Walking the path together
It began with positive steps towards one another that developed into a common path forward. Much has happened since the ecumenical work of the New Apostolic Church started 22 years ago. One of the initiators who has done a lot of work in this area has now stepped down.
It was a sunny Thursday afternoon on which the members of the Working Group Contacts with Denominations and Religions (WG CDR) and delegates of the Council of Christian Churches in Germany met to bid the outgoing chairman of the WG CDR a heartfelt farewell. He welcomed the guests with a beaming smile, either with an elbow bump or a heartfelt embrace. Apostle (ret.) Volker Kühnle was in his element.
Ecumenism is not a magic wand
After a musical introduction by a small string ensemble and a Bible reading by the chairman of the Council of Christian Churches, Dr Verena Hammes, Bishop Peter Johanning greeted the guests. He spoke about the change that is visible everywhere – also in the Churches. Change is not always positive. “Ecumenism is not a magic wand,” Bishop Johanning admits, “but at least it is an encounter across denominational borders. And we need this connection with one another.” In closing, he said, “If there were a prize for ecumenism within the New Apostolic Church, Volker Kühnle would have won it long ago.”
Time to say goodbye
This was the title of his presentation. In the programme it was introduced with the following words: “22 years WG CDR in 22 minutes”. Apostle Volker Kühnle began his talk with words of thanks and then tried to summarise his time in the Working Group Contacts with Denominations and Religions in 22 minutes. It all began in the year 1999, also on a Thursday. The project group Ecumenism was founded by then Chief Apostle Richard Fehr. Its mandate was to find out to what extent the essential doctrinal statements of the New Apostolic Church are compatible with those of the ecumenical movement. The challenge was to determine the essential doctrinal statements in the first place, and this at a time when there was irritation within the Church and external prejudice. But he remembered the good things: “We consider it a special gift of God that we met critical but predominantly benevolent dialogue partners.”
With the publication of the Catechism in 2012, certain prejudices had become obsolete. In many places in Germany, and also in other parts of the world, Apostle Kühnle’s active work made the membership in the Council of Christian Churches a reality—it was a series of genuine positive steps towards one another. Even the renowned religious scholar, Professor Dr Helmut Obst, a recognised expert of the apostolic scene in Europe, agreed: “The New Apostle Church has become theologically fit for ecumenical circles.”
Apostle (ret.) Volker Kühnle summarised the subsequent developments with the words: “The positive steps towards one another developed into a truly common path forward!” The outgoing chairman ended his talk by expressing his thanks once again.
Fellowship instead of separation
Then District Apostle Rüdiger Krause stepped onto the small stage and, after a short speech, handed over the chairmanship of the Working Group Contacts with Denominations and Religions to Bishop Jürgen Kramer.
After the string quartet’s performance of the “Palladio”, two further speeches followed by Pastor Dr Albrecht Haizmann (head of the Baden-Württemberg branch of the Council of Christian Churches in Germany) and Dr Reinhard Hempelman (who chaired the Evangelical Central Office for World Views in Berlin for 20 years). Grateful, the latter said: “Bridge-building is usually not a short-term project, but a long-term project. For 22 years you have been building bridges to other Churches.” And Dr Haizmann expressed His gratitude to God and said: “That fellowship was able to develop from what was previously separation and aloofness—how great is that!”
Afterwards, the participants enjoyed this fellowship over some refreshments.