"Rooted to the Future" was the theme of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) Council for 2022, held from 21 to 24 September. Welcomed by the Baptist Union of Latvia, 140 Baptist leaders and representatives from 40 unions and 16 partner organisations gathered in Riga, Latvia.
Sessions began with the question “Why EBF?” This simple question enabled participants to reflect on the roots of EBF and how to move towards the future together. Throughout the sessions, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats were discussed and allowed the participants to discern the future together.
Standing with Ukraine
All who gathered at the Council were grateful to welcome Igor Bandura, Vice President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. During one of the sessions, he shared about the situation in Ukraine and expressed great appreciation for the support of the Baptist family as well as how the communities of Europe welcomed refugees from Ukraine.
As we can only imagine, the challenge is still enormous. It has been eight months since the war began in Ukraine. Many have lost their homes, families and even their lives. Nearly 200 churches are unable to continue Sunday services and 46 church buildings have been ruined. 250 pastors had to leave their churches due to a variety of war-related reasons.
However, in the midst of the challenges, they also see God at work. The Union office has now moved back to Kyiv after temporarily moving to Lviv for seven months. A few thousand people have come to faith and been baptised since the war began and all 7 seminaries have started their programmes with numerous students enrolled.
The Council 2022 adopted a resolution on Ukraine to encourage our member unions and partners to continue to pray for wisdom, and justice and for the end of suffering in Ukraine. The resolution is an affirmation of the resolution on Ukraine from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) adopted during its General Council 2022.
The EBF General Secretary Alan Donaldson addressed the essence of the resolution and said that “It is a great privilege to support all our Unions at this time as they respond with faithfulness.”
See Resolution: ebf.org/post/2022-council-resolution
230 Churches Were Planted
Through Mission Partnership, 230 churches have been planted in the last 20 years in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. And more than 80% of those churches are still serving today with 16% of the planted churches having multiplied by starting 38 new churches. We are so grateful to Daniel Trusiewicz for his commitment and faithful service, and huge thanks and praise to our God for this amazing outcome!
Songbook Project: Bringing Our Gifts
After long years of work, the EBF Songbook Project has finally been released. The project — collecting songs and hymns from nations in the EBF region — was coordinated by Lina Toth from Lithuania and Scotland, in collaboration with Tony Peck and Guilherme Almeida. Today, the project includes 40 songs from 20 nations.
“As Baptists, we love singing and singing together,” said Toth, “But it so happens that most of the songs come from dominant cultures, so our desire was to make us a little bit richer, not just musically but more than that — given that the songs are such an important part of our faith journey… So we wanted to share more widely — the heritage we have as well as contemporary pieces that have been written quite recently and put them together into this songbook.”
On Friday evening (23 September 2023), she presented 10 songs from 10 different nations including, Latvia, Finland, Ukraine, Romania, Germany, Bulgaria, Denmark and Scotland. It was an enriching time of worship and praise together with a taste of different cultures.
Watch the release concert: ebf.org/songbook
New Chairs for the Commissions
At the Council, two Commission Chairs were newly elected — Einike Pilli (Estonia) and Juliet Kilpin (Great Britain).
Einike Pilli was elected as the new chair of the Commission on Theology and Education. She is the rector of the Estonian Free Church Theological Seminary, as well as a member of the executive board, deacon, preacher and vice-chair of the executive board at Tartu Salem Baptist Church. She is also a member of the EBF Nominations Committee, an active partner in CEBTS and IBTS, and one of the core leaders of Transform, an EBF Training Programme for younger generation leaders.
“My first tasks in this role are listening and learning. However, there are some hopes and expectations. I would like to include the next generation of theologians and/or educationalists into the work of the commission,” said Pilli, “I believe we learn best when we listen to each other and dig deeper into the message and meaning of the Bible. I hope to continue a good tradition of dealing with the important themes for our Baptist families. In one way or another, I hope to support the leaders – senior and emerging. However, the discussions have just started…”
For the Commission on Migration, Juliet Kilpin was elected as the new chair. She is a Baptist minister with BUGB (Baptist Union of Great Britain) and a member of the EBF Migration working group since its beginning in 2016. She is deeply connected to the grassroots movement that assists refugees in the UK and northern France, and actively engages in migration-related works across Europe.
EBF is delighted to have Kilpin and Pilli as new chairs of the EBF Commissions and we are excited to work together with them and discern our future together.
We are also grateful to Otniel Bunaciu (Romania) for passionately serving the Commission on Theology and Education as the chair for the last five years. Additionally, we also appreciate Helle Liht (Estonia), EBF Assistant General Secretary, for chairing the Commission on Migration up to now.
Youth and Children
This year at the Council, we were blessed to have more than 30 youth and children’s workers from the EBF nations. Chair of Youth and Children Committee, Samantha Mail, said. “It’s been almost more than two and a half years since we got to be together as EBF youth and children’s workers at our CONNECT conference. The last time was in January 2020 in Tallinn. So you can imagine, how wonderful it was to finally look into the faces of all those amazing people who care so passionately for youth and children within the EBF family.”
During their meeting, they said goodbye and honoured Filip Filip Grujić (Croatia) and Sven-Joonatan Siibak (Estonia) who stepped down from their respective posts. Samantha said, “Both were long-standing and valued leaders for the EBF Youth & Children (EBF Y&C). We are super grateful for the wisdom and direction each of them has brought to us as a team and wish them nothing but the very best for what lies ahead.” At the same time, the EBF Y&C also welcomed new members to the committee: Inger Lise Salvesen (Norway) and Karl Tõnne (Estonia). They are excited about these appointments and the journey ahead with them to serve the EBF family with different giftings and hearts for youth and children.
See you in Stavanger, Norway
As the Council came to an end, we began to look forward to our time together next year in Stavanger, Norway. The global Baptist family will be gathered together for the mission summit “SENT 2023”. The event will be co-hosted by EBF and BWA, bringing thousands of Baptists together to learn about God’s global mission in times like this.
“You are invited to the beautiful city of Stavanger, Norway,” said Bjørn Bjørnø, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Norway, “We are so excited to see you all again in Norway and learn more about the mission in this new era.” The mission summit will be held from 5 to 9 July 2023 in Stavanger, Norway. Save the date and stay tuned for the registration opening.
More information ebf.org/sent2023
Tim Solwoong Kim, EBF Communications Director