Archive for March 2010

Work-free Sunday urged by EU Deputies

March 26, 2010

EU Observer reports today that ‘A third of euro-deputies have signed an appeal urging the European Commission to include work-free Sundays into an upcoming review of EU rules on working time, with the responsible commissioner pledging to “take into account” these views in his proposals due this autumn.’

For more see the article at

A third of EU deputies think Sunday should be a work-free day

Cross-cultural EU divorces at 140,000 per year

March 25, 2010

The EU’s Justice Minister, Viviane Reding, said on Wednesday (24th March) that she does ‘not want people in the EU to be left to manage complicated international divorces alone.’ The EU’s annual divorce rate passed 1 million in 2005 and of those, 140,000 were cross-national divorces. Divorce is possible in all EU member states with the exception of Malta. This means that in any one year, two out of every thousand EU citizens successfully petition for a divorce. In contrast, nearly five out of a thousand get married.

Every year, an estimated 300,000 cross-cultural couples decide to get married in the EU and the EU’s Justice Commissioner has been trying to simplify the legal situation faced by those who file for divorce. Custody and property rights vary from country to country and couples frequently fight over which national laws apply in their particular case. EU countries are hesitant about European-wide harmonisation of laws, including those with more conservative divorce legislation (such as Ireland, Malta, Poland, etc.) as well as those with more liberal divorce rules.

The outcome is that ten countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Spain) have adopted the EU rules which allow the couples to choose which country’s laws should apply (a country with which at least one of the couple has a connection) or to allow the courts to decide when the couple is unable to agree. This will normally be the country where they usually live. Critics suggest that it is going to become ‘horrendously complicated’ to implement these rules.

Across the EU bloc the annual marriage rate has been increasing from an EU low of 4.85 marriages per one thousand people in 2003 to 5.27 marriages per one thousand people in 2007. It seems slightly ironic, therefore, that whilst acknowledging the complicated nature of cross-national divorces, the EU Commission has a laissez-faire attitude to those people in the EU who are left to manage complicated cross-national marriages (some of them encouraged by the freedom to travel to and live in other EU countries).

Global and European: Leadership and mission

March 24, 2010

I’ve just had a fascinating conversation with one of our students who mentors young Christian leaders. Maybe it’s me who’s a bit slow, but I’ve always understood ‘global leaders’ to be people with world domination in mind. He’s helping me to see that it’s really about local leaders who think globally. Errrm, right. I think I get it. But what does thinking globally mean if I’m a mission leader here in Europe?

Let me try a more familiar way into the conversation. Europe is a continent of diversity. Diversity is experienced in many forms, including ethnic and religious diversity. Mission encounter in Europe is therefore going to be an encounter with diversity. It means that were we to stand on a soapbox in the local marketplace and start preaching the gospel (does anybody do that today?), some wouldn’t understand our English (or French, or Danish, et al), some would be hostile because of their different religious views, and most of the people would be totally baffled by our Christian language. Imagine for a moment how you’d react to the different responses.

Diverse responses are also increasingly a factor in pastoral ministry. For example, how do you make decisions in church? It’s easy, isn’t it? Brits hold a business meeting, the Norwegians get everybody together and talk their way to a consensus, and the Africans think we should just pray about it and God will show us. Diversity can lead to disagreement and a global leader (I think this is what our student means) recognises this as a reality of the way the world is and she, or he, learns to develop the kind of emotional intelligence that helps them deal with their own uncertainties and anxieties in the face of disagreements.

Thinking globally means understanding global diversity. Recognising global diversity in your own situation calls for a keen ability to listen, observe, and learn. But, isn’t that just what good research should be all about. Hopefully, it’s the kind of research that Nova is able to offer to leaders who are active in European mission.

New demographics drive new Religious Law in Spain

March 20, 2010

Monitoring and compiling European religious statistics is a thankless task but just occasionally we hear of a story that encourages us to continue. A report this week from AC Press News expects the Spanish Government to publish draft proposals for its new Law on Religious Freedom this Spring, following statements from José Manuel Contreras, Director of the Department of Relations with Confessions.

The introduction of the Law is seen as a direct response to changing Christian Demographics in Spain (already reported on by Nova in the latest edition of Christian Research’s Quadrant magazine) and is described as an attempt to rethink legal secularism. According to ACPress Contreras stated publically that ‘the law of 1980 responds to a reality different from today’s’ in which there are a million Muslims, one and a half million Evangelicals, 600,000 Orthodox and some Buddhists and Mormons, in addition to the 77% of the Spanish population who say they are Catholics (including practising and not practising).

The new law is likely to lead to the removal of religious symbols from public buildings, address the legal status of ministers, regulate the collective rights of Christian denominations and associations, widen access to subsidies for charitable work carried out by churches, and deal with land ownership by church communities.

It seems that European mission and Christianity is facing something of a sea-shift across the continent as existing accords and agreements between Church and State are being reviewed and, in some cases, revised.

Mission presence in Europe: real or imagined?

March 19, 2010

How much mission in Europe is now on-line? Jesus promised in Matt 28:19-20 that he would continue to be present in and through our mission. What does the mean when our mission in Europe is taking place in chat rooms, appearing on blogs, and expanding across social networking sites?

What can we learn from the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of the ‘real presence’ of Christ – not necessarily in the bread and wine of communion, but in and through our missionary activity and initiatives. When mission was being talked about during the 70s and 80s as ‘Mission in the way of Christ’, the ongoing presence of Christ in the missionary endeavour was part of the picture.

So, if we are engaged in digital mission, in what way is Christ present in the digital virtual space? Can mission be both real and virtual? Can Christ be present both in a real and a virtual sense?

It seems to me that this is not just a theoretical point. If Christ can be present in the digital space then he can be ‘met’ there and presumably his transforming presence makes personal and social and transformation possible?

I wonder who is giving this kind of mission practice any missiologial attention. It is certainly true that in Europe an ever increasing number of Christians are using the internet for social networking purposes. Some of them are certainly attempting to enter it as digital missionaries. There have been some attempts to think about this theologically – why are more missiologists not giving this important and growing mission activity in Europe a little bit more attention?