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Confession of Faith of the Baptist Churches adhering to UCEBI in Italy

 

Preamble
The Churches, that in Italy were born trough the preaching of Baptist preachers soon after the achievement of the political unity of Italy and those that in the course of time have established bonds of fraternity with them, are now parts of the fellowship of the Evangelical Baptist Union of Italy (UCEBI). Historically they link themselves in the tradition that goes back to the Apostles and that in the course of time has stressed the primitive faith as it is expressed in the Scriptures, in the terms of the renewal of the Spirit (Middle Ages), of the Reformation (XVI and XVII centuries) and the missionary effort (XVIII and XIX centuries). They today declare to undertake Christ’s discipleship, in the clarity of their identity of faith and in the ethical awareness of witness, and therefore they affirm to be willing to express this bound in the practical cooperation and in the following declarations of faith.

Art. 1
– Sola Gratia God accomplishes the work of creation, of judgement and of salvation of the world and every single person only by His grace.

Art. 2
– Solus Cristus God the Father accomplishes his work through His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, Word made man who died on the cross for the sin of mankind, who rose for the justification of every believer, and who is Lord and Saviour of the world.

Art. 3 Sola Scriptura
– The Bible is the unique authentic witness of the work of God through Jesus Christ. In so far as the Holy Spirit makes it the Word of God, it must be studied, honoured and obeyed.

Art. 4 Human nature
– Humanity, alienated from God and divided within itself can not work or even hope for its own salvation: only God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit accomplishes by grace the salvation of humanity and of the world.

Art. 5 Sola Fide
– The word of God, incarnated in Jesus Christ, witnessed in the Bible and proclaimed through the preaching of the Gospel can be accepted only by faith. Men and women, being sinners obtain justification and reconciliation through faith and repentance.

Art. 6 The Holy Spirit
– The Holy Spirit, who inspired the prophets and who witnesses the truth and sanctifies, gives the believers certainty of God’s faithfulness and manifest Himself in various gifts and in vocations to serve the Lord in the Church and in the whole world.

Art. 7 Christian Discipleship
– Whoever hears and accepts the word of Christ has to follow the Lord as a disciple. This discipleship implies to bear for love’s sake, serious responsibilities, never exempt from contradictions and dangers of compromises, yet always animated by the hope of the kingdom of God.

Art. 8 The Church
– The Church of Christ is wherever believers are gathered together by the word or the Gospel to listen to it again and again, to share in the Lord’s Supper, to strengthen the bond of love, to make disciples through the teaching and baptism, because Christ is in their midst. Each Church so gathered, organises itself in places and given times according to the word of the Gospel and under the authority of Christ alone. Each Church has equal dignity in front of the Lord, each receives from the Spirit ministries, able to answer effectively to their calling and each is required to favour the unity of the Spirit with the bond of peace. We believe that the Church of the Lord, thus characterised during history, is one in Christ, holy in the Spirit, apostolic in derivation and mission, universal in its horizon according to the Gospel that gives her life and that she proclaims.

Art. 9 Baptism
– Baptism in water of those who confess their faith is the first act of obedience of each Christian person. It is administered by the Church in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By virtue of the baptism in the Spirit, which makes effective the baptism in water, believers are born to new life and are united in the body of Christ.

Art. 10 Lord’s Supper
– The Lord’s Supper that we, united in the unique body of Christ, celebrate sharing bread and wine, is memory of the work accomplished by the Lord for our salvation and it is preaching of His death for us until the day in which the risen Lord comes. The Lord invites us to eat bread and drink wine to affirm again in the present the commitment that unites us and the promise of the time when He will gather his own in the banquet of new Heaven and new Earth.

Art. 11 Universal priesthood of all believers
– Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and mankind. Every disciple has access to God only through Christ. The mandate, entrusted to them by the Lord, to share the Gospel with their fellow men and women, constitutes them authoritative messengers of the word under the exclusive authority of Christ and by the effective working of the Holy Spirit.

Art. 12 The ministries
– In order to equip the Church with the essential gifts to make it living body of Christ, the Holy Spirit calls different believers to fulfil different ministries. We recognise that today, in the first place, they are ministries for the proclamation of the word, for Bible and theological teaching, for the ruling of the Church and for the service of the Church in the world: we are also ready to recognise any other gift that the Spirit awakes in the Church. The relationship among the ministries is not hierarchical, but organic; every one, and each for his or her part, cooperates in the life of the Church.

Art. 13 The mission of the Church
– The Church is called to fulfil the mandate of Christ. Therefore, she has to preach the Gospel of the coming kingdom, to engage in healing of the sick and in the emancipation of the oppressed. The witness that the Church as a body will offer to the love of God for all the world becomes credible when implies practical love, shown in mutual help, in reconciliation and in peace.

