Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart Gebhard Fürst (c), surrounded by fellow German bishops

German bishop says ‘synodal path’ reform process “only chance” for Church, adds women deacons “possible”

A German bishop has said that country’s ‘synodal path’ is the “only chance” for the Church, and added that women deacons are “possible”.

Driving the news

The German Church’s two-year reform process is the “only chance to renew the church”, Rottenburg-Stuttgart Bishop Gebhard Fürst said at a diocesan New Year’s reception January 7.

Fürst has been a defender of women deacons at least since 2011, when he declared: “At first glance arguments such as ‘only a man can represent Christ at the altar’ seem paradoxical today, and I can understand that women feel excluded, especially as they make up the majority of churchgoers and do most of the volunteer work in the Church today”.

The bishop later repeated those same pro-women’s ordination sentiments in 2016, when he said “there is evidence in Scripture that [diaconal] assistance … can be opened to women”.

In 2017, Fürst also affirmed: “Women should be ordained deacons. It is a sign of the times”.

It was those same arguments the Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart returned to Tuesday, when he again said that the female diaconate is “possible and a sign of the times” and added that “in the Church… the issue of equal opportunities still requires special care and sensitivity”.

Go deeper

Fürst also expressed concern Tuesday for the “increasingly louder populist mood” in Germany at present, and lamented that the country’s democracy no longer seems as stable as was once assumed.

The bishop cited as an example of that trend the death threats received by politicians and Church figures such as Chair of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) Heinrich Bedford-Strohm for their support for migrants and refugees.

The attitude “Don’t bother me with your facts, I have already formed my opinion” seems to have taken hold in Germany, Fürst deplored, adding that in the face of that phenomenon it is the Church’s responsibility to get involved and to create spaces for encounters.

Why it matters

In terms of that making space for encounter, Fürst said, the Church’s priorities must be its internal renewal, the strengthening of democracy and the preservation of Creation.

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On that last point, the bishop explained that “the Church must form alliances with creation-friendly forces”, and above all with youth.

That’s because “the Christian faith provides the basis… for shaping the future through creation-friendly action in such a way that generations to come have a good life on this planet”, Fürst said.

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