Written by Alfred Jones*
The French love anniversaries, and this year French Protestants have taken advantage of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to stage a number of commemorations. Last weekend, for example, the Protestant Federation of France sponsored a two-day international colloquium entitled “Convictions and Engagements.”
Gathering in several ornate public rooms of the imposing Paris City Hall, some eight hundred Protestants, ranging from Calvinists, Lutherans, and Baptists to Evangelicals and Pentecostals, listened to speakers discuss a variety of subjects, including the diverse manifestations of the Reformation, how Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, and Muslims view Protestants today, Protestantism and modernity, Protestants and politics, and Protestant missions.
Doubtless the highlight of the weekend, however, was the appearance of Emmanuel Macron, president of France, accompanied by the mayor of Paris, on Friday evening. Educated by Jesuits, but later a research assistant for “his master,” the eminent Protestant philosopher/theologian Paul Ricoeur, Macron’s forty-minute address was half-scripted and half-extemporaneous. Obviously at ease with his audience. the president hailed the Protestants’ “critical spirit” that has nourished France, and their leadership in the nation’s philosophical, moral and political battles. But he went further, asserting that he expects “much from you” today, including helping the country reach clarity on bioethical questions. After his address, the president lingered, advancing slowly down the center aisle, sharing handshakes and words with many. France has had Protestant prime ministers but never a Protestant president. Emmanuel Macron may be the closest France gets to the real thing.
*For almost 20 years, Alfred Jones served with the UCC Stewardship Council, where he was responsible for mission education and mission interpretation. Since retiring in 2001, Al and his wife Elyane spend several months each year in Paris, France, where they worship at the Eglise Port-Royal Quartier Latin of our partner, the United Protestant Church of France.