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The head of Germany's 25 million Protestants resigned on Wednesday after police stopped her for driving while under the influence of alcohol just four months after becoming the third woman to head a major Christian church.
Known as the "pop bishop," 51-year-old Margot Kässmann is a regular on television talk shows and had been a controversial choice as head of Germany's Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the main association of Protestant churches, because she is a divorced mother of four.
Betraying no emotion, she told reporters she had made a grave mistake which she deeply regretted: "But I cannot ignore the fact that my office and my authority ... have been damaged." With immediate effect, she would give up her role as leader of the EKD, an umbrella group of 22 Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches, and as Lutheran bishop of Hanover, she said.
Thundering sermons can produce some surprising results in Germany these days.
Bishop Margot Kässmann, the new head of Germay's main association of Protestant churches (EKD -- Evangelical Church in Germany), reaped a tirade of criticism from politicians after she denounced Germany's military mission in a New Year's sermon at the Berlin Cathedral, the city's huge monument to Prussian Protestantism. A church leader calls for peace -- that's not news. Politicians supporting soldiers at the front -- that's not a headline either.
But then came a few interesting twists. Instead of simply fueling the polemics, Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg -- surprise #1 -- invited her to meet and exchange views. At the meeting in Berlin on Monday, he -- surprise #2 -- invited Kässmann to visit the troops in Afghanistan soon. According to the Rheinische Post newspaper, they -- surprise #3 -- agreed to set up a "regular dialogue between the churches and the Bundeswehr (armed forces)." Anyone who has been following Kässmann, the 51-year-old Lutheran bishop of Hannover elected last October as Germany's top Protestant leader (and the first woman to hold the post), would say the only non-surprise in all this was that she accepted the invitation to Afghanistan. She is not someone to run away from challenges.
from Raw Japan:
In the minds of many people, religious rivalry could occasionally be expected to spill over into violence in places as diverse as the occupied West Bank or Glasgow's 'Old Firm' football derby.
Japan's Kansai region, home to the world's most renowned Zen gardens and some of the country's finest cuisine, on the other hand, is not generally seen as a tinderbox of religious tension.
Here's an interesting survey that was released on Monday by LifeWay Research, which is the number crunching arm of the South Baptist Convention, America's largest evangelical group.
Anniversaries are a time to look back at how the world was before the historic event being commemorated. During a recent trip to Berlin in advance of today's 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall, I asked the former East German theologian and politician Richard Schröder for his recollections of the life as a Protestant pastor before the country fell apart. He zeroed in on a fascinating aspect of the Communists' anti-religion policy I'd never heard about before. (Photo: Richard Schröder, 21 Oct 2009/Tom Heneghan)
"The Communists who took over in 1945 were trained in Russia," he told me at his home in a southern suburb of Berlin. "Their model was the Russian Orthodox Church, which focuses heavily on the liturgy. By contrast, Protestant churches have always been a wide field that included Bible study and other discussion groups. All the charity work of the Protestant churches, like their hospitals, were started by what you might call grass roots movements of congregation members. They were not started by the churches themselves. But the Communists always tried to handle us as if we were Russian Orthodox."
As Germany celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, some Protestants feel the crucial role their church played in shepharding the democracy movement to success is quietly being overlooked. This seems strange to someone like myself who reported on those events back then. Any reporter in Berlin in the tense weeks before Nov. 9, 1989 knew the Protestant (mostly Lutheran) churches sheltered dissidents and was working for reform. But the idea that this was fading from public view came up during my recent visit to Leipzig when, at an organ recital in Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche), the pastor mentioned the point in a sermon. (Photo: St. Thomas Church in Leipzig with Bach statue, 17 Oct 2009/Tom Heneghan)
When I later went up to Berlin, I ran the idea past a leading east German Protestant theologian and a pastor and two parish council members from the Gethsemane Church (Gethsemanekirche). That church in eastern Berlin was one of the most active centres of protest in the tense months before demonstrators forced open the Wall on Nov. 9, 1989. They all agreed.
German Protestants on Wednesday elected Margot Kässmann, a divorcee and the Lutheran bishop of Hanover, to lead their Church, the first woman to take the post and only the third woman to head a major Christian church.
Kässmann, 51, a regular on television talk shows and known in the media as the "pop bishop," was considered something of a controversial candidate to lead Germany's roughly 25 million Protestants because she is divorced. But she won 132 of 142 votes at a synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), an umbrella group for 22 Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches, in the vote to replace the retiring Berlin Bishop Wolfgang Huber, 67, as EKD chairman.
If "the devil is in the details" when two groups seek a merger, where will he be hiding when the Vatican talks with disaffected Anglicans who want to join the Roman church? Neither the agenda nor the schedule for these talks are clear, but some issues are starting to emerge as possible hurdles to a smooth switchover for Anglicans who want to "swim the Tiber." (Photo: St. Peter's Basilica and the Tiber River, 23 Dec 1999/Mario Laporta)
There is little clarity yet on either side. The Vatican has not spelled out the conditions of the "Apostolic Constitution" to accept Anglicans who want to join Catholicism while maintaining some of their own traditions. Additionally, there are varied faces of Anglicanism, which in its dogmas and practices stands somewhere between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions such as the Lutheran or Reformed churches. This will clearly take a while to work out.
They came, they prayed, they appealed.
Religious leaders from around the world held their own not-so-mini "G8 summit" in Italy on June 16-17. The "Fourth Summit of Religious Leaders on the occasion of the G8," as the meeting was officially called, started with a visit to L'Aquila, the central Italian city severely damaged by an earthquake on April 6. That will be the venue in July of the actual summit of the G8 club of industrial nations.
A new on-line forum launched on Tuesday seeks to spark discussion among faith and secular leaders and activists about ways to find some elusive common ground on the divisive issue of abortion.
It's being rolled out by RH Reality Check, which focuses on reproductive health and rights issues, and can be seen here.