“We have 2000 years of common church history”

Today is Reformation Day. For Catholics, this day before All Saints’ Day is no reason to celebrate, as it represents Martin Luther’s division of the church in the 16th century. Century. This year, Christians are looking especially to the Reformation anniversary in 2017 in five years’ time. On our site interview Synod President Katrin Goring-Eckardt attempts a rapprochement.

Interviewer: To what extent will the anniversary of the Reformation also be a topic at the upcoming EKD synod in five years’ time??–

Ms. Goring-Eckhardt: This will even be the defining theme. We want to look at the theology for the Reformation anniversary. The synod has set itself the task of sending out a signal this year and influencing what is planned and what is done. We want to ask the question: What does the Reformation actually mean to us today?? What makes our faith today? Where is our heart moved? Where are the turning points in life? That was a central question for Martin Luther and the Reformers. In this respect, this is the central theme of our synod.

Interviewer: In other words, to relate everything that happened 500 years ago more closely to today?–

Goring-Eckhardt: Well, not just what was 500 years ago. We have 2000 years of common church history and the questions of doubt and individuality have always occupied us as Christians together. And of course a lot has happened in the last 500 years, in so far not only what was 500 years ago, related to today, but the question of what constitutes the Reformation today, based on the keywords of the Reformation. At that time, it was all about communication, and printing was a central ie, something we can hardly imagine today, when many people want to say goodbye to paper and books again. But today, of course, communication is also a central question in matters of faith. Or education or emancipation. All big topics that concern us just as much today as they did then.

Interviewer: Five years is still a while away – but are there already concrete plans for the anniversary celebration??–

Goring-Eckhardt: Of course. We will not only celebrate in Wittenberg and around Wittenberg, but on the one hand we will be on the road in Reformation cities all over Germany. But of course we will not lose the European view and we are sure that Reformation is actually also a world-class event. We don’t do it alone either, we do it with the catholic brothers and sisters in faith, with representatives of other religions, but we also do it with the "state" representatives and representatives. In a motion supported by all parliamentary groups, the German Bundestag has made it clear that the anniversary of the Reformation not only has something to do with religion, but also with history and our state. I have already mentioned the topic of education, but of course also the reference to individuality, the responsibility of the individual, the development of democracy, all this has a lot to do with the Reformers and their confessions. In this respect, it is not something where we rejoice behind closed doors about something that only concerns us, but we want to go out into the world.

Interviewer: You have just mentioned ecumenical cooperation. The Catholic ecumenical bishop Gerhard Feige from Magdeburg said yesterday on this site that from his point of view Catholics are not that enthusiastic about the anniversary of the Reformation and cannot celebrate it so happily. How do you see it?–

Goring-Eckhardt: I very much hope that it will succeed. There is still a little time for that. We really want to celebrate together, because you can’t say that with the Reformation anniversary we wanted to celebrate something that distinguishes us, but rather we are celebrating that we have put the word and the person of Christ back at the center. And we can now really celebrate this together, there will be no distinction between the denominations, even if there are of course still things that separate us. And the reference to Christ, the reference to the Word of God, the reference to grace – now that is really something that unites us. And I very much hope that we can really celebrate this together. And it is not the case that church history has stood still and that some have gone in one direction and others in the other, but rather that we have taken many steps together. The Second Vatican Council is an example of where the question of individuality and grace played a major role – and that was 50 years ago. Why should we not be able to commemorate it together.

Interviewer: This means that the Catholic Church is now also playing an active role in the preparations and planning for the anniversary? —

Goring-Eckhardt: We are holding many discussions, and of course we are holding them centrally, between the EKD and the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, so to speak, but we are also holding them at the international level and, above all, we are also holding them in the parishes. In the meantime, they are also preparing themselves, the regional churches are also preparing themselves, and there it is never possible without including the Catholic brothers and sisters, in whatever way. And it is also aimed at us as Christians, in the sense of an arance of what we believe, to make clear, even in a world that is becoming more and more secular, what we are actually about. I think that is a good claim, for that one can also use such a jubilee, which leads now once to the fact that the spotlights are switched on, together. Background
Protestant Christians nationwide celebrate Reformation Day this Wednesday. The Protestant Church commemorates its origins with church services and numerous events. Almost 500 years ago, on 31. October 1517, Martin Luther circulated his 95 Theses against the abuses of the late medieval church. This date is considered the beginning of the Reformation. About 100.000 mainly young guests are also expected nationwide for so-called ChurchNight actions and Luther parties.
This is meant to contrast with the widespread Halloween celebrations.

