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.