Our Story

1525

Beginning of the Anabaptist movement

Baptisms of believers take place in the home of Feliz Manz in Zurich, Switzerland, marking the beginning of the Anabaptist (‘re-baptiser’) movement, some of whose convictions were later taken up by Baptists.

1609

The subsequent movement of Baptist churches

John Smyth baptises himself and then members of a group of English separatists in Amsterdam. This marked the beginning of the subsequent movement of Baptist churches.

1612

An establishment in Spitalfields, London

A Baptist Church is established in Spitalfields, London, the first General (Arminian) Baptist church on English soil. Its leader, Thomas Helwys, is imprisoned (and later dies in captivity) after writing his book ‘The Mistery of Iniquity’, which contains the first plea in the English language for religious freedom for all.

1633

Two Baptist streams

Some members withdraw from a Separatist congregation in London over the issue of baptism, and fresh stream of Baptist life emerged – the Particular (or Calvinistic) Baptists.

These two Baptist streams (General and Particular) continue to grow in England, and Baptist ideas are also spread from England to America.

1820

An establishment in Momain, France

A Baptist Church is formed in Nomain, France, possibly the first on ‘mainland’ Europe since the Amsterdam beginning in 1609.

1834

The first German Baptist Church

Johann Gerhard Oncken and six others are baptised in the River Elbe. The first German Baptist Church was constituted in Hamburg with Oncken as pastor.


Over the next forty years or so, many Baptist Churches are established in central and eastern Europe largely as a result of the missionary endeavours of Oncken and the German Baptists.

1867

The Baptist movement in Czarist Russia

The Baptist movement begins in Czarist Russia when Nikita Voronin is baptised in the Kura River in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia).

1905

An establishment of Baptist World Alliance

Founding of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) in London, England.

1908

First European Baptist Conference

First European Baptist Conference in Berlin with 16 countries represented.

1919

Relief work in the aftermath of World War I

On behalf of the BWA, British Baptist leader J H Rushbrooke, and USA Baptist leader, C A Brooks, undertake an extensive tour of central and eastern Europe to assess its situation and needs following the devastation of World War I.

1920

Help, relief, and the development of Baptist life

The London Conference of representatives of Baptist Unions and Conventions in Europe and North America to act on recommendations for help, relief, and the development of Baptist life in Europe, in partnership with British and North American Baptist organisations. J H Rushbrooke is appointed as BWA Europe Commissioner and becomes a major influence on European Baptist life in the 1920s and beyond.

1924

Growth of Baptist networks in Europe

Baptist churches now established in 26 of the then existing 29 European countries.

1934

BWA Congress in Berlin

BWA Congress held in Berlin during the rise of Nazism.

1947

Follow up in the aftermath of World War II

After the devastation of World War II, with much Baptist life destroyed and millions of displaced people across Europe, the BWA holds its Congress in Denmark and sets in motion in the process that led to the formation of the European Baptist Federation.

1948

Establisment of a Baptist Theological Seminary

A meeting in London for European Baptist leaders learns that the Southern Baptist Convention intends to establish an international Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland. Rüschlikon becomes a major centre of European Baptist life for the next almost 50 years.

 

It is agreed to form a European Baptist Women’s Union.

 

A Committee is formed to draft a Constitution for a European Baptist Federation. This first EBF Constitution is agreed in 1949.

1950

Establishment of European Baptist Federation

At a meeting in Paris on 20 th October, BWA Associate Secretary Dr W O Lewis declares the European Baptist Federation (EBF) duly formed.

 

Lewis acts as the first Secretary/Treasurer of the EBF. The EBF office was located in Baptist House, London until 1976.

1952

First EBF Congress

First EBF Congress held in Copenhagen, with mainly Western European Baptists present and those in the newly emerging Communist bloc mostly unable to attend.

1954

Establishment of EBM

The European Baptist Missionary Society (later EBM then EBM International) was established by the EBF, initially for German Baptists to find a way to resume their work in Cameroon, now together with Baptists from France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland.

First post-war visit to Russia by a British Baptist-EBF delegation.

1955

50th anniversary of BWA

BWA 50th Anniversary Congress is held in London, England.

1956

Henry Cook

Henry Cook (Great Britain) is appointed part-time Acting Secretary of the EBF.

1958

East and West Berlin

EBF Congress is held in East and West Berlin.

1959

Erik Rudén

Erik Rudén (Sweden) elected as first full-time Secretary of the EBF. He becomes the main architect for the growth in the EBF in the early 1960s.

For the next 30 years, much of the EBF’s focus was on supporting Baptist believers suffering for their faith ‘behind the Iron Curtain’.

1960

Establishment of European Baptist Press Service

A European Baptist Press Service is established at Rüschlikon, supported by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and continues for the next 40 years.

1964

Martin Luther King Jr

EBF Congress in Amsterdam, addressed by Martin Luther King Jr.

1965

Ronald Goulding

Ronald Goulding (Great Britain) elected as EBF General Secretary.

