Organizing Witness and Service Together
Assembly Greeting from UEC Presiding Bishop Fischer
STUTTGART, Germany/GENEVA, 2 August 2010 – “The preaching of the churches gains in credibility in the world when they are at one in their witness to the gospel. The gospel liberates and binds together the churches to render common service.” It was with this quotation from the 1973 Leuenberg Agreement that Bishop Dr. Ulrich Fischer, executive committee chair of the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK) in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), began his greeting to the Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
Fischer also brought greetings from the chair of the EKD Council, President Nikolaus Schneider. The quotation from the Leuenberg Agreement had a direct connection with the theme of the Assembly “Give us today our daily bread.” Fischer went on to state: “Our mission to witness together to the gospel includes the fact that, in the fellowship of Christian churches, we ask God credibly for daily bread and take practical steps so that all people may receive what they need every day.”
The Leuenberg Agreement constitutes a firm theological basis for the EKD with its Lutheran, United and Reformed member churches, he claimed. “We are witnessing how we have grown together theologically in pulpit and altar fellowship.” The EKD understands itself as an expression of church in which the differing perspectives of Reformation theology are regarded as an enriching feature of its unity.
Since 2006 the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (VELKD) and the UEK have been bound together even more intensively through agreements with the EKD “in order to achieve as much oneness of all member churches as possible, strengthen the unity of our witness, enable a high-profile Protestant presence in society and the general public, and deepen intra-Protestant ecumenism.”
“In our closer cooperation we are currently discovering the spiritual power emanating from the preparations for the Reformation quincentenary in 2017,” explained Bishop Fischer. The planning process for this major event was shedding light on “central dimensions of the Reformation” through the key concepts for the thematic years leading up to 2017: education, freedom, music, tolerance, politics, images and the Bible, and “one world.”
The ecumenical dimension of this Reformation anniversary is coming out more and more clearly, Fischer said. “We are only part of a Reformation remembrance that links us with you, the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, in a special way. But the ecumenical context of remembering the Reformation reaches far further, seeing that the Reformation profoundly changed the face of the church all over the world. That particularly applies to our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers. The anniversary of the Reformation is a worldwide ecumenical event that contains enormous potential for the fellowship of the worldwide church of Jesus Christ and inspires us to bear common witness.”
Precisely in view of the 2017 commemorations, the understanding of ecumenism “in reconciled diversity” developed in the Leuenberg Agreement could point beyond itself. “Going beyond the European sphere, it can promote an understanding of ecumenism in which the ‘communio’ of churches does not just put up with theological differences but perceives them as enlivening elements of a common quest for truth. The point is to discover the wealth and beauty of the church in its diversity as God’s work.” (548 words)