Germany: Anna-Nicole Heinrich youngest president of EKD synod

Newly elected president of the EKD Synod, Anna-Nicole Heinrich, during the EKD’s synodal meeting which took place mostly online. Photo: epd-bild
Newly elected president of the EKD Synod, Anna-Nicole Heinrich, during the EKD’s synodal meeting which took place mostly online. Photo: epd-bild

Heinrich: “My church has shown courage in electing me to this office”

(LWI) - This weekend Ms Anna-Nicole Heinrich was elected as the new president of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) on 8 May. A 25-year-old student from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, she is the youngest person elected to this office in the history of the EKD.

“As president of the EKD Synod, I stand for a hopeful, integrating, and pragmatic church that is always reviving itself,” the Heinrich said in her introductory speech.

Heinrich represents the ELCB at the synod and was previously a youth delegate. She studied philosophy at the University of Regensburg And has since pursued master’s degrees in digital humanities as well as human image and values. She is vice-chair of the Protestant Youth in Germany (aej).

“I look a bit humbly at the next days, weeks, and six years at the helm of the Synod. It is a great task. My church has shown courage in electing me to this office,” Heinrich told the news agency epd after the election.

She succeeds 79-year-old former politician Irmgard Schwaetzer at the head of the church parliament. “Yes, I have less than a third of Irmgard Schwaetzer’s life experience,” Heinrich said. “But I hope I won’t be reduced to being young. My job is to bring the concerns of the Synod to our church. But of course, I differ significantly from my predecessor in language and appearance. We are children of two different generations, and yet we get along well.”

Heinrich cites the EKD’s future processes as a prominent theme of the new synod period. “We must now take up the package that the last synod packed and set ourselves the goals required,” the new president said. These processes had to be linked to the churches’ experiences of the last few months: “We need to reflect on the pandemic, preserve good things and focus on the spiritual and theological challenges.”

The chairperson of the EKD Council, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm described the election as “historic”. The Leading Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria said it was a "very strong sign for our church" and underlined the importance of young people in shaping the future. Bedford-Strohm has continuously advocated greater participation of young people in the Protestant church.

“The election of Anna-Nicole Heinrich for such an important position is not only a sign of recognition of her ability and experience, but also a strong testimony to the understanding of the role of young leaders in the church,” said Rev. Dr. Ireneusz Lukas, Regional Secretary for Europe at The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). “If the church is to be a living church, it needs not only to talk about young people as the future, but it needs to enable young people to realize their full potential in the present. On behalf of the LWF, I congratulate the EKD Synod on this historic decision, and I wish the new president God's blessing in her ministry.”

The LWF has promoted youth participation and leadership at all levels since the 1984 Assembly in Budapest. There is a policy to intentionally promote the youth participation to at least 20 percent in all LWF events and spaces. In 2017 the Twelfth LWF Assembly called on its member churches “to act on the implementation of 20 percent youth participation at all levels within the churches to ensure youth participation in decision-making, planning, strategizing and a right to vote.”

 

Source: epd, Edited by LWF/A. Weyermüller