Perspectief 2014-26

2014-26 19 The Changing Face of Unity, or: Cutting the Right Edges prof. dr. Henk Bakker The theme of this conference is highly relevant. Catholicity, indeed, is under pressure, and the relationship between diversity and unity is an ambiguous one. The question how to deal as churches with diversities emerging from growing diversity in a changing world, which is chiefly the Dutch world for me, is an urgent question which makes reflection in ecumenical settings like these of primal importance. My approach to the issue is mainly taken from three sources: (1) my own involvement and engagement with Baptist churches, a minority church in The Netherlands (I speak from a Baptist perspective, a congregationalist perspective), and in particular with students preparing for the ministry; (2) figures and statistics about church life which have been published by several institutions; (3) and some ecclesiological reflection on the gift of catholicity to the worldwide church. This brings me to the revised title of this short address: ‘the changing face of unity, or: cutting the right edges.’ The Dutch context With regards to the situation in Holland, and specifically the Baptist churches in Holland, statistics pertaining to ecclesial involvement do not have a positive outcome. Recently the Dutch Social and Cultural Research Centre published the response of a broad enquiry concerning the Dutch people’s overall confidence in the church. Among their conclusions, is the observation that personal confidence in the church never was as low as today.1 For several decades the Netherlands have been number one on the list of secularized countries. Around 2020 secularization will reach its summit, and by then only 2.6 million Dutch citizens (out of ca. 17 million) will be connected to a church, of which only one out 1 See esp. Joep de Hart, Geloven binnen en buitenverband. Godsdienstige ontwikkelingen in Nederland. (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau; Den Haag, 2014).