Germany’s Lutherans regret (parts) of the Reformation

The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) deplores the destruction of religious images during the Reformation period.

EKD theologians made this clear at a bilateral theological dialogue with representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, convening last week at the Academy of Mission of Hamburg University. EKD bishop for ecumenical relations Petra Bosse-Huber, who heads the Protestant Dialogue Commission, underlined for the Protestant side: “In the Luther Decade theme year on ‘Images and the Bible’ we note that images in the most varied forms have long since become an expression of Protestant spirituality. The Protestant church is opposed to the destruction of images.”

During the period of iconoclasm, supporters of the Reformation removed paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows and organs from churches, particularly in southern Germany, Switzerland, England and the Netherlands and in many cases also destroyed them. Reformers such as Zwingli and Calvin rejected images as idolatry, basing their view on the Ten Commandments, among other sources.

The delegations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the EKD had gathered for their 16th encounter at the Academy of Mission on the invitation of the EKD Council. This was the first time that they had taken up the topic “images” from a Protestant and Orthodox viewpoint. Greetings and blessings were conveyed on behalf of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and EKD Council Chair Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. In view of the presence of Greek participants, Bedford-Strohm gave particular importance to the European Union as a peace project.

In Hamburg the delegations visited the Churches of St James and St Michael, the Greek Orthodox Church of St George and the Rathaus Passage, an area under the town hall market with social welfare facilities. In addition, they attended the annual reception of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Northern Germany for Orthodox clergy at the Ecumenical Forum in the revitalised docklands of HafenCity.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the honorary head of all Orthodox Churches worldwide. The EKD and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have held this dialogue since 1969.

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