“The EKD opposes the idea of closing European borders.”
Concluding its meeting today [22 Jan 2016] in Breklem, Schleswig Holstein, the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) today set out the priorities of its work for the 2016. A key issue will be handling the challenges arising from the high number of refugees in Europe.
The Council intends to do everything it can to safeguard empathy towards the refugees, as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” (Matthew 7, verse 12). This understanding also becomes clear in the voluntary commitment of several hundreds of thousands of people in Christian congregations.
The Council expressed its warm thanks to everyone involved in supporting refugees. It was of one mind in stating, “If we lose a sense of empathy we will lose our humanity.” At the same time, the EKD will advocate for the successful integration of those seeking protection. “Integration policies must not produce losers – not among the refugees nor among the local population.” The Council agreed that sufficient resources had to be found for everyone, both in the field of education and also on the housing and job markets.
The EKD Council expressly underlines efforts to achieve a European solution. “Humanity can only thrive when we work together,” says EKD Council Chair Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. “We have to share the opportunities and burdens involved in receiving refugees.” Europe will also be the main theme of the EKD Synod in November this year in Magdeburg.
A further priority in 2016 will be finalising preparations for the 500th Reformation anniversary beginning on 31 October. The current theme year of the Reformation Decade is “Reformation and One World”. “The refugee situation shows us how it is very much the task of Christians to see – and ease – the hardship of people from other countries,” said Bedford-Strohm. The anniversary will open on Reformation Day with a special service in St Mary’s Church, Berlin.
The Council will, however, extend its purview beyond the year 2017. Amongst other things, it will foster a new beginning in mission, to awaken fresh enthusiasm in young people and give shape to a visible presence for Protestant faith in society. “Given the great social challenges of our age, the church will have to speak out publicly this year, too, on the basis of the gospel and Christian tradition,” Bedford-Strohm affirms.
The Council is one of the EKD’s three governing bodies, besides Synod and the Church Conference, representing the EKD’s regional churches. The Council is elected by Synod and the Church Conference for six years and has15 members. The chair of the Council, elected until 2021, is Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Lutheran bishop of Bavaria. Deputy chair is Annette Kurschus, president (praeses) of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia. The president of the EKD Synod, Irmgard Schwaetzer, is an ex officio member of the Council. Other Council members are the bishops Kirsten Fehrs and Markus Dröge, church president Volker Jung, Kerstin Griese, Thomas Rachel, Jacob Joussen, Elisabeth Gräb-Schmidt, Andreas Barner, Stephanie Springer, Michael Diener, Marlehn Thieme and Dieter Kaufmann.
The Council convened from 21 to 22 January on the invitation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Northern Germany, at Christian-Jensen Kolleg in Breklum. The meeting was followed by a two-day encounter between the Council and the heads of the EKD’s regional member churches, on the topic “Germany in 2017: confessionally at peace but religiously divided?”