Ecumenical News International

Dialogue with religions to feature in Reformation anniversary

April 14, 2016

Berlin (epd). According to Protestant church leaders, the Reformation anniversary in 2017 is to stimulate the dialogue with other religions. Topics like ecumenism and the challenges of the refugee crisis will be priorities during the quincentenary year. At the Protestant Media Days in Berlin, editors-in-chief and leading members of media and publishing houses discussed programme events to mark the 500th anniversary of Protestantism.

One of the highpoints of the Reformation year is the Protestant Kirchentag in Berlin and Wittenberg on Ascension weekend next year (24 to 28 May 2017), underlined Ellen Ueberschär, general secretary of the Kirchentag. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to attend. Beforehand, the regional Kirchentag events in Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt will give people the opportunity to visit historical Luther cities.

Asylum seekers at the Kirchentag

Berlin is "a laboratory situation for intercultural and Interreligious life", that will also be reflected at the Kirchentag, Ueberschär added. She announced that volunteers, who are nation-wide working with and for refugees at present "to the verge of exhaustion" would find a platform for exchange at the Kirchentag. Asylum seekers themselves should be able to attend.

Margot Kässmann, special envoy for the Reformation anniversary of the Evangelical Church in Deutschland (EKD), focused on the World Reformation Exhibition 2017 in Wittenberg. She was convinced It would be have a huge impact on Germany.

Opportunity to come closer in eastern Germany

Kässmann underlined that the Reformation anniversary in 2017 would be the "first one that Protestant were not celebrating alone". The World Reformation Exhibition also aimed to reflect the dialogue of Protestants with their Catholic and Jewish brothers and sisters, and also with Muslims, she said. The planned "House of One" in Berlin was giving a first impression of how religion can be practised side by side. Kässmann was particularly keen to emphasise that 2017 offered an opportunity to bring the mainly unchurched population of eastern Germany into contact with Christians who often suffered reprisals under the earlier GDR-government.

Irmgard Schwaetzer, president of the EKD synod, underlined that during the anniversary year in 2017 Germany would commit itself "with an even greater openness and seriousness" to the interreligious side. "The church is becoming more diverse," Schwaetzer noted.

Already there is great openness in the regional churches towards different styles of spirituality, she added, where "a lot of new approaches have emerged". Schwaetzer interprets this as reflecting social diversity.

Concentrating on core activities

The challenge to the church, going beyond the 500th anniversary, is to establish the congregations again as a "social space", the president of synod said with an eye to the declining numbers of church members. Even after 2017 there must be awareness "that we direct God's Word not only to the congregation but also to the people," Schwaetzer said. In her view, we should be more modest and concentrate on "carrying out what we really see as our mission".

The Protestant Media Days this year are focusing on "Reformation + Revolution - What brings anniversary and future together". Around 50 editors-in-chief and executives in Protestant media meet annually to confer on their work at this two-day meeting.



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