At a joint synod in Belfort (France) the Lutheran and the Reformed Church in France have joined to form the United Protestant Church of France (Eglise Protestante unie de France, EPUF). This concludes a process which began in the 1960s and was formally formulated as a goal at the joint synod in Socheaux in 2007.
“This is an historic decision in the history of the church”, said Thomas Wipf, President of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) and guest speaker at the Belfort synod. “It comes in the spirit and on the basis of the Leuenberg Agreement.” In practice in many places the two churches had already long extended pulpit and table fellowship to each other.
In the coming days the EPUF will attain legal status. In March 2013 the regional synods will elect their office bearers and the delegates to the national synod. The birth of the United Protestant Church of France will then be suitably celebrated in the summer of 2013.
The protestant churches in France today represent a numerically small minority, but as CPCE President Wipf emphasized, “In spite of their diaspora situation French Protestants are very much present in their society and continue to make their mark on it.”
All the congregations and members of the Lutheran (EELF) and Reformed (ERF) churches were sent a message informing them of the decisions reached and the forthcoming steps. “We Protestants are called to be a confessing, free and responsible church in a world of crises and the search for meaning,” said François Clavairoly, Pastor of the ERF, Moderator of the synod in Belfort and member of the CPCE Council. “The spirit of European Protestantism is bearing good fruit for the witness to the Gospel and giving a vigorous sign of life in French society.”