On Reformation Day, the First broadcast the central service live from Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church starting at 10 a.m. The sermon will be preached by Nikolaus Schneider, President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). This is also his first official appearance after a long illness. The service will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the famous St. Thomas Boys Choir. Afterwards, the Martin Luther Medal will be awarded to the conductor and former director of the Bach Academy Stuttgart, Helmuth Rilling (79).

The new theme year "Reformation and Tolerance" of the Luther Decade will be opened in Worms on Wednesday evening. This also marks the halfway point of the Decade, with which the Protestant churches and the federal, state and local governments are jointly preparing for the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. The Luther Decade, which began in Wittenberg in 2008, focuses on a different theme each year. The year 2012 focused on "Reformation and music".

At the opening of the new theme year 2013, the EKD ambassador for the Reformation anniversary, Margot Kabmann, preaches. Federal Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) is also expected to speak in Lutherstadt.

Reformation Day is a public holiday in the new federal states, but not in Berlin and in the old federal territory. In Thuringia, this day is celebrated as a public holiday only in predominantly Protestant communities.

Katrin Goring-Eckardt between church office and top Green Party campaigner
Synod president and Bundestag vice president: Katrin Goring-Eckardt (Greens) has long combined Protestantism and politics in one person. Next week, however, her dual role will be particularly piquant: When the church parliament of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) begins its deliberations under her chairmanship on Sunday in the Baltic Sea resort of Timmendorfer Strand, the counting of votes in the Green Party’s primary election for the top duo in the Bundestag election will begin at the same time. Goring-Eckardt is also a candidate for this post.

So far, the 46-year-old is taking this simultaneity of events in her stride: "Fortunately, they’re only counting," she said in Berlin on Monday. She has a clear agreement with the presidium of the EKD Synod: If she becomes the top woman in her party, she will leave her church office. Politicians from the CDU/CSU and FDP already judged Goring-Eckardt’s application for the top election team as incompatible with church offices. But the presidium did not see this as a problem.

According to the Greens’ timetable, the latest date for her election is 9. The result of the primary election will be known in November. If the counting of votes is finished earlier, it could tangentially affect the synod session, which runs until 7. November lasts. "It will not go faster," Goring-Eckardt is convinced.

For the Green politician, political and Christian responsibility have always belonged together. Born in Friedrichroda, Thuringia, Goring-Eckardt studied Protestant theology in the GDR. In the time of political upheaval, her political commitment began. She was a founding member of "Democracy Now" and "Alliance 90". She has been a member of the Bundestag since 1998, has served as
2002 to 2005 parliamentary group chairwoman. Bundestag vice president she is since 2005.

At the same time, she has taken on church offices: Since 2009, she has been president of the EKD synod. She was also responsible for the 2010 Protestant church congress in Dresden as president. As synod chairwoman, she is also a member of the EKD Council.

Goring-Eckardt’s church commitment sets her apart from the other candidates in the primary election. Among the four candidates with the most prospects – apart from her, these are the parliamentary group leaders Renate Kunast and Jurgen Trittin as well as party leader Claudia Roth – she is even apparently the only one who professes her faith. At one of the primary election forums, at which the candidates for the top post faced questions from the grassroots, they were asked whether they believed in God, says Goring-Eckardt. "I was the only one who turned the sign to "yes"."

The Thuringian – the only candidate from eastern Germany among the top candidates – is nevertheless not a promising candidate. "Spiegel Online" recently asked Green voters which team should lead the Greens into the Bundestag election campaign. For Goring-Eckardt, this left only a place in the fourth most popular pairing – alongside Jurgen Trittin and trailing behind the other political pros.

The hope that the party base decides differently than the supporters, Goring-Eckardt is nevertheless noticeable. "I am glad that Synod is. Then I don’t have time to be nervous," she says. And while she then has to exercise political restraint as president, others have it easier: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and SPD candidate for chancellor Peer Steinbruck are also expected at the synod.

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