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Italian Baptists celebrate 150 years

150 delegates gathered recently in the Baptist 'Taylor Institute' in a Rome suburb to celebrate the past, present and future of their life together.

An historical exhibition told the story of the Baptist work in Italy, beginning with Wall and Clarke, two pioneer missionaries of the British Baptist Missionary Society.

The work then was transferred to the Southern Baptist Convention of the USA which helped to score the buildings and organisations since the 1950s the work has been self-supporting and came under the influence of then student movements and radical politics of the 1960s.

All this gives Italian Baptists their unique blend of evangelical fervour combined with a deep concern for issues of peace and justice in society and in the world. They are very conscious of being 'nonconformists' in an overwhelmingly Roman catholic cultures in Italy, and this leads them to be quite liberal on some social-ethical issues.

Pastor Raffaele Volpe, president of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI), presented the programme of the many initiatives based on the main challenges in which Baptist churches are engaged in Italy at present: from migrants and refugees issues to environment, relationships between different generations, prisons, the dialogue with other Christians and other religions.

One striking feature of their life together is the number of ordained women who are in pastoral and national leadership. A booklet produced for the 150th Anniversary featured the stories of some of these women.

The Anniversary celebrations included inspiring and creative worship, challenging preaching, thought provoking seminars and different streams of music.
Music played an important part as hymns and song form the Reformation hymns to contemporary worship songs were featured.

Guests included Regina Claas, a Vice president of the Baptist World Alliance, Karin Wiborn, a Swedish baptist who is General Secretary of the Christian Council of Sweden, and Tony Peck, General Secretary of the EBF.

Those three took part in a well-attended seminar featuring the wider relationships of the Italian Baptists. The previous day was seminar considering the health of the 'BMW' – the Baptist, Methodist, and Waldensian churches who have worked closely together with an Agreement made between them in 1990,and is now in need of some renewal of its life.

Italian Baptists number around 600 members in 120 churches.

This story first appeared on the European Baptist Federation website
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