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New leader for German protestants elected: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

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Heinrich Bedford-StrohmThe Rt. Rev. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria has been elected head of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD). On 11 Nov 2014 the EKD council meeting in Dresden elected Bishop Bedford-Strohm on the first ballot. The Bavarian bishop received 106 of the 125 votes cast. He succeeds Nikolaus Schneider, president of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR), who served as acting president following the resignation of Bishop Margot Käßmann in 2010 following her arrest for driving while intoxicated. The President of the EKD Synod, Irmgard Schwaetzer, welcomed the election stating the new bishop would unite the church in the face of challenges from Germany’s growing secular culture. “Heinrich Bedford-Strohm now has a clear mandate to bring the remaining tasks of this council term to their conclusion.” She added the council can give now give its full attention to “the preparations for the 2017 Reformation anniversary”. Born in Memmingen in 1960,  Bedford-Strohm  has been the Lutheran bishop of Bavaria since 2011 and previously served as Professor for Systematic Theology and Contemporary Theological Issues at the University of Bamberg, following positions in pastoral and diaconal work.

Lutheran ordinariate proposed: The Church of England Newspaper, November 11, 2012 p November 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Roman Catholic Church.
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A Lutheran Ordinariate within the Roman Catholic Church might be the next step for Catholic Lutheran relations, Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has told a Catholic news service.

In an interview with Zenit published on 24 Oct 2012 the Swiss cardinal said that since the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in August of 1999 “great step forward in the ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans.”

The present stage of the talks was centered round the “ecclesiological consequences” of the declaration.  However, “evangelicals have another understanding of the Church in regard to Catholic Christians. It’s not enough to recognize one another mutually as a Church. What is needed, rather, is a serious theological dialogue on what constitutes the essence of the Church,” the cardinal explained.

One way forward was to offer Lutherans an option akin to Anglicanorum coetibus, he said, adding that such a step, however, must be initiated by Lutherans.

In response to pleas from Anglo-Catholics, “the Holy Father then sought a solution and, in my opinion, found a very broad solution, in which the Anglicans’ ecclesial and liturgical traditions were taken into ample consideration. If similar desires are expressed by the Lutherans, then we will have to reflect on them. However, the initiative is up to the Lutherans,” Cardinal Koch said.

While dialogue between the churches has seen a softening of attitudes over the past 50 years, Lutheran-Catholic relations have not moved forward at the same speed as Anglican – Catholic relations.

In a statement released on 31 Oct 2012 for Germany’s Reformation Day holiday, Bishop Gerhard Feige of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference said “Catholic Christians consider the division of the western Church as a tragedy and – at least until now – do not think they can celebrate this merrily,”

Noting that the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) had begun preparations to mark the 600th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Bishop Feige said it would be “very helpful if both denominations could come to a common understanding of what happened,” before the Catholic Church agreed to participate.


Vatican open to a Lutheran Ordinariate: Anglican Ink, October 30, 2012 October 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, EKD.
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Cardinal Kurt Koch

The Vatican is open to creating an ecclesial jurisdiction for Lutherans who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church but preserve aspects of their liturgical and ecclesial patrimony, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has said. In an interview with Zenit published on 24 Oct 2012, Cardinal Kurt Koch said the Vatican would entertain creating a structure similar to the Anglican Ordinariate for Lutherans.

Such a structure was possible due to a convergence of beliefs on certain doctrinal issues, Cardinal Koch said, as progress had been made in the ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans in Germany.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Germany’s first woman bishop resigns in wake of clergy abuse scandal: The Church of England Newspaper, July 23, 2010 p 6. July 24, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, EKD.
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Bishop Maria Jepsen of Hamburg

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The first woman elected to serve as a Lutheran bishop has resigned, following allegations of failing to investigate cases of sexual abuse in her diocese.

The Bishop of Hamburg, Rt. Rev. Maria Jepsen, who in 1992 was elected leader of the North Elbian Lutheran Church and became the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany’s (EKD) first woman bishop, resigned on July 16, telling reporters she could not continue in office with her integrity in doubt.

A diocesan committee has been investigating allegations that a pastor in the town of Ahrensburg had molested approximately 20 children in the 1980s.  Bishop Jepsen said she had only become aware of cases in March of this year when she received a letter from one of the victims.

