From August 31 to September 4, twenty Lutheran pastors from the German region of Lippe, under the leadership of Superintendent Andreas Lange, visited the Institute for a continuing education seminar. Prof. Birmelé of the Institute gave an introductory lecture on “Being Protestant in France and Alsace.” Prof. Dieter offered an overview of the work of the Institute focused on the three main areas of research, dialogue, and reception, while reviewing the contributions of the Institute toward ecumenism in the past fifty years. Prof. Dieter gave another presentation on “The Lutheran DNA: What is it?” leading to a lively discussion.
The participants further tested a liturgy intended for ecumenical celebrations of the Reformation in 2017 and made helpful suggestions for further refinements of the liturgy. During one of the afternoons of the seminar, Prof. Dieter led the group to the Strasbourg cathedral and expounded on the theological aspects of the cathedral’s imagery. In addition, the group paid a visit to the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar and the John Frederick Oberlin Museum in Waldersbach. Both days at the Institute itself showed once again how fruitful the conversation between ecumenical research and congregational praxis can be.
Herewith several comments from participating pastors:
Pr. Christa Willwacher-Bahr, Detmold: What we are celebrating in 2017 is for Roman Catholics a date linked to the painful memory of the splintering of the church. We can remember it together and in the process also get a better sense of how the Catholic church was challenged by the Reformation to reconsider itself. In ecumenical relationships it is essential to face the past, the the mutual condemnations and persecutions in the name of religion, and through an earnest apology open up the path toward future discussions about theological differences and commonalities.
Superintendent i.R. Dieter Lorenz, Bad Salzuflen: It made quite an impression on me how the professors (Birmelé and Dieter) communicated the basic insights of the Reformation in a clear, engaged, and theologically comprehensible way. For me the discussion about the category of “binding on the conscience” was especially illuminating.
Pr. Dr. Gönke Eberhardt, Lemgo: It is a great treat to be able to peek behind the backdrop of the process of ecumenical agreements. How much patience, tact, and solid theological work are necessary for working on dialogues between the confessions one can only guess at from the outside. Anyone who’s had the chance to visit the Institute herself to work on the major contemporary themes comes away with new tools for communicating these matters at the congregational level.
Superintendent Andreas Lange, Lemgo: Only someone who knows what he stands for is also capable of engaging in real communication. The Institute performs a valuable service toward this end. To be Lutheran is not something special but it is nevertheless something distinctive. For that reason, the question about “Lutheran DNA” is not something superfluous but in fact essential. If such questions can be addressed in a way that is as competent and at the same time as friendly as we experienced at the Institute, then we can only rejoice that we had this opportunity for further learning in Strasbourg.
Pr. Lars Kirchhof, Detmold: To pose the question “What do we have in common after 500 years with our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers?” and not so much the perspective of “What divides us?” gives me as a parish pastor new motivation to undertake theologically well-grounded conversations and projects looking toward 2017 that will reflect this knowledge.
Pr. Steffie Langenau, Bad Salzuflen: The talent of the professors got me enthused to try to successfully communicate theologically demanding ideas in a limited amount time without oversimplifying matters. We were by no means a homogenous group, but the ability to join in the conversation with this kind of background was extraordinarily helpful. Moreover I greatly enjoyed with amazement the great friendliness with which we were welcomed, accompanied, and shown around the city.