“Energetic manner and theological wisdom”

Departure with enormous gratitude: (from l.) LWF General Secretary Martin Junge and Pastor Hans Kasch. Photo LWF/A. Weyermüller
Departure with enormous gratitude: (from l.) LWF General Secretary Martin Junge and Pastor Hans Kasch. Photo LWF/A. Weyermüller

Hans Kasch retires as director of the LWF Center in Wittenberg

(LWI) – “Hans Kasch’s dedication was essential in order to promote the active relations of the world communion with the city, sites and theology of Martin Luther. He leaves a lasting legacy for which we in the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) are profoundly grateful,” said LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Martin Junge in his address to Rev. Kasch, the first director of the LWF Center Wittenberg, Germany.

A special service on 25 June marked the retirement of Rev. Kasch. He had taken up his position with the newly founded LWF Center in Wittenberg in February 2009. Guests from Germany and the Lutheran communion worldwide were present for the occasion. Among those praising Rev. Kasch for his achievements in Wittenberg were Reiner Haseloff, the state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, and Torsten Zugehör, the lord mayor of Wittenberg. Personal friends from Tanzania and the US had made the trip to attend the farewell ceremony.

Rev. Kasch had welcomed people from all over the world to Wittenberg with “great enthusiasm and warm kindness” and had made an important contribution to the LWF communion, commented Bishop Gerhard Ulrich, chair of the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF).

The importance of international contacts

“You have established a place of education and training here for the LWF,” Ulrich underlined. The international theological seminars of the center are important, he added, to ensure that LWF member churches, while regarding “theological education as the foundation of proclamation”, can offer regular opportunities for continuing education.

In his sermon, Rev. Kasch looked back over the incidents in his life that had led him to Wittenberg. He underlined how important it was for him as a young pastor – in what was then the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – to have church contacts beyond the iron curtain: “This tailwind helped me to cope with restrictions, harassment and threats, and to stay the course.”

In Wittenberg too, the “friendly encounters, intensive debates and discussions” with guests from all over the world had been very enriching for him, he said. In the last few years Rev. Kasch had accompanied over 20 international seminars, shown countless visitor groups around Wittenberg and accompanied several hundred tree plantings in the Luthergarten.

It is important to him that the LWF does not leave Wittenberg after 2017: “On the contrary, the work goes on,” Rev. Kasch said. “There is plenty of work for my successor. The seminars for different interest groups will be a special focus of activity.”

An East German biography

Hans Wilhelm Kasch was born in 1953 in Penzlin, Mecklenburg, north Germany. Having been brought up in a Christian family, he was not allowed to complete secondary school and take the university entrance examination. After three years at the church seminary in Hermannswerder he studied theology from 1972 to 1978 at the catechetic seminary in Naumburg, Saale. Two years as pastor in training at Schkölen, the church province of Saxony, followed. In 1980 Kasch was ordained in the Pritzier parish near Hagenow. He made his first ecumenical contacts outside the GDR in the mid-1980s.

Even before the reunification of Germany, Kasch went to the US with a delegation of GNC/LWF churches in the GDR to visit partner congregations. From 1993, until he began his post in Wittenberg, Rev. Kasch was the pastor responsible for mission and ecumenism of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg.

Rev. Inken Wöhlbrand, Rev. Kasch’s successor, will begin her job as director of the LWF Center in Wittenberg in October.