A visible sign of unity

LWF Vice-President Bishop Frank Otfried July says the joint commemoration will send a visible sign of unity. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay
LWF Vice-President Bishop Frank Otfried July says the joint commemoration will send a visible sign of unity. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay

LWF Vice-President July on the Joint Commemoration of the Reformation

(LWI) – Dr h. c. Frank Otfried July has been Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg since 2005. The 2.1 million-member church is one of the 11 German churches that belong to The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). In 2010 the Eleventh Assembly elected July as LWF Vice-President for Central Western Europe. Lutheran World Information spoke to him about the upcoming Reformation commemoration and his expectations of it.

Lutheran World Information: What is the importance of the joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration in Lund and Malmö, from your perspective?

Bishop Frank Otfried July: The service on 31 October will itself be an ecumenical, Reformational act - the fact that we will meet in diversity and at the same time send a very visible sign of unity. Such a sign is impossible to overlook and is desperately necessary in our divided world. I am very much looking forward to the service in Lund.

How are Lutherans and Catholics working together in your region? Can you name an example of good cooperation?

In our state of Baden-Württemberg and in Germany as a whole the number of Catholics and Protestants is practically the same. Around 60 percent of the 80.6 million inhabitants of Germany are Christians, out of which 30 percent are Catholic and 28 percent Protestant. That means that on most issues we can speak with one voice to the government. In the Reformation anniversary year there will be many joint services and celebrations throughout the whole year. And also in terms of our diaconal commitment, for example when it comes to helping refugees, we frequently work together.

I would like to bring back as much as possible of this new ecumenical spirit to my own church so that the fresh ecumenical departure can be felt and seen there, too.
Württemberg Bishop Dr Frank Otfried July, LWF Vice-President Central Western Europe

How can we work together in hope for refugees and displaced people in your region?

In many places we cooperate in our work with refugees. Our Catholic sisters and brothers actually take care of as many refugees in their centers, as we do. We share ideas and help one another in our efforts to assist and integrate the refugees.

How is the Reformation being commemorated in your region?

There will be a host of events: major ones run by the central offices of the Württemberg church and decentralized ones in our congregations. With the action “Baden-Württemberg reads Luther” we are going to invite everyone in our federal state to read Martin Luther’s 1520 treatise on freedom. We would like them to discuss what it has to say to us today and what Reformation means in the present world. We have also translated his Freedom of a Christian works into “simple German.” At different stages of the Reformation anniversary we will celebrate and commemorate the Reformation with our Catholic sisters and brothers, looking at its consequences as well what unites us, which is Jesus Christ.

You will represent the LWF and your region in Lund and Malmö, what are you looking forward to personally during the day?

I am looking forward to the many personal encounters. I am hoping for new ideas and innovations. And I would like to bring back as much as possible of this new ecumenical spirit to my own church so that the fresh ecumenical departure can be felt and seen there, too.

More about the Joint Commemoration