Art. 14 Ethics
– Ethical decisions that qualify Christian discipleship have to be taken by virtue of the strength of the love shown in Christ and with a sense of responsibility towards God, towards every person and towards creation. Such decisions are inspired and oriented by the word of God and become practical actions that may be in line with commonly recognised values, but may also become modernising and revolutionary actions.

Art. 15 Reconciliation
– Baptist Churches engage in promoting reconciliation with God and among human beings. We feel called to engage in promoting justice, peace, freedom and respect for the rights of mankind and the entire creation.

Art. 16 Church and State
– We believe that the authority established by God is ordained to enable peaceful, free and just living of every single person and all peoples. We acknowledge that the modern democratic State, even with all the contradictions proper in any human society, shows clear signs of the redeeming work of God in history. The role of the Church of Christ, distinct from the one of the State, consists in realising her own mission in coordination with State policy, but if it is the case, even in denouncing those degenerating actions that restrict freedom and corrupt justice.

Art. 17 Ecumenism
– The Church is one in Christ. The Lord calls us to realise such unity in a visible way. We are, therefore, called to work in order to abolish, in a spirit of prayer, in the common listening to the word of the Lord and in brotherly dialogue, the existing divisions among the Churches. We trust that the ecumenical engagement realised among similar Evangelical Churches, far from excluding more problematic relationships with other Churches, leads the way to full reciprocal recognition among Churches in such a way that it is both safeguard of each Church’s specificity and a step towards the day when God will be all in all.

Art. 18 Religion and religions
– Religion is the human activity universal and manifold, meant to cultivate the relationship with what one believes that transcends worldly reality in all its dimensions. Religion, as human work, is under God’s judgement. Therefore, while we realise our calling in proclaiming the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ, it is not our duty to judge, but we are called to respect each person’s freedom rights.

Art. 19 Christian hope
– The Lord Jesus Christ, according to his promise, will return to gather his Church, to judge the world, to defeat death through the resurrection of the dead and to establish his kingdom. New Heaven and new Earth await the redeemed.