However, the news magazine Der Spiegel and the newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt have contradicted these claims, stating the bishop knew of the priest’s suspected behavior in 1999.

“My credibility has been contested,” Bishop Jepsen told reporters in Hamburg. “For that reason, I do not see myself in a position to continue to spread God’s word as I had promised.”

The head of the EKD Bishop Nikolaus Schneider, said he respected Jepsen’s decision.

“Jepsen has always shown a clear understanding that the victims’ needs come first,” he told a press conference. “It shows that the Protestants are ready to accept responsibility for what has happened without trying to protect themselves.”

Clergy child abuse cases involving Roman Catholic Church have been much in the news in Germany and have led to the resignation of one bishop this year.  The head of the EKD, Bishop Margot Kaesmann also resigned earlier this year, after she was arrested for drunk driving.

German bishop resigns over drink-driving: CEN 3.05.10 p 7. March 15, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Afghanistan, Church of England Newspaper, EKD.
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Bishop Margot Kaessmann

The President Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (EKD) has resigned after being arrested for drunk driving in Hanover.

The Rt. Rev. Margot Käßmann (Kaessmann) was stopped by police for running a red traffic signal on Feb 20 and failed a field sobriety test. Under German law driving with a blood alcohol level above 0.11 per cent is a criminal offence. The bishop’s blood alcohol level was 0.154 per cent, three times the .05 per cent legal limit, making it likely that if convicted, she would lose her driver’s licence for a year.

“I made a serious mistake that I regret deeply,” Bishop Kaessmann told a televised news conference on Feb 24.

“My heart tells me very clearly that I cannot remain in office with the necessary authority,” she said, stating that she no longer had the moral authority to “name and judge ethical and political challenges.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel stated she had valued working with the bishop, but accepted her decision “with respect and regret.”

German newspapers had a field day with the arrest, reprinting past statements made by Bishop Kaessmann condemning alcohol abuse and drunk driving. Bishop Kaessmann told the press last year she was giving up alcohol for Lent stating she “noticed how a glass of wine in the evening can become a habit.”.

Spiegel reported that three years ago the Bishop condemned drunk drivers saying “sometimes there is a lack of awareness particularly when drink and drugs are involved.”

“Sometimes on the motorway I see people driving as though they have no idea of how powerful a car is, even at 50 kilometres per hour, in other words how a car can really destroy lives.

Bild reported that in one column the bishop wrote that “wine is a part of life, but it should be enjoyed in moderation,” she said, adding that “even the Bible warns about drunkenness. I like … light white wines.”

After her arrest the bishop told Bild she was “shocked” that she “could make such a terrible mistake,” and added she was “aware of how dangerous and irresponsible drinking and driving is, and am ready for the legal consequences.”

Elected chairman of the EKD’s church council on Oct 28, 2009 at the church’s national synod meeting in Ulm, Bishop Kaessmann is the first women to lead Germany’s 25 million Lutherans. A mother of four, her election stirred controversy in conservative quarters as she divorced her husband, a fellow Lutheran pastor, in 2007 after 26 years of marriage.

The new bishop has taken a high public profile since her election, and has condemned as immoral the government’s operations in Afghanistan. At two New Year’s church services, she told congregations in Berlin and Dresden she did not approve of NATO strategy in Afghanistan, where 4,500 German soldiers serve with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“Even by the loosest possible standards of the Protestant church, this war is unjustifiable. That is why there needs to be an end to the violent conflict as soon as possible,” she told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

She called it “infuriating” that “military methods had once again taken priority” before other methods. “The population will only accept a peaceful new beginning if peaceful methods are used,” she said, calling for immediate peace talks with the Taliban.

German political leaders and veterans’ groups denounced her views as “not helpful”, “naïve”, and “unrealistic.” Germany fields the third-largest force contingent after the United States and Britain, who have asked it to commit more troops towards the stabilization of the country.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg met with Bishop Kaessmann last month and has invited her to visit the Bundeswehr’s mission in Afghanistan. It is too soon to tell if the bishop’s drunk driving arrest and resignation will affect the political calculus of the anti-war movement in Germany, analysts tell The Church of England Newspaper.

