ROME (ABP) -- Baptists in Europe pledged to work more closely with other Protestants on the continent in an agreement signed Sept. 24.
Leaders of the European Baptist Federation and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe signed an accord declaring themselves to be "mutually cooperating bodies."
One of six regional bodies comprising the Baptist World Alliance, the European Baptist Federation is a union of 50 national Baptist bodies. The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe formed in 1973 with adoption of an agreement ending 450 years of division between the Lutheran and Reformed churches dating back to the Protestant Reformation. It numbers more than 105 Lutheran, Reformed and United Methodist bodies in more than 30 countries in Europe and South America.
Tony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, called the agreement a "clear sign of closer cooperation."
"Both branches of the Reformation have much to give to each other and much to receive from each other," Peck said.
Michael Bünker, general secretary of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, said the agreement "has strengthened the common voice of Protestantism in Europe."
The agreement outlines specific steps toward cooperation. They include inviting each other to council meetings and general assemblies, regular meetings between the general secretaries and their staffs, greater exchange of information and conferences and consultations seeking common ground. That includes continuing theological dialogue that has been going on since 1999.
The Baptist group stopped short of seeking full membership into the Community of Protestant Churches due to theological differences over the meaning of baptism.
Members of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe grant one another pulpit and table fellowship. They also work together in witness and service, including theological education, at both regional and European levels. The majority of participating churches are minority faiths that carry out their mission under difficult conditions.
Formal and informal work between the EBF and CPCE has been going on for a long time in places including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic.