Evangelical Missionary Church of Besançon

A Pentecostal community in France, known for its dynamic services and controversial history.

The Evangelical Missionary Church of Besançon, also called the Evangelical Church The Mission of Besançon (French: Église évangélique La Mission de Besançon), was founded in December 1963 in Besançon, France, by Aldo Benzi following his miraculous healing from pleurisy. Originally known as the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Besançon and The Mission, this church has evolved into a notable Pentecostal denomination, affiliated with the Union of Missionary Churches and the Protestant Federation of France.

The church’s theology emphasizes the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, the Trinity, and the importance of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues (glossolalia), as central to its practice. Over time, its statement of faith has been revised to address public controversies and adapt to generational shifts within its leadership, reflecting a balance between traditional evangelical principles and a responsive approach to modern issues.

Services are held multiple times a week, each focusing on different aspects of Christian life, such as prayer, Bible study, and worship, characterized by dynamic, charismatic expressions of faith. A notable practice includes the requirement for women to cover their heads during worship. The church also places a strong emphasis on personal and collective evangelization, engaging in door-to-door outreach, and organizing mission weeks, although it has adjusted its methods in response to criticism​​.

The church operates under a congregational model, albeit with a unique structure that positions the Besançon church as the head of its federation, demonstrating a more centralized approach than typical in congregationalism. This structure supports the church’s extensive social and humanitarian efforts, including a choir, football team, and various recreational and educational activities for all ages​​​​.

The Evangelical Church The Mission of Besançon has faced controversies and criticisms, particularly concerning its wealth and proselytism practices. Critics, including the anti-cult movement in France and the Parliamentary Commission on Cults, have raised concerns about the church’s significant income, evidenced by property acquisitions and a detailed financial structure emphasizing donations, loans, and voluntary work. This financial success led to scrutiny under French law, classifying the church as a “small cult” with relatively high transparency in financial dealings compared to other religious organizations. Furthermore, the church’s active evangelization efforts, including door-to-door outreach and public evangelism under the “big top,” attracted criticism for their intensity and methods. In response to public criticism and to adapt to evolving societal norms, the church has modified its evangelization tactics, reducing public proselytization and becoming more discreet in its practices​​​​​​.

Despite their challenges, the Evangelical Missionary Church of Besançon has shown resilience and adaptation, continuing to provide a wide range of activities and support for its congregation. Its presence extends across northern and eastern France, with over 2,000 members reported in 2006.

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