Italian Protestants on immigration and racial violence

Rome, 30 May 2008 (NEV) – “A wrong and dangerous path”, this is the opinion of Pastor Maria Bonafede, Moderator of the Tavola Valdese (executive board of the Methodist and Waldensian Churches in Italy), referring to the Italian government’s planned actions on the Roma people. “As Christians, but also as citizens of a democratic state, we express all our concern for the measures that have been announced by the new government. These measures penalize an entire community, they feed social prejudice and arouse real hate campaigns against a population that in European history has already been hit by tragedies of racial persecution and extermination camps. The establishment of legal guarantees does not pass through pogroms; it passes through the application, even severe, of the existing norms and for a plan of integration and social inclusion of thousands of Roma people that do not steal or commit criminal actions. As citizens we must stress that the laws must be equal for everyone, for Italians like the Roma people. But as Christians we must affirm and witness that even the Roma people are our neighbors”, concluded Bonafede.
Pastor Domenico Maselli, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), also said he was very concerned and perplexed about the new manoeuvres against illegal immigration. “Some of the hypotheses that have been going around are absurd and ineffective” declared Maselli, maintaining that the hunt for boats filled with possible migrants outside Italian territorial waters is impracticable. “Besides, the eventuality of making illegal immigration a criminal offence would risk filling up our prisons without solving the problem of returning them to their homelands. We feel that any measure that discourages legal immigration would end up by aggravating the phenomenon of illegal immigration run by the mafias. In reality we believe that it would be necessary to ease the process of entrance into the country of those in search of work on the condition that they would be sent back if work was not found within set time limits. It concerns us moreover that eventual limitations posed on the entrance of families of regular immigrants would end up reducing the possibility for finding work of persons equipped for fundamental social services, like that of home care, who cannot certainly be hired without the direct knowledge of the people involved and without the necessary guarantees. In closing, in the moment in which international politics feels a greater need for cohesion in the European Union it does not seem opportune, besides being unjust, to create initiatives for limiting the entrance of citizens of EU member States”.
In a letter sent to the Minister of Interior, Roberto Maroni, Doris Peschke, Secretary General of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), gave a sharp “no” to the special measures taken for immigrants by the Italian government. “We maintain that every person deserves dignity and equality before the law”, says the letter, which was also sent to the attention of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. The CCME expresses its concern for an indiscriminate repressive action against the Romanian and Roma communities, justified on the basis of some serious incidents of the past few months. The letter continues: “If a person is found a criminal – as may or may not be the case for the young Roma woman in Naples cited a week ago – has to be determined by the competent courts in European countries, also in Italy. It cannot be tolerated that a group of people takes the law into their hands and raids a whole settlement and destroys their homes. We would have expected a very clear positions against the looting rather than a general discourse on ‘illegal migration’. Of course we are aware that Italy has received a high number of Romanian immigrants over the past years, among them also a number of Roma. There may be criminals among them, but that does not make all of them criminal. There may be some who have entered illegally, and yet, they are persons with fundamental rights. They may have committed an offence, for which a fine may be appropriate. However, the current discussion on restricting migration laws and increasing penalties and administrative detention is in our view disproportionate. Particularly, as this discourse generally alleges that every Romanian and Roma is a potential criminal”.
Great concern about the climate of violence that arose in the Italian society was expressed by Pastor Holger Milkau, Dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy (CELI). He stated that “in the face of dramatic violence like the killing of a 14 year old girl in Sicily and a youth at Verona, we can no longer tolerate indifference, nor can we limit ourselves to acknowledging our inability to act in the face of the loss of every sense of humanity and morality. As Lutherans we feel it is our duty to reaffirm and witness the value and the dignity of life in each and every man and woman, created in the image and likeness of God. At the same time we condemn the irresponsibility and the light manner in which ‘monsters’ are created on whom we can unleash our fears and our social uneasiness. today it’s the Roma people’s turn against whom was unleashed a dangerous and unjust hate campaign that does not make any difference between the great majority of the honest persons and a criminal minority. For this, as the Lutheran Church, above all for the youth, we intend to commit ourselves with always greater energy to the witness and promotion of a culture for life and trust, in which all can identify themselves, feel gratified and loved in a Christian way.”
“The violence of a band of youth against their peers; torture, rape, homicide; the violence against the Roma, the fires, the evacuations and the deportations”: Pastor Anna Maffei, President of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Italy (UCEBI) says she is “shocked” by all this news. She tells of “an endemic social disease, blind and acute with the involvement of the public institutions. Search and seizure, mass arrests, ‘cleanup’ of the State, human beings treated like garbage; all has led to a climate of ‘zero tolerance’, making illegal immigration a criminal offence: a monstruosity even to have thought of it! Security is the new idol to which all is sacrificed: democratic principles are set aside, the rights of individuals downtrodden, injustices and violence are justified. We feel secure when we force the enemy away, eliminate him. The enemy takes the names of those useful to those who manoeuvre: they are terrorists, they are non-members of the European Union, they are Romanians and Gypsies, they are Muslims, they are…”
“I do not fear the words of the violent, but the silence of the honest”. By recalling this citation of Martin Luther King, Anna Maffei concludes: “The people are made up of citizens. The crowd, the people, go where those who manoeuvre them wants them to go. The ‘crucify him’ of the Gospel story of the assassination of Jesus serves as a perennial warning. We Protestants believe in the truth that makes us free. For this we must abolish widespread prejudice and take on the burden of giving a critical and plural information. We must seek to understand the reality that surrounds us in all its complexity. It is the time to believe in the creative strength of nonviolence and seek every possible alliance to affirm the biblical principle of equality and the rights of each and everyone to life, to the future”.

Mark your calendars now for the fourth international Baptist Peace Conference. This global event will inaugurate the 400th anniversary year of the Baptist heritage being recognized in various locations around the world.

Like previous conferences in Sweden (1988), Nicaragua (1992), and Australia (2000), this gathering will bring together Baptists who are active in nonviolent struggles for justice and for strengthening the witness of Baptist peacemaking in various global contexts.

The conference will consist of six days including intensive training in conflict transformation, nonviolent prophetic action, and other relevant topics, inspiring speakers, workshops, and worship. There also will be optional opportunities to tour Rome and the surrounding area on Friday culminating in a magnificent time of worship in the Waldensian church.

http://www.globalbaptistpeace.org/

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

The Global Baptist Peace Conference will consist of six days (9-14 February 2009), which includes training seminars, workshops, plenary speakers and a variety of worship times.

The proposed training seminars:

Restorative Justice (Marinetta Cannito Hjort, leader)
Non-Violent Struggle (Daniel Hunter & Akum Longchari, leaders)
Biblically-based Conflict Transformation (Dan Buttry, leader)
Development Assistance and Humanitarian Aid in Conflict (Daniela Rapisarda, leader)
Building a Theology of Peace (Paul Fiddes, leader)
Inter-Cultural Conflict and Peacebuilding (Barry Higgins,, leader)
Plenary Speakers and Preachers:

Grace Shatsung (India) and Gustavo Parajon (Nicaragua), Anna Maffei (Italy), Ken Sehested (USA)

Storytellers:

Joao Matwawana (Angola), C.H. Chiromo (Zimbabwe), Norman Kember (United Kingdom), Martin Accad (Lebanon), Karen Thomas Smith (Morocco), and Malkhaz Songulashvili (Republic of Georgia).

The list of workshops will be available once they are complete.

Pls visit website for a detailed schedule, printable brochure, printable poster

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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