“No more war! No more nationalism!”

Bedford-Strohm speaks to EKD Synod about the culture of memory and future perspectives of the church

“100 years ago today, Europe was a field strewn with corpses because forces and governments motivated by national interests had stirred up feeling against one another, and also because the churches had uncritically joined in the frenzy of national enthusiasm and blessed the weapons for this unspeakable war,” said Bedford-Strohm. “It was for good reason that our mothers and fathers drew the right conclusions after another terrible war: No more war! No more nationalism!” Countering the attitude of those who want to question the achievements of cooperation and friendship today, he asserted: “As Christians we will now seek to ensure that the lessons of history are not thrown overboard and that international reconciliation remains the highest aim of our social and state action!”

Bedford-Strohm is convinced that modern society needs institutions that give orientation by nurturing the collective memory. In his view, the church has a central role in this regard. “A community which remembers the suffering of Jesus Christ as part of its identity cannot be other than sensitive to the sufferings of people in the past and the present. It is hard to imagine a stronger motive for a distinctive culture of memory.”

With respect to the commemorations around 11 November the bishop noted: “Victims of history are not forgotten, only enrolled in God”s memory.” In view of the hope for the resurrection, we can still dare to speak of the glimmer of light that “is also able to shine into the darkest corner of history”.

In his Council report, Bedford-Strohm also raised the issue of sexualized violence in the church. He said it was trampling underfoot all that the church stands for when, in an institution founded on Jesus Christ, actions take place that destroy people”s lives: “I can hardly imagine a greater contradiction. In the name of the EKD Council, I ask forgiveness from all who have undergone such suffering in the context of the Evangelical Church in Germany. We will do our utmost to deal with these events consistently and learn from the mistakes that our church, too, has made in handling the topic of sexualized violence,” said the Council chair. Measures already taken include the mandating of a five-person board to deal with sexualized violence in EKD member churches. Its task is prevention, intervention, appraisal and assistance for the victims. Bishop Kirsten Fehrs (Hamburg) is its spokesperson.

On Tuesday, Bishop Fehrs will report on action taken to date and future plans to deal with and prevent sexualized violence. Sunday evening and Monday will be devoted to the focal theme – the faith of young people. Bedford-Strohm reminded synod that young people are not just the church”s future but, above all, its present: “Already they are contributing new ideas, their own experiences and also their special skills. In questions of digitization, for example, we particularly depend on their sheer competence.”

The topic of digitization is on the synod agenda on Tuesday. “As churches we should not limit our activity in these digital worlds due to their ethical ambivalence. On the contrary, we should considerably expand it,” commented Bedford-Strohm. “Presence in the digital worlds does not lessen the importance of the other response: working face to face, encountering one another as credible Christians and bearing witness with our lives,” he added.

The latest on the synod is also on Facebook: www.facebook.de/ekd.de

Würzburg, 11 November 2018

EKD Press Office
Carsten Splitt

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 11 to 14 November in Würzburg. 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 discusses 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. 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. 21.5 million Protestants belong to one of the 13,900 congregations.