Russian Orthodox threat to Lutheran Church: CEN 11.20.09 p 7. December 3, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Russian Orthodox, Women Priests.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Russian Orthodox Church has threatened to suspend ecumenical relations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD) in the wake of the election of Bishop Margot Kaessmann as its leader.

On Nov 11 the Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk as having said Moscow might suspend dialogue with the EKD as it did not recognize the validity of women ministers.

Russian Orthodox threat to Lutheran Church

“We planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our dialogue with the Lutheran Church in Germany in late November or early December. The 50th anniversary of the dialogue will become the end of it,” Archbishop Hilarion said.

“We can develop the dialogue, but there raise lots of simple protocol questions. How will the Patriarch address her or meet with her?” the Russian Church representative said.

On Oct 28 the EKD elected Bishop Kaessmann of Hanover as its first female leader. The sole nominee to succeed Bishop Wolfgang Huber of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia as chairman of the EKD’s church council, Bishop Humber polled 132 out of 142 votes at the national synod meeting in Ulm.

Elected Bishop of Hanover in 1999, Bishop Kaessmann made headlines in 2007 when she filed for divorce from her husband of 26 years. However, her marital difficulties did not appear to play a role in the vote.

Germany honors Bishop Bell: CEN 10.10.08 p 7. October 13, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EKD.
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The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) will celebrate the life of the Rt. Rev. George Bell, Bishop of Chichester with thanksgiving service to commemorate his work as an “ecumenist, bridge builder and reconciler” in Berlin on Oct 14.

In a statement released on Oct 3, the 50th anniversary of Bishop Bell’s death, Dr. Wolfgang Huber, Bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia and head of the EKD sent the German church’s “regards to our sister Church in England with deep gratitude for her great son, the Bishop of Chichester and ecumenical visionary George Bell.”

Bishop Bell was “committed to peace” and bound in “unwavering friendship for Christians in Germany, even in our darkest times,” Dr. Huber said.

An early and vocal anti-fascist, Bishop Bell “was never afraid to express his convictions emphatically, with all the authority of his office and his person, even in the political arena,” he said.

During the war from his seat in the House of Lords, Bishop Bell “firmly condemned the area bombardments of German cities, because he thought them strategically senseless, bringing suffering and death mainly to the innocent,” Dr. Huber said, while also supporting the resistance movement in Germany.

After the war, Bishop Bell helped form Christian Reconstruction in Europe—now known as Christian Aid— while also contributing “decisively to the reconciliation process by opening the German Churches’ way back into the ecumenical fellowship,” the German church leader said.

“In view of his great achievements, it is not surprising that in Germany, George Bell is one of the best known and most popular churchmen in the West in post-war times. Fifty years after his death, we are glad to renew both our memories of this great messenger of reconciliation and our thanks for his service to peace,” Bishop Huber said.

German church could select a ‘gay’ bishop:CEN 6.27.08 p 7. June 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Gene Robinson may have to share his title as the church’s sole “gay” bishop, as a gay Hamburg cleric has been selected by the Lutheran Church in Germany, (EKD) to stand for election as Bishop of Schleswig.

The Rev. Horst Gorski, a gay activist in the Lutheran Church, will face the Rev. Gerhard Ulrich for election on July 12. German traditionalists warn Gorski’s election will replicate the Anglican Communion’s woes within the Lutheran Church. “Many members of the community would have little understanding for a bishop with this kind of lifestyle,” the Rev. Ulrich Ruess of Hamburg told Die Welt, warning schism would be a likely consequence.

In a statement posted on the internet, Bishop Maria Jepsen, the EKD’s first woman bishop and a member of the selection committee, defended the shortlisting of Gorski. “After careful consultation, we have nominated two experienced provosts as candidates who have excelled in their localities and in the region in a variety of ways,” she said.

The Lutheran World Federation would not comment on this issue, LWF General Secretary the Rev. Ishmael Noko told Reuters. “This is a pastoral issue that each church individually must deal with,” he said, noting there was no common “position on this issue at the moment.”

In recent years the LWF has faced many of the same North-South strains over homosexuality as the Anglican Communion. The Church of Sweden has instituted same-sex blessings and the Church of Norway has permitted the licencing of gay clergy, while the African Lutheran Churches have rejected the innovations as being un-Scriptural and a violation of common teachings on sexual ethics.

