The Union of Italian Baptist Churches (UIBC) elected the Rev. Anna Maffei as president during the Assembly meeting in Chiampino, Italy, Oct. 7-9, 2004. Maffei, who served as the vice president of the UIBC for four years, is the first woman to be elected as the head of any church denomination in Italy.
Upon her appointment, Maffei explained that the election of a woman as President is not problematic for Italian congregations because of the strong role women play in society as a whole.
"Irregardless whether they are within or without the church - Italian women say their peace and cannot be hushed up," said Maffei.
Meanwhile, in other business, the Italian Baptists chose to renew their 1990 fellowship agreement with the Italian Waldensians and Methodists. The UIBC affirmed that the mutual church fellowship in a nation with only 60,000 protestants far outweighs the differences in the question of baptism.
In making the decision, the UIBC assembly members agreed that the personal faith of church members, not baptism, is the basis of fellowship. Thus, under the fellowship agreement, a person who had been baptized by the Waldensians or Methodists as infants, do not have to be re-baptized to attain membership at a Baptist Church.
Through the agreement, pastors have the opportunity to minister in Waldensian, Methodists and Baptist congregations without proof of adult baptism.
"A Baptist pastor working in a Waldensian congregation will never be asked to baptize an infant," explained Maffei.
Currently, there are 4,500 Baptists who worship in 108 congregations across Italy. There are 35,000 Waldensian and Methodists congregations in the majority Catholic nation.