“Only the diversity of all colors allows the light to shine”

One thing is the same for all: Christ. © Peter Kneffel

Ecumenism means more than just being Protestant or Catholic. The diversity of Christian denominations was the focus of the ecumenism theme day, an event at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Protestant Church in Berlin. German Protestant Church Congress in Berlin.

"I am a priest. Old Catholic priestess. Those of you who know what this means?" When Alexandra Pook from Cologne asked the question, most of the hands in the Franzosische Friedrichskirche in Berlin stayed down. Today it is to be enlightened, about the fact that ecumenism means much more than only the Reformation and its consequences. Representatives of Catholic and Reformed churches, as well as Orthodox churches, have met here today to exchange ideas, but also to learn from each other.

The small religious community of Old Catholics, represented by the priestess Pook, was founded at the end of the 18th century. Excommunicated by the pope at the end of the nineteenth century, after the first Vatican Council. They did not want to accept the infallibility dogma of the head of the church. After a short period of perplexity, they founded their own faith community, one in which there is no pope and women stand behind the altar and worship.

Protestant does not equal evangelical

One of the greatest challenges in ecumenical dialogue is that evangelical does not mean Protestant. Like the Orthodox Church, the churches of the Reformation are divided within themselves. In Germany alone, there are three Protestant sub-denominations, the Lutherans, the Uniates and the Reformed, who also do not agree on all ies. In addition, there are communities, such as Pentecostal churches, or denominations from abroad, such as the Copts, which complete the ecumenical concert.

"For a long time we said: everything that is not Catholic is Reformed. Today we see things in a more differentiated way," explains Bettina Beer-Aebi of the Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches. "When we put up the first Easter candle in a Protestant church in Switzerland 40 years ago, it was already far too Catholic for many people. Others had no problem with it, and today it is almost a matter of course in many places."It is just as natural that there are drinks and glasses on the altar in the middle of the church at Gendarmenmarkt, where the discussion is taking place. "For us evangelical Christians, this is a table. Only in the service it becomes the altar."

Dialogue with the Orthodox Church

While 2017 marks 500 years of the Reformation in the Western world, there is another church schism that is much older: the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches. Radu Miron is an archpriest of the Greek Orthodox Church and explains that in Orthodoxy it is often more about the image than the spoken word. But in order to live the faith properly, both are needed. "The word is image and image is word. If we only work with one half of the brain, we do not live holistically."

The division of earlier centuries, whether between Catholic and Protestant or between East and West, is more a question of the past. Today the groups mix. In almost all Catholic regions there are also Protestant Christians and vice versa. Orthodoxy also sees this. Today, there is no longer a division between East and West; almost all Orthodox forms have their own foreign churches in Germany. The problem for them is rather one of "non-simultaneity," explains Archpriest Miron: "Some Orthodox Christians in Germany are refugees who arrived in the country six weeks ago. Others have been running the Acropolis restaurant around the corner for decades."

Luther and the Catholics

The Catholic Church has also learned from 500 years of Reformation history. "Without Luther, our church would be a different one, but guaranteed not a better one" explains Dr. Burkhard Neumann of the Catholic Johann Adam Mohler Institute for Ecumenics in Paderborn, Germany. "Through the Reformation, for example, we now place more value on the spoken word. Even a Catholic service is judged by how good or bad the sermon is."

In recent years, ecumenical cooperation between the denominations has become less of a demarcation and more of a dialogue. The year 2017 gives impetus to further developments there. Even the leaders of the churches meet today with friendship and sympathy, but are not afraid to address contradictions. The greatest advantage of this development, however, lies with each Christian himself, explains Neumann: "Today, everyone knows why he belongs to his denomination, what he finds good or bad about it."

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