Heinrich Bedford-Strohm's voice is lost twice in a dead zone, in between you can clearly hear a little pride in his voice. The President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany is on the way back from an appointment, and there are still several kilometers of motorway ahead of him. He has been working on a new EKD strategy for two years. Bedford-Strohm headed the "Z-Team", the "future team" of the Evangelical Church. The result is a strategy paper that says: "Church for a good reason".
The paper deals with key questions of the future: How far will the church shrink? How does she keep up financially? And: How political can a church be?
Where do you start? Eleven far-reaching reform proposals can be found in the new EKD paper. If only half of the reform proposals were implemented at the upcoming synod in November, this would bring about drastic changes for the Protestant Church. In the coming months until the synod, the proposals will be discussed intensively internally.
The concrete austerity measures are likely to be particularly sensitive. "How the resources will be distributed in the future is currently not foreseeable," says Heinrich Bedford-Strohm on the phone and emphasizes that "the financial consolidation measures first have to be discussed with those affected". Probably means: Who has to save, may say something first. The influence of the EKD on the total of 20 regional churches is traditionally rather limited. After all, eight regional churches are directly represented in the Z team, which makes implementation of the measures more likely.
The team that has come together in the EKD in search of answers for the future is top-class: five bishops, including the EKD council chair; Irmgard Schwaetzer is also present, the president of the synod, the evangelical church parliament. The first meetings of the future team began in 2017. It was a super year with a well-attended Kirchentag in Berlin and Wittenberg, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Bedford-Strohm together on a stage in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and there were 500 years anyway Celebrate the Reformation. It was in this context of all places that the EKD Synod found that someone also had to address the crisis that was coming to the Church.
The EKD knows from the "Projection 2060", the study commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference that the number of church members will be halved in the next 40 years. Last year alone, 270,000 people actively left the Evangelical Church, and 340,000 Protestants also died. This year millions of people in Germany had to work short-time, church tax revenues will decrease. "Our household expenses will have to decrease by 30 percent by 2030," says Bedford-Strohm.
One of the most far-reaching future strategies of the paper reads like this: Parochial structures, that is, the division of the church area into parishes, should change "away from area-wide action towards a dynamic and multifaceted interaction with each other". Should the village church be abandoned? Church as a fluid event church, in constantly changing places? Bedford-Strohm consistently evades this question on the phone. What he says: He would like an app with which people could flexibly arrange church events.
The paper also states: "There will be fewer church offers that rely on one-way communication, in which the church acts as a 'provider' or 'organizer' and people only as a 'recipient', 'listener' or 'participant' in come the view. " According to the church, the church must have the courage to differentiate between non-resonant church action and resonance spaces in which the heart and soul are touched. Church is called to "put the importance of the traditional Sunday service in relation to the many successful alternatives of worship celebrations". Those who live near a well-attended church are lucky. According to the Z team, the church bells in many churches in the country could soon be silent.
In addition: the church tax must be reformed, alternative forms of financial participation should be examined, also by people who are not members of the church but feel connected to it. Protestantism goes fundraising.
In addition to the economic aspects, it is also about the church in public. How politically can, should or must the Church express itself? The strategy paper also devotes a paragraph to this controversial question.