Germany: Union of Evangelical Free Churches (Baptists) and International Baptist Convention sign agreement

Germany: Union of Evangelical Free Churches (Baptists) and International Baptist Convention sign agreement

Judith Lynn Maxwell, Michael Gruber - August 19, 2014

In June, representatives of the Union of Evangelical Free Churches (Baptists) in Germany (BEFG) and the International Baptist Convention (IBC) signed a new agreement that will continue and strengthen their cooperation. It stipulates how the IBC conducts business under the umbrella of the BEFG. Signing the agreement were BEFG General Secretary Christoph Stiba, IBC General Secretary Jimmy Martin, BEFG Chief Financial Officer Andreas Lengwenath and IBC Past President Scott Corwin.

The new agreement came as a result of a two-year-long process between IBC and BEFG. In 2012 the BEFG began the process to change its constitution. Under the proposed constitution, there were several things that had direct impact on the IBC and IBC churches in Germany: groups of churches such as the IBC could no longer be a member of the BEFG and churches must belong individually to the BEFG.

In their annual meeting in May the BEFG approved these changes and at the same time welcomed 10 new IBC churches as full or associate members in the BEFG (some IBC churches were already full members). "The direct form of membership not only meets the legal requirements," Stiba said, "but it also promotes the cooperation between German and international churches locally." Martin agreed, "For many years, there were only a few points of contact; IBC and BEFG churches carried out their ministries independent of each other. The new situation offers the chance for churches to strengthen and complement each other in their work."

Corwin, who pastors the International Baptist Church of Berlin, gave the example of this cooperation between his own church and the BEFG church there in the Steglitz district. The two churches have enjoyed a wonderful 49-year partnership, Corwin said. The German church has provided space for the international church to meet since its beginning. There is good interaction between the two congregations as well as a personal friendship between the two pastors. Like Martin, Corwin hopes that closer relations will develop between the German and international churches in the future.

Corwin is convinced that internationalism will play a large role in the BEFG. "When it comes to international missions," he said, "German Baptists have a rich history. Now international missions is coming home to the BEFG in the form of international and multi-cultural communities. Each local church has the opportunity to be a community of all tribes, languages, peoples, and nations."

In this sense, the new agreement between the two unions will be a cornerstone in the BEFG's emphasis -- "Colorful Churches" -- for the next two years "We want to experience the cultural diversity of the Kingdom of God," Stiba said. "It's about discovering Christ in each other."

Photo 1: Michael Gruber, BEFG
Photo 2: David Vogt