Europe 1992 and the Churches' Role

ECONOMICS is the force driving change in Europe, dissolving borders in anticipation of one larger market and work force by the end of 1992. Politics is struggling to catch up: Authority is dispersed among the countries' capitals and assemblies in Brussels, Luxemburg, Strasbourg, Geneva, and elsewhere. And it appears likely to stay dispersed. Cultural change or adjustment to the new European order is lagging even further behind: Religious and other institutions with regional and world roles find little l e verage as yet for directing the transformation of Europe.

But the churches do have concerns about the consequences of economic union and have begun to post them. At the Ch137>teau de Bossey, near Geneva, officials of the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society met this May to assess the tasks ahead.

The nation-state is becoming less important, they observed in an overview. A "democratic deficit" remains in the balance of power between the European Commission and the Council of Ministers on the one hand, and the European Parliament on the other.

Nothing in the treaties creating the new market outlines what kind of economic model should be followed; what exists is a free market model, but one based on Jean Monnet's French economic planning.

What progress will the EC make on agricultural policy? On competitiveness toward the United States and Japan? On relations with central and eastern Europe, and with countries in the Southern Hemisphere?

How far is the EC part of the "new world order"? What is its relationship to other European (EFTA, Council of Europe, CSCE, etc.) and international (UN) institutions?

When power is concentrated in fewer hands, is politics or economics the guiding force? Political, democratic, international institutions are needed to keep economic forces under control.

How are differences in thinking about the relationship of church and nation to be resolved? The Orthodox church is usually inseparably linked to the nation-state (Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.) and not to Europe (Pax Romana, Catholic/Protestant Europe).

The churches need to take an intelligent part in the evolving debate, to seek a "fair deal for the victims" of economic change, the conferees said. The vision of community building, of reconciliation and the "uniting of peoples" at the heart of forming the EC, needs reaffirmation. The Protestant churches, active in the creation of modern society that began with the Renaissance, have a particular responsibility for today's direction.

Coincidence of the "two 1992s the single market in Europe and the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in America - suggests a paradox of progress and domination. Fourteen ninety-two saw the arrival of the sword and the cross, Spain and the Vatican, and the colonization of Latin America by Spain and Portugal. How can these models of dependence (hierarchy, racism, and concentration of power) be cast off? Today's tensions between Protestant and Catholic churches in Latin America call for a new ecumenic a

l understanding. And what of yet another "1492 the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal by Queen Isabella? Should not religious intolerance also be on the agenda? And would not a dialogue between theology and ideology in the theological colleges help to clarify the role of "peoples' movements," a feature of Christian life in Latin America?

What of the environment - the mission to keep the "creation" intact? And the role of women, in the clergy and in the work force: The danger is a decade of women against the churches, instead of in solidarity with the churches.

The churches see a need to develop a common lobbying strategy for 1992. National and regional church organizations have already begun to seek links with the EC. For this a "global entry point," rather than a European one, is recommended. A vision of the interdependence of the world community should lead the economic, political, and cultural decisions ahead, church leaders conclude.

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