WIESBADEN, Germany (BP)–In countries where church buildings have been around longer than the United States, 40 years seems insignificant. However, for the European Baptist Convention, 40 years equals its lifetime.
Begun in 1958, the European Baptist Convention (EBC) is now composed of 69 English-speaking churches in 22 countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Special activities to mark the convention’s 40th anniversary are being planned. Interlaken ’98, an annual assembly held in Interlaken, Switzerland (similar to Ridgecrest and Glorieta events), will feature a special anniversary celebration night during the week of July 4-9. Another, larger celebration will be held during the convention’s annual meeting in Stavanger, Norway, Oct. 28-29. All former church members and friends of the convention are invited to attend the special events.
The first EBC church, Immanuel Baptist, was begun in 1957 in Wiesbaden, Germany, by Herman Stout, a former American GI who returned to Wiesbaden to begin an English-language church. The next year, Bethel Baptist Church in Frankfurt was organized. Herbert Stout, Herman’s twin brother, was called as its pastor.
These two churches formed the Association of Baptists in Continental Europe. During the following two years, Immanuel and Bethel sponsored 19 churches and missions. In 1964, the convention changed its name to the European Baptist Convention when churches in England joined.
Today the convention, with 4,500 members, covers a geographical territory larger than the United States. The geographic boundaries of the convention include Stavanger, Norway; Rota, Spain; Athens; Moscow; the Azores, Portugal; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. People from more than 100 nations participate in the life of EBC churches.
EBC churches were originally started to minister to the needs of the U.S. military personnel stationed in Europe. The fall of communism in 1990 brought a new challenge to the EBC — the urgent need to reach internationals in many Eastern European countries. At its annual meeting in October 1991, the EBC set a goal to plant 20 new English-language churches during the next four years. That goal was reached. However, at the same time, the EBC saw the closing of many churches as the U.S. military began its drawdown and closing of many military bases. Through the years the churches have evolved to reflect the makeup of the international communities to which they now minister.
Despite the many changes and challenges it has faced, EBC General Secretary James L. Heflin said, “Europe needs the churches of the convention. We will continue to strengthen existing churches and to plant new ones.”
For more information about the convention, its ministries or its anniversary celebrations, contact the EBC office at Holzstrasse 11b, 65199 Wiesbaden, Germany; telephone: 011-49-611-941-0505; fax: 011-49-611-941-0442; e-mail: [email protected].
Bloomer is the press representative for the European Baptist Convention and editor of its newsletter, Highlights.