Protestant church disputes forms of membership

Protestant church disputes forms of membership

The synod of the Protestant Church in Germany is skeptical about graduated church membership. With resolutions on the church budget, climate protection and refugee policy, the annual meeting of the church parliament came to an end.

The Protestant Church wants to be the first to be able to. Reformation anniversary to break new ground. "Convincing new formats and clever structures" should help deepen the dialogue with society as a whole, according to a policy paper adopted by the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) on Wednesday in Bonn at the end of its annual meeting. In addition, appeals for increased climate protection in Germany and more generous family reunification for refugees were adopted. The synod also released additional money to make up for a deficit from the Reformation anniversary celebrations.

From the synod's point of view, it is obvious to "continue to think about supplementary or alternative forms of participation in church life or belonging to the church". "The biblical mandate does not tie the fellowship of believers to church tax payments," said synod president Irmgard Schwaetzer during the controversial debate on the paper, which was ultimately approved with one abstention. A request to explicitly also think about a new form of church membership was deleted from the proposed resolution at the request of the synod majority.

"Church to try out first"

Vice-president Klaus Eberl had spoken on the fringes of the deliberations of a "need of many people to try out church first". However, tiered membership would raise fundamental questions about church tax collection and the binding nature of church membership, for example.

The Protestant church had been celebrating 500 years of the Reformation through the end of October. In 1517, Martin Luther (1483-1546) had published his 95 Theses against the ills of the church of his day, which, according to tradition, he read on 31. October nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. The posting of the theses is considered the starting point of the worldwide Reformation, which resulted in the split between the Protestant and Catholic churches.

Coordination team in planning

At the synod meeting, it was noted that unusual offerings at special locations helped the celebrations reach people who were far from church. "Many other proceeds of the jubilee remain to be identified," the summary resolution states. To this end, the church parliament wants to form a coordination team together with the Council of the EKD and the Church Conference, in which the 20 regional churches are represented.

The synod released additional money in Bonn to finance the celebrations. In total, the Protestant church will once again contribute up to twelve million euros, according to budget resolutions. This is due to fewer tickets sold, lower sponsorship revenues and higher expenses for security measures that had not previously been factored in. Whether the entire twelve million will be needed to make up the deficit will only be determined in the course of next year. The EKD had originally earmarked 30 million euros for central events such as the world exhibition and the Kirchentag in Berlin and Wittenberg.

Working against climate change

Synod urges more ambitious political action against climate change. The church parliament demanded an emergency climate protection program from the federal government for the years 2018 to 2020, in order to still achieve the goal of a greenhouse gas reduction of 40 percent set by then. The program should include the socially responsible phase-out of all coal-fired power plants that have an operating life of more than 30 years, the resolution continues. The synod also calls for more efforts to expand renewable energies and financial aid for poor countries that have to cope with damage and losses caused by climate change.

In the current discussion about family reunification of refugees, the synod proposed to make it possible for those in need of protection to bring their relatives with them through legal channels. The black-red federal government had suspended the family reunion for the group of subsidiary protected persons, which mainly affects Syrians. Whether the regulation, which expires in March 2018, should continue to apply is disputed among the parties currently taking soundings in Berlin. The church parliament demanded that the reunification of relatives be made possible again.

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