“Merging and growing together”
The changes in the newly merged District Church Western Germany are finally complete: the new District Apostle presented his goals for the future at a solemn reception to which representatives from other Churches and the world of politics had been invited.
Since January 2018 the former District Churches North Rhine-Westphalia and Hessen/Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland form a single entity. On 25 February 2018 Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider placed District Apostle Bernd Koberstein into retirement and handed his working area over to District Apostle Rainer Storck, a native of North Rhine-Westphalia.
To mark this event, the New Apostolic Church had issued invitations for a reception on 5 March 2018 in the Frankfurt-North church. Approximately fifty visitors responded to the invitation, including representatives of the Protestant and Catholic Churches, as well as representatives from the state and local governments. Bishop Peter Johanning acted as emcee.
Three goals for the future
“Merging and growing together.” District Apostle Storck focused on the motto of the merger preparations in his opening speech. Despite his new responsibilities, he wants to pursue his previously set goals.
- Strengthening local congregations. That means, putting an emphasis on individual responsibility, promoting personal initiative, and providing a framework for the congregations in which they can move.
- Prudent financial planning. So far, the financial provisions are still fairly good, he said, but we have to keep future generations in mind. We need to strike a balance between the German regions and those we care for in some forty countries, which are only able to finance themselves at 0.5 to 40 per cent.
- Offering the gospel actively. The teaching of Jesus is also a system of values, the District Apostle said, which makes it possible for people to live together in harmony and get on well. To convey this is not a matter for just one single denomination, but is a task for the entire church of Christ.
Recognition for the development
“Receive one another.” Barbara Rudolph, member of the board of directors of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland, began her speech with this statement from Romans 15: 7. She said that learning from each other and making compromises is what processes such as mergers involve. She added that all Churches face the same challenges from an organisational point of view. Accepting one another despite all the differences is the central idea of ecumenism. Here, Mrs Rudolph congratulated the New Apostolic Church on its achievements not only at the managerial level, but also at the congregational level. She went on to say that, at the personal level, this acceptance means recognising the countenance of God in others.
“Being together today is a gift from God.” This is how the Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Thomas Löhr from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg described the dialogue between the denominations. He reported about the latest discussion with New Apostolic representatives in the Ecumenical Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Germany. He too, expressed how pleased he is at how the New Apostolic Church has opened itself up to the interfaith dialogue. In future, he said, he would still like to see the possibility of celebrating divine services together as well as acts of blessing.
The present needs more “we”
Just how important the Church is in today’s society was made clear by Uwe Becker, the mayor and treasurer of the City of Frankfurt (Germany). At a time in which many people withdraw to concentrate on themselves, in which egoism and nationalism is becoming more and more pronounced, it is important to strengthen the “we”. In this connection he pointed out that there are more than 170 different nationalities and 160 different denominations in the city of Frankfurt. “The real Frankfurt towers are not those of the banks, but those that point the way to an encounter with God.”
At the beginning, District Apostle Koberstein had looked back on his time in ministry, and wished his successor the same amount of kindness and love from the brothers and sisters that he himself had always received. In conclusion, several members of the congregation Frankfurt-North said prayers of intercession, including the retired District Apostle Hagen Wend. “We pray that the congregations look to Christ with confidence and hope,” he asked, “and that their gaze is marked by respect for all that Christians in every village and every city have in common.”