Preliminary Talks Begin within German Protestant Churches

The three largest umbrella church bodies began preliminary agreements for cooperation. The three groups, United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Union of Evangelical Churches in the EKD (UEK), represent dozens of protestant churches with a total of over 36 million German Christian members.

According to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), structural debate to strengthen cooperation between the EKD member churches has been going on for the past two years.

“Strong unanimity marked the negotiation process by the three high-ranking commissions that elaborated the draft agreements on the future relations between the EKD, UEK and VELKD,” the LWF reported, December 11.

The three “high ranking” commissioners were: VELKD Presiding Bishop, Dr Hans-Christian Knuth (Schleswig), UEK General Conference Chairperson, Bishop Dr Ulrich Fischer (Baden) and EKD Council Vice-Chairperson, Bishop Dr Christoph Kähler (Thuringia),

The VELKD and the UEK submitted for approval reforms that aim at achieving the highest level of cooperation within EKD member churches.

Under the new reforms, the UEK and VELKD offices will be set up in the EKD Church Office in Hanover, and the tasks of individual bodies will take place within that office so duplication of structures can be reduced. The UEK and VELKD will maintain authority over the policy decisions and initiatives – especially in regards to theological beliefs. In this way, the UEK and VELKD will be able retain its legal authorities while being a part of the EKD.

Preliminary approval for the reforms mean individual church bodies and synods are able to consider the agreement and make constitutional amendments. Member churches within the UEK, VELKD and EKD must approve the reform during the 2006 meeting, in order for the agreements to take effect by January 2007.