The church of the future must go to meet society with curiosity and openness. This is her conclusion from the 2017 Reformation anniversary year, Synod President Irmgard Schwaetzer told the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Bonn today.
“Based on the experience of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and current social developments, our assignment for the future is clear,” said Schwaetzer in her report on the first day of Synod: “We were curious to encounter what new things Christian faith in today’s secular society can discern as relevant to the life of individuals. The church needs curiosity like that to continue in dialogue, to articulate its mission, to be active outside the church door and in the public square, and to be - and stay - approachable,” Schwaetzer said.
“2017 was an anniversary of faith, a participatory, ecumenical and cultural anniversary,” Schwaetzer added. She announced that further information on the question “What will we retain from it?” would be given in the reports of the ‘scouts’ who had observed and evaluated the Reformation anniversary for the presidency.
In her report Schwaetzer named several learning experiences. A basic insight was: “Wherever the church was present in the public eye with new formats for its content, at surprising places and with many different cooperation partners, it succeeded in reaching people whom we otherwise seldom encounter.”
Countless encounters during the anniversary year left her wondering: “How can we come more into conversation with people who are distant from faith and the church? At what times and places do we meet those who do not attend our services?” And it was also true that “It needs courage to talk about our own faith because at the same time we say a lot about ourselves. And if we are asked about our faith it is so important that we Christians are able to find words for it and are also theologically educated.”
According to Schwaetzer, it is no longer possible to give a convincing presentation of the differences between Protestant and Catholic teachings. The concept and image of “the Christian churches” is now more convincing than “Protestant” or “Catholic”, she said. “The voice of the Christian churches in our secular society will be more audible to a secular society if they speak with one voice in appealing for Christian freedom and responsibility, and, above all, live this out themselves.”
Schwaetzer argued strongly for a dismantling of walls – in the mind and in the church: “Let us take along the inspiration and energy gained from the experiences of this year – into our congregations, into our regional churches, into the EKD, into our service agencies and, above all, let us take the rediscovered messages of the Reformation into the secular world.
Bonn, 12 November 2017
EKD Press Office
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 12 to 15 November in Bonn. In accordance with the EKD’s constitution, the 12th 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 discuses and adopts the budget and church laws. Synod is chaired by a body of moderators (presidium), under its president Irmgard Schwaetzer. She is also a member of the 15-person EKD Council to be elected in Bremen. 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. 21.9 million Protestants belong to one of the 14,412 congregations.
Synod president Schwaetzer reports to the EKD Synod in Bonn