Ecumenical News International

Church President Schad: Celebrate the Reformation Anniversary as a joint Christ-Festival

August 12, 2014

Speyer (epd). The Chair of the Union of Evangelical Churches, Church President Christian Schad, considers the demand of some individual Catholic critics for a "boycott" of the celebration of the Reformation in 2017 to be excessive.  A joint "Christ-Festival", which recognizes that blame for the split in the church falls on both parties, could "be the start of finding a new path into the future" for the Churches, according to the President of the Church of the Pfalz, in a conversation with the German Evangelical Press Service (epd).
The background to the call for a boycott is the controversial paper "Justification and Freedom", issued by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which examines the theology of Martin Luther (1483-1546) in the context of the Reformation anniversary.  The EKD text had been criticized from the Catholic side as showing an insufficiently ecumenical position.

Under the main theme of the sharing and healing of memories, the events of history needed to be considered with sincerity and self-criticism, according to President Schad.  The two great churches should openly name the injuries which have been mutually inflicted on each other over the past 500 years and ask God for forgiveness.  With such gestures of reconciliation the churches could demonstrate the liberating and healing power of the gospel and at the same time send out a great ecumenical signal.

The central focus of the Reformation anniversary had to be the biblical message as the common foundation for all Christians.  It is an "ecumenical rule" that the Christian denominations would only able to come substantially closer together by having recourse to the bible texts.

Christian unity was only conceivable as a community of churches that were reconciled to one another, said the Church Leader, who is also a member of the Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians in Germany.  A precondition for that was, however, that the churches overcame the things that divide them and yet at the same time maintained their own profile.  In a "reciprocal learning process" the different denominational traditions would have to be perceived as enrichment and no longer as a reason for separation. 

"There is nothing that we need to take away from ourselves as Christians, but we have something to offer to each other", said President Schad.  The unity of the churches should be neither enforced nor hindered.  Joint Christian witness carried great weight in an increasingly secular society. "The stronger we make our presence felt, for example in ethical questions such as the beginning and end of life, the more clearly we shall be heard."



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