Why Churches Worship Illegally—In Paris
Image: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP / Getty
Why Churches Worship Illegally—In Paris

As more than 100 Haitian evangelicals danced and sang on Easter Sunday, the floor caved in at their makeshift church north of Paris. The deaths of a 6-year-old girl and 47-year-old woman who fell through the second story of the rented house in Stains were a tragic sign that Christian gatherings have outgrown available space in the secular French capital.

"Many immigrants that come from French islands and territories are fervent in their religious expression," said Gilbert Bilezikian, a pastor and former Wheaton College professor born and educated in France. "[They] cannot gather without making a lot of noise, so it is difficult to find places to meet."

Of the nation's 1.6 million Protestants, 460,000 now identify as evangelicals amid heavy immigration from Francophone nations. Last year, their churches nearly tripled from 769 to 2,068, according to the French National Council of Evangelical Churches (CNEF).

However, cash-strapped congregations—immigrant or otherwise—are having difficulty finding worship space that meets safety standards.

"Space is a very hard thing to find over here, and is very expensive," said Lorenzo Monge, founder and lead pastor of the Église de la Brie, a young church just east of Paris.

Thus many churches "outlaw themselves" by illegally worshiping in unsafe buildings, says Christian Willi, publisher of French magazine Christianity Today (unrelated to CT). "This [trend] is a real problem."

The problem lies in poor relationships with local authorities, according to CNEF. "Free exercise of religion … is hampered if evangelical communities do not have access to suitable premises," states the group. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
From Issue:
Read These Next
Also in this IssueThe Regnerus Affair
The Regnerus Affair Subscriber Access Only
The embattled sociologist talks to CT about the controversy over his study of homosexuality and parenting.
RecommendedFive Things You Should Know About Reinhold Niebuhr
Five Things You Should Know About Reinhold Niebuhr
From Carter to Comey, the legacy of "Washington's Favorite Theologian" endures.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickSix Ways Men Can Support Women's Discipleship
Six Ways Men Can Support Women's Discipleship
Male clergy and laity who want to enable women's ministry often don't know how to get involved or what to do.
Christianity Today
Why Churches Worship Illegally—In Paris
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.