FaithWorld

German Lutheran bishop quits after report accuses her of sex abuse cover-up

jepsenThe world’s first female Lutheran bishop, Maria Jepsen of Germany, resigned on Friday following a report she had allowed a pastor accused of sexual abuse of teenagers in her diocese continued contact with youngsters. (Photo: Bishop Maria Jepsen announces her resignation in Hamburg July 16, 2010/Christian Charisius)

In an echo of scandals hitting the Catholic Church, Der Spiegel news magazine reported last week that Jepsen, 65, heard in 1999 that the pastor had abused teenagers in his care, but let him stay in contact with youngsters until 2000.

At a news conference, Jepsen, who has been bishop of Hamburg since 1992, did not say when she first heard the allegations, but said she felt her credibility was now in question.  “I no longer feel I am in a position to spread the Good Word as I promised at ordination and when I was made bishop,” she said.

It was the first such case to hit the Evangelical Church in Germany  (EKD), which groups Lutheran, Reformed and United regional churches with membership of an estimated 24 million people.

The head of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Robert Zollitsch, is under investigation for letting a priest accused of child abuse in the 1960s be reappointed to a parish job decades later.

Germany’s top Protestant bishop quits after drunk driving

kaessmann

Bishop Margot Kässmann at her news conference in Hanover 24 Feb 2010/Stringer

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.

German Protestants pick first woman to head church

Bishop Margot KässmannGerman 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.

“The election sends a signal to the Church worldwide that God calls us to leadership without consideration of gender, color or descent,” Rev. Ishmael Noko, general-secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, told the Ecumenical News International news agency at the synod in Ulm.