1974

Middle East

The EBF accepted a request from the BWA to assume responsibility for the Middle East (and also at that time for Africa, though the All-Africa Baptist Fellowship was subsequently formed). Since the 1990s the Baptist Conventions of the Middle East have been increasingly integrated into EBF life.

1975

Gerhard Claas

Gerhard Claas (Germany) becomes General Secretary. The EBF office moves to Hamburg the following year.

1978

Summer Institute for Theological Education

The first Summer Institute for Theological Education (SITE) held at Rüschlikon for those in Europe who had little or no access to theological education.

1980

Books and Translation Committee

The EBF Books and Translation Committee is formed to place Bible commentaries and other theological literature into the hands of pastors and teachers, especially in eastern Europe. It works very successfully in partnership with EUROLIT and Feed the Minds in Great Britain.

 

Knud Wümpelmann (Denmark) becomes EBF General Secretary and the EBF Office moves to Copenhagen.

1989

The fall of the Berlin Wall

Ownership of the Rüschlikon Seminary is handed over to the EBF from the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of freedom movements in the Communist bloc.

 

Karl-Heinz Walter (Germany) becomes General Secretary and leads the EBF in supporting Baptists who were emerging from years of repression into political and economic uncertainty, and also new Baptist Unions emerging from the former Soviet Union.

1990

Formation of Baptist Response-Europe

Baptist Response-Europe (BR-E) is formed with partner mission agencies to provide financial support to Baptists in Central and Eastern Europe. This was a period of great missionary growth of churches in many of these countries.

 

The EBF establishes the International Baptist Lay Academy (IBLA) in Budapest, Hungary which for the next 10 years or more becomes a key training initiative for ‘lay’ men and women throughout the EBF.

1992

Work in Albania

The EBF initiates the beginning of Baptist work in Albania, until recently a completely atheist state, with partner EBF Unions and mission agencies.

1994

Congress in Lillehammer, Norway

EBF Congress takes place in Lillehammer, Norway, the first opportunity for many Baptists in eastern Europe to attend such an international meeting.

1996

Relocation of the IBTS to Prague, Czech Republic

Relocation of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) from Rüschlikon to Prague, Czech Republic, attracting many more students from central and eastern Europe.

1999

Theo Angelov

Theo Angelov (Bulgaria) becomes EBF General Secretary, the first eastern European to do so. The EBF Office moves to Sofia, Bulgaria.

2002

Became an independent body

The EBF becomes a legally independent body (‘Verein’) registered in the Canton of Zürich, Switzerland.

2003

Establishment of the Indigenous Mission Project

The EBF establishes the Indigenous Mission Project (later, ‘EBF Mission Partnerships), to plant new churches in central and eastern Europe and the Middle East, in partnership with mission agencies and EBF member Unions. Daniel Trusiewicz (Poland) becomes the Project’s Co-ordinator.

2004

Anthony (Tony) Peck

Anthony (Tony) Peck (Great Britain) is elected as EBF General Secretary. The EBF official office moves to Prague on the IBTS campus.

2005

BWA Congress in Brimingham, England

BWA Centenary Congress is held in Birmingham, England.

2006

Helle Liht
EBAid

Helle Liht (Estonia) is appointed as Assistant to the General Secretary, subsequently Assistant General Secretary.

EBAid is established to co-ordinate humanitarian aid through EBF Unions and related aid organisations.

2009

Amsterdam 400

EBF holds the ‘Amsterdam 400’ Event to celebrate 400 years since the founding of the first Baptist Church in that city.

2010

Community of Protestant Churches in Europe

EBF enters an Agreement of Mutual Co-operation with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.

2011

Horizons Training Programme

Jeff Carter (Canadian Baptist Mission and based in Prague) launches ‘Horizons’, an EBF online training programme for church youth workers.

2013

Relocation of the IBTS to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

IBTS relocates to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in close partnership with Dutch Baptists and the Theology Faculty of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. A ‘Baptist House’ is later developed, providing a home for Dutch Baptists, IBTS, and the EBF official office.

 

EBF becomes a full Member of the Conference of European Churches.

2015

Bethany Fund

A substantial and generous gift from a Swedish Baptist church, the ‘Bethany Fund’, makes possible increased support for key aspects of EBF work, including the appointment of part-time EBF staff in areas of religious freedom, youth training and communications.

2017

Transform - Younger Leader's Programme

The first EBF ‘Transform’ Younger Leader’s Programme is held over two years.

2021

Initiation of Commission on Migration

A new EBF Commission on Migration is initiated, together with the appointment of a part-time Co-ordinator in partnership with BMS World Mission.

Further Reading:


Ian M Randall. Communities of Conviction: Baptist Beginnings in Europe’. Schwarzenfeld, Neufeld Verlag, 2009.

Bernard Green. Crossing the Boundaries: A History of the European Baptist Federation, Didcot, Baptist Historical Society, 1999.

Keith G Jones.The European Baptist Federation: A Case study in European Baptist Interdependency 1950-2006, Bletchley, Paternoster, 2009.

Ed. J H Y Briggs et al. A Dictionary of European Baptist Life and Thought, Bletchley, Paternoster, 2009.