German Church rejects

—historic episcopate as sign of unity

by Pastor Kris Baudler (St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Bay Shore, New York)

January 25, 2002

In a bold document that has stunned the international ecumenical community and has thrown into question the future of ecumenical dialogues, the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) has rejected apostolic succession (as defined in the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions) as a basis for or sign of the unity of the church of Christ.  The EKD is the largest Protestant church in Europe, comprising the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of Germany.

The document, known as "Kirchengemeinschaft nach evangelischem Verstaendnis" (KneV), became official on Oct. 30 but was largely lost in the headlines following Sept. 11.  The German Church's official theological "chamber" or “think tank” produced the document.

All future dialogue for the EKD is to be based on the Leuenberger Concordat of 1973, which advocated ecclesial communal fellowship without a stress on visible unity.  The document states that "the church" is found in the expression of the local congregations and not first and foremost the universal church.

The document, which has been adopted by the EKD and is now official church policy, sees Jesus Christ revealed through Word and Sacrament as the sole source for the unity of the church.

[For the full report by Pastor Baudler see “German Church rejects historic episcopate.”]