark that far north!). Iso Kirja is the Bible college where EPTA Exec member Pasi Parkkila is Director. William spent four days there, as part of his networking programme, in which he is visiting Bible colleges the length and breadth of Europe, sharing about the work of EPTA and offering his vision for academically robust, spiritually strong Pentecostalism. He is also taking the opportunity to learn about the great work the Lord is doing through Pentecostal Bible colleges throughout Europe.
William was given a very warm welcome by everyone except the weather! He spoke to enthusiastic undergraduate students about the value of academic study for Pentecostals and to warm but serious-minded postgraduates about the place of miracles in Pentecostal mission. He also shared with some faculty members about the work of EPTA and preached in the local Pentecostal church.
William was left with the impression of a most impressive centre for theological teaching and ministry training, working in some isolation but making a real difference for God in Finland. Join with him in praying for Iso Kirja and all its students and staff.
One highlight of the visit occurred in the church service on the Sunday, when a young man publicly gave his life to Christ. He was one of a group studying the well-known Alpha course in Farsi. So here in a moderate-sized town in the middle of Finland was a refugee studying material developed in England, and doing so in a Middle-Eastern language. Truly, the gospel is international!
Anne Dyer writes:
On 26th November 2016, Churches Together in England, with President Bishop Eric Brown of the New Testament church of God UK, and Bishop Joe Aldred of the Church of God of Prophecy, brought together representatives of various British Pentecostal and Charismatic streams. It was particularly refreshing to meet with so many from Black Majority Churches. Two EPTA members – Dr Andrew Davies and I – had a chance to present a paper each -Andrew on Pentecostal history in 6 themes, and I on “Ecumenism and Pentecostals in Britain.” There will be a publication with all 4 papers -the other two being on Diversity and Political connectivity of Pentecostals. There were breaks for worship led by various groups -from Noel Robinson and band to A Yoruba choir from Nigeria. Creative ways in to worship from Emily Bollon [Motivation by music] were also introduced. Two sermons were part of the evening’s programme but there was also a presentation of four awards, to three men and one woman for their significant contribution to Pentecostalism. Our very own ex-chair of EPTA -Prof William K Kay was one recipient; Olu Abiola, the oldest elder of NTCG, Rev Nezling Sterling, and Roger Forster were the others . It was a wonderful day!
We trust this will be a continuing and developing network of relationships.
Pentecostal European Fellowship news
The PEF editorial board writes:
Dear Friends in Christ, Hoping you have had a most refreshing summer time. Please find attached our September issue of our PEF News Bulletin. Please read it, rejoice with us as we engage an exciting new season of ministry for the sake of Europe, and pray for God’s favor upon all the activities of PEF.
The bulletin contains a report from our EPTA conference in Sofia in June, as well as articles about the Impact Skopje outreach in July, and the Anniversary conference of the Freien Christengemeinden in Austria. There are also editorial and devotional columns and information about upcoming conferences. PEF invites you to advertise in their bulletin – see page two for details.