Two member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) from Reformed and Lutheran traditions have united to become the United Protestant Church of France.
The merger of the Reformed Church of France and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France was celebrated at a joint national synod from 8 to 12 May in Lyon, France.
The synod adopted revised texts for the constitution and rules of the new church. The revisions reflect inputs gathered from parishes in 2011. Public education and a communication campaign have been accompanying the merger process.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, who attended the celebration in Lyon, praised the efforts of both churches in creating one transformative structure.
He said that this undertaking “reminds us that the unity to which we are called in Christ can be hard work as well as joyful. For many of us in places far away from France your union gives hope that our own work may also bear fruit.”
“Your new church is a fruit, a harvest, of ecumenical work in the past. I want to encourage you to continue to be generous in taking up your ecumenical role locally and nationally in the sometimes quite complex ecumenical landscape,” added Tveit.
He said that the way in which Christians from diverse confessions have managed to work together in France is an inspiration for Christians elsewhere. “I am also encouraged by how your church, now united, has been so well-represented also by lay people and women in many ecumenical gatherings,” said Tveit.
• Full story at the World Council of Churches.
French Cardinal dreams of Christian unity
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyons, surprised leaders of France’s new United Protestant Church by speculating aloud about daring ecumenical leaps forward that the two Churches might make to further Christian unity.
Addressing the synod marking the fusion of France’s small Presbyterian and Lutheran Churches, Cardinal Barbarin declared, “I have a dream” in English, adding: “Sometimes, my mind soars to imagine a totally unexpected scenario that will come from God and advance by leaps and bounds to the unity we so want.”
Noting intercommunion is a frequent issue between denominations, he said the view that this would be the culmination of a unity process should not be a reason to do nothing.
Revd Laurent Schlumberger, the head of the United Protestant Church in France, described Cardinal Barbarin’s suggestions as a “major advance”.
• Full story at The Tablet.