responsibility of evangelicals concerning Europe’s future at the beginning of a new century, an official said Wednesday March 27.
The Secretary-General of the Hungarian Evangelical Alliance, Geza Kovacs told BosNewsLife that the four day congress from April 27 till May 1 will be "unprecedented" in the recent history of European churches.
"Usually evangelical events are run by Americans because they have not only the financial means but also the right mission mentality," he said about the congress, known as HOPE.21. "This (congress) is an attempt by Europeans to stand on their feet," added Kovacs (55), who is also pastor of a Baptist congregation.
His Hungarian Evangelical Alliance was re-established after four decades of Communism in may last year after a failed effort in 1991. Kovacs said he expects HOPE.21 to encourage his team and other Christians to look into ways how to spread the hope of Jesus Christ to the 21st century Europeans.
The event is sponsored by the Hope for Europe initiative (HfE), which includes several Christian organizations such as the European Evangelical Alliance and the Lausanne Europe Committee.
Congress participants can attend 26 consultation workshops addressing several themes such as evangelism, apologetics, the arts, families, men’s movements, missions, city ministries, sports ministries, church planting, church renewal, youth work, and worship. There are also consultations about business and professions. education, health care, politics and especially the leadership developments among women, according to the program.
Speakers in the plenary sessions include Stuart McAllister (Scotland), Kalevi Lehtinen (Finland) and Roland and Elke Werner (Germany). On the last evening Brazilian Valdir Steuernagel will offer a non-European view of Europe’s global role in the new century.
Participants will be housed throughout the city and converge on the Budapest Congress Centre, where "a music program will reflect the diversity of Europe’s cultures," organizers said. At the special opening ceremony the Budapest Baptist Choir as well as other local musicians will perform.
On other evenings, the Budapest-based international rock group Rengateng and a traditional African group from East Africa "will add color and diversity to the program," said HfE in a statement. Artists Geraldine Latty and Judy Bailey will lead worship services with German translation and occasional German-led worship.
Geraldine Latty gained international recognition after leading worship at the Billy Graham-sponsored Amsterdam 2000 congress for evangelists world-wide. "Her calypso style has been a favorite at large women’s events on the continent. Geraldine and Judy will be backed by Romanian, Hungarian and American musicians all living in Budapest, HfE said.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who recently urged Christians to play a more prominent role in society, has been invited to open the meeting, pastor Kovacs said. Kovacs suggested that the HOPE.21 marks a new era in Hungary, which just over a decade ago was still a Communist nation.
"I still remember a difficult childhood when my father was ex-communicated by the Communist authorities as a pastor of his Baptist church because too many young people came to Christ," Kovacs told BosNewsLife. His family had close contacts with Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, who smuggled bibles and other materials to persecuted Christians.
"I still remember those (Open Doors) cars…at night," said Kovacs, whose father is once again running a Baptist church. Kovacs hopes that the congress will help Christians and to "act not to react" in Europe and especially in the new Hungary.
He has launched LIFE, a program that wants to educate young believers to become within the next 20 years the best in whatever profession they choose. However HOPE.21 Director, Gordon Showell-Rogers, cautioned that European Christians must still recover vision and faith for renewal and reform for the twenty-first century.
"The twenty-first century has started with a rude shock," he said in a statement, referring to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. "People everywhere are looking for hope and meaning in life."
He said that while European Christians "believe there are many good reasons for hope for tomorrow, rooted in a long biblical heritage of hope" they have "too often held back from expressing this hope in ways relevant for contemporary Europeans."
Showell-Rogers stressed that "while politicians and business leaders are constantly engaged in negotiating about Europe’s future, Christians too have a positive contribution to make to that dialogue."
Organizers point out that observers from "numerous European church synods and denominational associations" have been invited to participate to discuss the 21st role of Christians. ”The mPeter Regezessage of Christian hope was dynamite in the first century. Why should it not be dynamite in the twenty-first century,?" said , the chairman of HOPE.21’s planning committee.