On Tuesday 23rd February we began our ambitious programme to consider the nature of mission in secularised contexts. This programme has been put together with cooperation between the WCC, WCRC, EMW and CWM. Participants are here from across the different organisation’s European presence, but also from churches in Africa and East Asia.
Renowned sociologist Grace Davie began the programme by introducing the nature of religion in Europe today. Speaking from a Christian perspective, Davie introduced the seminar to her theory of vicarious religion, offering the assessment that the church in Europe has for many years held society’s faith on it’s behalf; however, she affirmed that this is gradually being eroded. Davie explained that despite the ongoing process of secularisation, religion in general is a popular topic in public debate, however poorly informed that debate may be. For Davie, the call to Christians in Europe is to engage with this popular discourse with love and humility to redress the balance.
Following on from Davie’s introduction to the theme, Douwe Visser of the WCRC gave an assessment of the inter-connected relationship between religion and culture in relation to an increasingly secularised society. Visser’s conclusion met with Davie’s with a call for Christians to offer an optimistic narrative of hope embodied in the good news of God’s love for the whole world.
The theme of secularisation has been further investigated through the sharing of case studies and national contexts, as well as through invigorating group discussion and plenary. The sharing of contexts has challenged the seminar to recognise that there is great diversity between the churches in Europe and, indeed, the secularised contexts in which they are situated.
Throughout the discussions the theme of the search for meaning in life regardless (or perhaps because) of secularisation, and the related search for an authentic and relevant Christian expression has been prevalent. Hielke Wolters of the WCC invited the seminar to consider secularisation in relation to our understanding of self and formations of identity, which provoked discussions that will continue in to our final day, during which we will bring all of our discussions and understandings into contact with the Together Towards life document which has given birth to this conference.
The Council for World Mission European Region