The Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) is taking place online, due to the pandemic. In his last report to it on Sunday 7 November, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm urged his hearers to maintain a Christian perspective of hope for the world.
“Those who today talk about a theology of hope – especially in times of continuing pandemic – quickly expose themselves to the suspicion of wanting to spread a cheap optimism,” said the Council Chair. But, he added, Christian hope is not cheap optimism, glossing over the abysses of human suffering and playing down the circumstances at all cost. It is simply impossible to ‘buy’ hope by repressing the existence of suffering, injustice, violence and the destruction of nature, he asserted.
“We believe in a God who, in the person of Jesus, died on the cross crying out that God had forsaken him. That is the God in whom we believe, whom we sometimes can’t understand, but to whom we are still attached. How could we believe in this God and overlook all the suffering in the world? And at the same time, we believe that this suffering is not the last word.”
Bedford-Strohm took the deteriorating pandemic situation as an opportunity to recall “one of the greatest deficiencies in handling the pandemic worldwide”. He said: “While in this country we almost desperately urge more people to get vaccinated, because that is the only really effective way of combating the pandemic, a large share of humanity still has no chance of doing that. The vaccination rate in Africa is still only just over five percent. One of the reasons is the scepticism about the vaccine and misinformation about its effectiveness, as well as poor governance and a lack of distribution capacities.
“The most important reason, however, remains the shortage of vaccine. What does that say about the seriousness of our conviction, founded on Judeo-Christian tradition, that every person is created equally in the image of God? Can a culture founded on this belief act on the motto ‘me first’ when it comes to the distribution of vaccine?” In order to provide Africa and other poorer countries with the vaccine, enough money would need to be made available to guarantee production and distribution, Bedford-Strohm said. “The goal of protecting all people worldwide demands even greater efforts on the part of everybody, and particularly the sharing of knowledge and know-how by the companies producing the vaccine.”
With respect to the many issues discussed during his seven-year term of office as chair of the EKD Council, Bedford-Strohm noted: “What at first sight seems to be only political discussion is really a wrestling for lived faith, for lived love, for lived hope. For us Christians, it is about discerning the signs of the Kingdom of God here and now. But we can only do that when we really live from the power of the Kingdom of God“, Bedford-Strohm stated. “That is why spiritual and political matters are so closely connected. It is about seeing the crucified God when we look at the world. And, at the same time, seeing the world in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
On Tuesday the EKD synod will elect a new Council and on Wednesday a successor as Council Chair. “At the end of my time as chair of the Council I am filled with great gratitude as I now lay this office in other hands,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. In the next two years he intends to concentrate on his responsibility as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria. “To you all who are now starting this new period I wish a great deal of energy and may God bless you!”
The full oral report of the Chairman of the EKD Council, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, is available at www.ekd.de/ratsberichtbremen2021.
The digital sessions of the EKD Synod can be followed live on www.ekd.de/stream.
Hanover, 7 November 2021
About the EKD Synod: The EKD Synod, with the Council and Church Conference, is one of the three governing bodies of the EKD. It is convening from 7 to 10 November in Dresden. In accordance with the EKD’s constitution, the 13th Synod has 120 members. The assignments of Synod include drafting declarations and decisions on contemporary questions and accompanying the work of the EKD Council by issuing guidelines. Synod also discusses and adopts the budget and church laws. Synod is chaired by a body of moderators (presidium), under its president Anna-Nicole Heinrich. She is also a member of the 15-person EKD Council. Chair of the EKD Council is the Lutheran Bishop of Bavaria, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. The EKD is a community of 20 Lutheran, Reformed and United regional churches in Germany. 20.2 million Protestants belong to one of the 13,200 congregations.