17 January 2010

Which way for the church in one Germany?

From 15 to 17 January, representatives of the (West German) Evangelical Church in Germany and the Federation of Evangelical Churches (BEK) in the GDR met at the Evangelical Academy ostensibly for a long-planned event to mark 20 years of the "special fellowship" between the Protestant churches in East and West. What had been intended as an opportunity to look back and forward since the founding of the BEK ended up taking place in the middle of the turbulance of the peaceful revolution and the aftermath of the opening of the borders on 9 November. On 17 January, the meeting published what became known as the Loccum Declaration - this called for convergence between the two German states within the context of an all-European process, and taking seriously the concerns of European neighbours. But it also stated that whatever the political developments in Europe those in Loccum wanted to give "the special fellowship of the whole of Evangelical Christendom in Germany an organizationally appropriate expression in one church". Ideas that this might mean the creation of a new organizational structure for German Protestantism proved as illusory as the suggestion that German unification would be achieved through the negotiation, by the two German states, of a new constitution for the unified Germany.

Coming when it did, this call was understood as an impulse towards German unity (and provoked overwhelmingly negative reactions from within the Federation of Protestant Churches). As a reaction to the Loccum Declaration, four of those most active within the Conciliar Process (Konrad Raiser and Ulrich Duchrow from the West, and Heino Falcke and Joachim Garstecki from the East) published in February a counter-statement entitled the "Berlin Declaration" strongly critical of the Loccum declaration and of attempts to promote the rapid unification of Germany, in which they explicitly invoked the conciliar process to plead for an alternative to both capitalism and state socialism:
We must resist the misleading alternative of either capitalism or socialism that increasingly dominates the German-German talks. In the conciliar process for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation has become obvious that both systems are not in the position to provide answers to the question of the survival of humanity and the earth. The churches have the biblical mandate to be advocates of human beings and fellow creatures that have been sacrificed. The prising open of the encrusted German situation offers our churches and our societies the opportunity for a common "Umkehr" - repentance and renewal.


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