And now he is leaving, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the council president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, or EKD for short. Well, not immediately, but in a year. Bedford-Strohm, 60, is not seeking reelection. Not everyone in the church is sad about this. Recently, criticism from the Bavarian regional bishop has increased, less in the leadership around him, which is known not to be inclined to criticize anyway, but rather among members. Their numbers have also declined rapidly under Bedford-Strohm.
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However, it would be a mistake to blame him. Yes, the outgoing EKD boss didn’t really take the more conservative members into various political actions. For example, about migration issues, and not least about the purchase of a ship to receive refugees in the Mediterranean. This is a remarkable humanitarian act that Christians sometimes see themselves all too well. But it is also a political statement, and is (partly) intended as such.
Whether all the consequences and all the challenges that go with them have been taken into account was also a question in the EKD Council; indeed here and there with a clear critical tone. It doesn’t matter, the ship is there and doing its job.
Short official line to Catholics
Ecumenism, another important issue for Bedford-Strohm, has not made good progress. The very good personal relationship with the previous chair of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has not been able to fundamentally change that. Now Marx is also gone, or in other words: already gone. The official line between the two was short: they are bishops in Munich (this is and remains important in their respective regional churches as well).
Marx’s successor Georg Bätzing is bishop in more distant Limburg; and possibly a new distance is also created by the attitude of the Evangelical Church towards assisted suicide. At the rejection, the Catholics believed they agreed with the Protestants. But the EKD representative in Berlin, Prelate Martin Dutzmann, caused irritations that Bedford-Strohm as council chairman and superior failed to resolve.
The successor, female or male, and the requirements profile will have to be discussed in the coming months. This includes dealing with the structures of the Protestant Church in the face of a declining number of believers. Not an easy thing. Adequacy in dealings, political and conceptual speaking skills are added – one or the other must dare to do so. Not to mention the trust of the others for the time being.