Helping to shape Europe as a peace project

Members of the VELKD Bishops' Conference, ecumenical guests and staff of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg. Photo: VELKD
Members of the VELKD Bishops' Conference, ecumenical guests and staff of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg. Photo: VELKD

Church leaders affirm ecumenical commitment to justice and human dignity

(LWI) - Bishops from German Lutheran churches have reaffirmed the commitment to promoting the spirit of Europe as a community of countries. “We owe it to a Europe in crisis to share our experiences from the work of reconciliation,” said United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) Presiding Bishop Ralf Meister. “The ecumenical movement must play its part in shaping Europe as a peace project.”

The bishops were attending a retreat organized by the VELKD, 15-18 March, in Strasbourg (France). Other church leaders at the gathering included The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Vice-Presidents Pröpstin Astrid Kleist (Central Western Europe) and Archbishop Urmas Viilma (Central Eastern Europe).

Ecumenical and European

“Bishop Dr Frank-Otfried July, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg and chairperson of the LWF German National Committee, underlined the connections between churches in the continent: “With their networks, the churches in Europe must show clearly that Europe is a community. I am backing communication by the churches among each other as a way of opposing the new nationalism, racism and inability to speak up.”

Ecumenical and European: these should be characteristic features of all churches in Europe
Presiding Bishop Ralf Meister, United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany

At a reception hosted by Christian Albecker, President of the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL), Meister paid tribute to the founding of UEPAL 13 years ago as a strong boost to the Protestant voice in Europe. “Ecumenical and European: these should be characteristic features of all churches in Europe,” he said. Then they can carry out their mission and “stand up for freedom, justice and human dignity so that there is no more conflict, war or violence among the peoples in Europe,” the VELKD leader added.

“Episcopé, Lutheran identity and church leadership” was the theme of the bishops’ retreat, organized jointly with the LWF Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg.

Perspectives on church leadership

The venue of the meeting reflected the great importance that VELKD attaches to ecumenism in its work, said Oberkirchenrat Johannes Dieckow from the VELKD section of the EKD Church Office in Hanover. He highlighted VELKD’s strong ties with the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg which for several decades has been largely responsible for accompanying the LWF’s international ecumenical dialogues.

The institute’s director Dr Jennifer Wasmuth presented a paper on Lutheran understanding of church leadership, while her predecessor Dr Theodor Dieter discussed an ecumenical perspective of leadership in Lutheran churches. In his paper on the absence of leadership in the church, Dr Stefan Dienstbeck (University of Augsburg), raised critical questions based on the writings of theologian Paul Tillich, and Dr Holger Böckel (Heidelberg University) explored church leadership requirements for the future.

In view of the European parliamentary elections in May this year, members of the VELKD Bishops’ Conference and their guests met with Arne Lietz and Rainer Wieland, two German members of the European Parliament. The church leaders shared their perspectives on the region’s current developments, on populism, visions and values for the continent.


The United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) is a union of seven regional churches in Germany. Its members are: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, the Evangelical Church in Central Germany, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schaumburg-Lippe. The VELKD represents around 9 million congregation members. Its presiding bishop is Bishop Ralf Meister (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover).