The Institute for Ecumenical Research had the joy and honor of hosting the session of the bishops of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany from March 15 to 18, 2019, on the theme “The Episcopal Office, Lutheran Identity, and Leadership in the Church.” Following a reception on the first evening, the issues at hand were addressed the following day at the Séminaire Protestant in Strasbourg. The bishops of the seven member churches of the UELCG, along with ordained pastors serving in church leadership roles and representatives from both the UELCG and the German National Committee of the Protestant Church in Germany, took part in the conference. In addition, guests from the Lutheran churches of Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, and Silesia were invited to attend.
On Saturday the theme of the conference was addressed from a variety of perspectives. Prof. Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth (Director of the Strasbourg Institute) spoke about the Lutheran understanding of church leadership and thereby laid the groundwork for the discussion. In connection with this, Prof. Dr. Theodor Dieter shed light on the Lutheran understanding in terms of its history in church controversies and with reference to current developments within the Lutheran World Federation. The third contribution from the Institute came from Prof. Dr. Stefan Dienstbeck, who dealt critically with the question of church leadership from the perspective of theologian Paul Tillich. To conclude, PD Dr. Holger Böckel reflected on church leadership from the perspective of organizational logistics and theological responsibility. At the end of the lectures there was time to discuss the various perspectives and facets of the Lutheran understanding of the ministry of leadership.
On Sunday March 17, the day began with a festive eucharistic worship service at the St. Thomas Church, which included a greeting from the chair of the bishops’ conference, Bp. Ralf Meister, and a sermon from French pastor Philippe Günther, the local inspecteur ecclésiastique. The service concluded with a welcome for the conference participants from the President of the Union of Protestant Churches in Alsace and Lorraine, Christian Albecker. After a tour of the Strasbourg cathedral led by Prof. Dr. Dieter and a report from the various international guests regarding the situation in their countries, the conference participants had the opportunity to speak with European delegates Arne Leitz (S&D) and Rainer Wieland (EVP) about the role of the church in Europe.
Monday morning was reserved for the business portion of the meeting, during which the international guests had a further look around Strasbourg, especially the old church St. Pierre-le-Jeune. After lunch, and thanks to Ms. Elke Leypold who undertook all the arrangements, the guests went on their way with a blessing for travel.
Photos: Henrike Müller, Elke Leypold