“Radiating the power of the Gospel ourselves”

Bedford-Strohm spoke to EKD Synod on current challenges in the church and society

Opening the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Dresden, EKD Council Chair Heinrich Bedford-Strohm called for a close connection between personal faith and social engagement.

“30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall it is good to recall the sources that enabled this great historical turn of events,” said the chair of the EKD Council. The churches in the German Democratic Republic had not confused faith with inward piety but had understood prayer, acting justly and waiting for God’s time as inseparable witnesses to faith. “The gospel and the church that passes it on have much more power today than we often believe ourselves. We should demonstrate that much better in future,” he asserted.

Bedford-Strohm said that, in order to win people for the church – or to win them back – “we need to take a self-critical view of present-day church action and structures”. Above all, we need “spiritual renewal as a basis for radiating the faith-based love and hope of which we speak. That applies both to the church leadership and to all members of the church. Everywhere in Germany Christians have set out to strengthen the outreach of our church and make it as sustainable as possible for the future. After all, the future of the church will be decided not by its membership statistics but by its attractiveness founded in the gospel.”

The issues of peace, justice and care for creation had lost none of their relevance, Bedford-Strohm said. “Peace ethics,” which is the focal theme at this year’s synod in Dresden, “is more relevant than ever,” he added.

“When the East-West confrontation ended 30 years ago many of us saw this as a great opportunity and hoped that more peaceful times would follow. This hope was not fulfilled,” said Bedford-Strohm. He went on to say that the present situation in northern Syria after the Turkish invasion, which violated international law, is “a defeat for an international policy-making oriented to law and ethics. The powerlessness that many of us feel in this respect, including myself, is one more reason to urgently develop peace ethical approaches that can give orientation for practical action in such a situation.”

In his EKD Council report to synod, Bedford-Strohm underlined commitment to mitigating climate change. He said that over 100 reputable scientists had been involved in the latest special report of the International Panel on Climate Change, which had evaluated almost 7000 scientific studies and publications. It refers to a possible rise in sea level by more than one metre and warns against the loss of species and habitats.

“Whoever ignores that or dismisses it as mere ‘opinion’ is in denial of reality and has opted out of a serious democratic debate,” the EKD Council chair stated. At the same time, however, the positive counter-forces had also gained a completely new momentum. “It could be that we are now really on the threshold of the Great Transformation that churches have been talking about for years in their position papers.” The German government’s package of climate legislation did not go far enough, he said. Not only many climatologists but also many economists from different schools of thought had clearly stated that the planned introduction of a carbon pricing scheme would not have any noticeable impact on CO2 emissions. “Why, on this vital issue, do policies stay so far behind the readiness of society for change?” he asked. “It would be a sign of greatness if the federal government took up this social momentum, responded to it, used it and made clear improvements to its climate package.“

In his Council report Bedford-Strohm also commented on the commitment of the Protestant church to search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. “For years we have been waiting for convincing solutions by European governments. The EKD Synod has repeatedly called for safe, legal passages for refugees, a solidarity-based distribution system in Europe and a guarantee of fair asylum procedures. We continue to uphold these demands.” At the same time, Bedford-Strohm endorsed the decision of the EKD Council to advocate, in a broad societal coalition, for another ship to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean.

A fundraising campaign will be launched by the coalition in early December with the hashtag #wirschickeneinSchiff (we send a ship).

The whole of the oral report of EKD Council chair Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm is available at www.ekd.de/ratsbericht2019.

Synod news on Facebook: www.facebook.de/ekd.de

Dresden, 10 November 2019

EKD Press Office
Carsten Splitt