Last theme year of the Luther Decade

EKD opens Decade year “Reformation and One World” Luther Medal goes to former German president Horst Köhler and his wife Eva Luise-Köhler

The last theme year in the Luther Decade was opened on Reformation Day with a festive service in St Thomas’ Church, Strasbourg, France. The theme for 2015/16 is “Reformation and One World”. Those officiating included Christian Schad, president of the Protestant Church of the Palatinate and chair of the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK), and Margot Kaßmann, special envoy of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) for the Reformation anniversary in 2017. The invitation to the special service came from the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) and the EKD.

The service was profoundly impacted by the current refugee drama. In her sermon Margot Käßmann rcalled the countless volunteers who go out and help refugees – “Suddenly we sense an unimagined spirit of solidarity and freedom.” While there is xenophobia, “the Christian culture of compassion that has shaped our continent can be seen and heard across the whole of Europe.” Käßmann argued in favour of not regarding the refugees from war-torn areas as a burden. Rather they can enrich us “through a culture of enjoying life, because we have sometimes become too narrow”. Käßmann announced a Reformation anniversary “that we can celebrate as an international community, not closing ourselves off but embracing ecumenical participation”.

Following the service, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the EKD Council, awarded the Martin Luther Medal to former German president Horst Köhler and his wife Eva Luise Köhler. With this award the EKD Council wishes “to honour the political and social commitment of the couple in and for Africa,” said Bedford-Strohm. “Long before African and Syrian refugees started coming to Germany in their hundreds of thousands” Horst and Eva Luise Köhler had made clear and raised awareness, “that humanity can no longer be realized at the regional or even national level, not even at the European level. It is always a global question and challenge”.

The certificate presented to the couple for their commitment states that “Horst and Eva Luise Köhler have achieved outstanding results in enhancing the core of the Christian view of humanity and sustainably serving the concern of the Protestant church and its social ethics”. The tribute was given by Klaus Töpfer, a former German environment minister and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “What could be a finer sign of ecumenical friendship than a confessing Catholic paying tribute to two confessing Protestants,” said Bedford-Strohm in his introduction of Töpfer.

This is the eighth award of the Martin Luther Medal. With it, the EKD honours exemplary Protestants who, in a professional or voluntary capacity, have devoted their time, energy and passion in an outstanding manner to the service of the Protestant church.

Hanover, 31 October 2015

EKD Press Office
Carsten Splitt