THE first digitally conducted Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) Synod this week adopted a 12-point reform-strategy paper for the next few years, and decided severe austerity measures that will amount to €17 million by 2030.
The 120 lay and clergy members of the EKD Synod met online on Sunday and Monday, and mapped out the course for the future.
At the heart of the debates were “Twelve guiding principles for the future of an open-minded Church”. The EKD wants to become “more transformative and more willing to take risks”.
In future, the EKD wishes structurally to resemble a “state-like agency” less and an “innovation-orientated enterprise” more. It urged the 20 Lutheran, Reformed, and United Regional member Churches to forge closer co-operation. It further discussed digitisation and opening the Church to non-members.
The EKD council member responsible for finances, Andreas Barner, told the synod that if the existing activities were continued unaltered, the EKD would, in ten years’ time, run up a deficit of €9 million. He also warned that the pandemic would increase the pressure on the Evangelical (Protestant) Church to curb costs.
The austerity measures will affect universities, foundations, charitable organisations, theological institutions, and other church-supported organisations, and will be phased in from 2022 onwards. In Germany, the churches are, after the State, the biggest employer.
Both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches in Germany lost a record number of members last year. They fear a slump in revenues because of the economic effects of the coronavirus.
Last year, about 270,000 Protestants withdrew from the Church — about 22 per cent more than the previous year — leaving an overall membership of 20.7 million. Only one in four people in Germany is still a member.
In his report to the church parliament, the Lutheran Bishop of Bavaria, and chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, gave a detailed account of the psychological consequences of the coronavirus crisis.
“Although we defied the virus together and resolutely in the first months of the pandemic, and even survived a hard lockdown period comparatively well, I can see that increasing exhaustion is now spreading. The need for healing is correspondingly great. . . A wounded society longs for healing,” he said.
He pointed out that it was important to use the lessons learned from the crisis for a new orientation.
“In addition to all the sorrow, the pandemic also gives us the chance to pause and take new paths. Our common world needs this reversal: we do not want, and we must not simply return to, the situation before corona,” Bishop Bedford-Strohm said.