Stasi agents win anonymity in human rights ruling: CEN 4.14.08 April 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Free Speech, Persecution.
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THE RIGHT to privacy trumps the public’s right to know when it comes to the names and activities of agents of the former East German secret police, a German court has held.

On March 25 a court in Zwickau ordered the Rev Edmund Käbisch to remove the name and details of the activities of an agent codenamed “Schubert” from his exhibition on police infiltration of East Germany’s churches.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Stasi agents win anonymity in human rights ruling

German Churches divide over stem cell plans: CEN 4.14.08 April 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Health/HIV-AIDS, Politics, Roman Catholic Church.
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GERMANY’S Churches have divided over government plans to ease restrictions on stem cell research, with the head of the Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), Germany’s Protestant church backing the move, while the Roman Catholic Church’s bishops have been sharply opposed to any change in the law.

On April 11, by a vote of 346-228 the lower house of the Bundestag passed a law permitting scientists to import and use for experimentation stem cells created before May 1, 2007. In 2002, the Bundestag banned the production of embryonic cells from pre-existing stem cell lines and forbade experimentation on lines created after Jan. 1, 2002.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

German churches divided over stem cell plans

Protestant Churches “are Church”: CEN 2.29.08 p 7. March 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Roman Catholic Church.
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robert-zollitsch.jpgThe Protestant Churches of the Reformation are proper Churches, the newly elected chairman of the German Roman Catholics Bishops’ Conference told the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

In a Feb 16 interview Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg also criticized the Catholic Church’s traditional ties to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), questioned the necessity of clerical celibacy, and deviated from the Church’s stated views on childcare.

Conservative members of the Bishops’ Conference were quick to distance themselves from the archbishop’s comments, while others claimed his words had been distorted and there were no plans to abolish mandatory celibacy for the clergy.

Elected leader of the German Church on Feb 12, Archbishop Zollitsch told Spiegel he hoped to improve relations with Germany’s Protestant Church the EKD in the wake of last summer’s statement by the Vatican that the Lutheran and Anglican Churches were “not proper churches.”

The Protestant Church “is Church. I cannot deny it,” [“ist Kirche. Ich kann ihr das nicht absprechen”], Archbishop Zollitsch said.

He also stated that clerical celibacy was “not theologically necessary,” [“nicht theologisch notwendig”], but noted such a change would be a “revolution” that would require the calling of a Council to enact.

In a Feb 20 statement released on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, Dr. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Bishop of Regensburg, stated Archbishop Zollitsch’s words had been misconstrued. Theological subtleties could not be expressed easily “in a fast interview,” he explained.

“The Latin rite of the Catholic Church holds to the sensible union of the priesthood and the celibate life for love of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is and will continue to be the Catholic Church’s discipline,” Bishop Müller said, and will not change “now or in the future.”

The Archbishop told Spiegel he endorsed the use of crèches or child day care programmes—a stance contrary to the church’s view that women should refrain from working outside the home in order to rear their children. “We need nurseries because many parents simply need them,” he said.

He also questioned the CDU’s pursuit of “neo-liberal” economic policies, saying its neglect of the “social market economy” had “diminished” its historic links to the Catholic Church. Many of the Green and Social Democrat Party’s policies are “important to us, more so than ever before” Archbishop Zollitsch said.

Cannabis Raid in German Cathedral: CEN 6.29.07 p 5. June 29, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Crime, EKD.
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Police in Germany raided St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Halberstadt, breaking up an alleged drugs ring operating from the Lutheran cathedral. The cathedral’s sexton has been detained by police and is being questioned in connection with the discovery of 27 grams of heroin and three kilos of cannabis hidden in the cathedral’s boiler room.

“I’m shocked,” the Bishop of Saxony Axel Noack said, according to the news agency DPA. “Not just because a house of God has been misused. What weighs even more heavily is that a full-time member of staff of our church is evidently caught up in a scene in which people’s suffering is accepted in the pursuit of personal profit.”

The cathedral’s dean told DPA the scandal was doubly embarrassing, as one of its key ministries had been combating drug taking among the city’s youth. The cathedral has suspended 47 year old sexton, pending the outcome of the investigation.