In November 1979 the Protestant Council of Strasbourg was founded. It includes the Protestant communities from the metropolitan area of Strasbourg as well as the communities of the adjacent German city of Kehl. Even the historic free churches (Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Mennonites) were founding members. Catholics and Orthodox are involved as guests. The CPS currently comprises 81 congregations, half of which are new communities (including those from the city of Kehl) that are not part of any historic church and organized on a congregationalist basis. This corresponds to the French situation in which such communities include more believers than traditional denominations.
The 40th Anniversary of the Protestant Council of Strasbourg was celebrated on the 7th of November. The theme of the day was “Is the method of international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue applicable to the relationships of churches, congregations, and communities within the Protestant Council of Strasbourg?” The goal of the day was to seek ways to allow Council members to take new steps towards a church fellowship.
The celebration began with a lecture by André Birmelé, in which he explained the method of “differentiating consensus” and made clear that this path is possible if the Bible itself is understood as a “differentiating consensus.” The ensuing discussion focused on the issue of scriptural hermeneutics and made it clear that the understanding of the word of God must be the focus of further work. It also became clear that in doing so the churches are only at the beginning of a path. It is pleasing that several Pentecostal and Evangelical communities have agreed to participate in theological reflections on the understanding of the Word of God.
The issue discussed in the Council on that day extends far beyond the Strasbourg area. That hermeneutics is a fundamental problem especially in relation to new, non-denominational communities is seen today in many places. Since some of these communities are ready for conversation, theological study days will soon be called in to discuss this topic. The Gregorian Catholic University in Rome, where Prof. Etienne Vetö, one of the leaders of the Communauté du Chemin Neuf, teaches, is expected to convene a first meeting on this topic in February.