It is often said that at the Reformation Luther replaced the ecclesiastical hierarchy of Roman Catholicism with an academic hierarchy of university professors. Since the mid-1800s this has been causing an increasing problem for evangelically inclined parishes and students in Europe. As private or independent institutions of higher learning are almost unknown on the Continent (except in Holland and Norway), virtually all the clergy in the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Germany, Switzerland, France, and Scandinavia get their education at state-run schools. Those private schools that have existed either were not at university level or drew their small student bodies from a minority confessional tradition rather than from the widely distributed, often state-related Lutheran and Reformed churches that dominate European Protestantism.

With the progressive secularization of European society, the theological education furnished by the state has become progressively more liberal and less concerned with historic Christian doctrines and values. Conservative congregations often find it impossible to get an evangelical pastor, and many believing students have lost their evangelical faith while studying theology. (Financial and other factors limit the number of ministerial students able to study at evangelical schools abroad.)

In the five years between 1965 and 1970, however, the situation began changing radically for French-speaking, German-speaking, and Swedish-speaking students (each language is spoken in more than one country). New evangelical institutions of university level were founded in Vaux-sur-Seine (France), Basel (Switzerland, German-speaking), and Uppsala (Sweden).

A major hurdle for each was the necessity of convincing ...

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