Germany’s Evangelical Church Commission for Theology Formally Rejects the Augsburg Confession
(HANNOVER) In a vote that has stunned both Lutherans and Protestants across Germany, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKiD), published on Monday, September 28, 2009 its decision regarding one of the most critical documents to emerge from the Reformation. The Commission for Theology (Kammer für Theologie), the official theological advisory board of the EKD, voted to reject accepting the Augsburg Confession of 1530 as one of its fundamental documents.
The decision had been referred to the Commission by the Council of the EKD who, after several years of scholarly discussions on the question involving both Lutheran and Reformed theologians, had requested a final vote. The Commission considered three questions in making its decision which it presented in a document titled, “Should the Augsburg Confession become the primary confession of the Evangelical Church in Germany?” The Commission asked 1) “What purpose does the acceptance of handed down confessional texts have for the fundamentals and understanding of the individual evangelical churches in general?” 2) “What is the relationship of the fundamentals of the EKD, as a fellowship of individual evangelical churches, to the fundamentals of her member churches?” 3) “What would it mean to accept the text of the Augsburg Confession into the fundamentals of the EKD?”
Known simply as “Number 103,” in a series of EKD texts available on line http://www.ekd.de/download/ekd_texte_103.pdf, the concluding statement reads, “The Commission for Theology advises the Council of the EKD not to accept the Augsburg Confession as a primary confession in the EKD fundamentals.” The Commission is co-chaired by Michael Beintner (Münster) and Professor Dorothea Wendebourg. The vote was unanimous and agreed to by the EKD Council, which affirmed its readiness to continue strengthening the bonds of the EKD. Instead of accepting the Augsburg Confession, a document that both Lutherans and Protestants in Germany agree “has been the core confession of all of German Protestantism from 1530 to 1806″ (Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, Münster), the Council referred dissenters to its 2001 adoption of “Church Fellowship in Evangelical Understanding” (KneV). There it states that the EKD does not seek to form “a canonical church, like her member churches,” since the EKD already is [the] church in the fullest sense of the word. Perhaps mindful that KneV was German Protestantism’s response to the Vatican’s August 2000 document “Dominus Iesus,” which affirmed the primacy of the Roman Church over all other “ecclesial communities,” EKD President Hermann Barth stated, “Measures by which the EKD must first become the church are not necessary, since she is already it in the theological sense, since church fellowship is church.” The EKD reaffirmed it’s continuing commitment to the Leuenberger Konkordie.
In addition to serving on the Commission for Theology for the EKD, Professor Wendebourg also serves on the Theological Advisory Board (TAB) of the WordAlone Network (WAN), a group within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In 2002, Wendebourg, coauthored a document for WAN in opposition to the Lutheran – Episcopal agreement “Called to Common Mission” entitled “Admonition for the Sake of the True Peace and Unity of the Church.” In it, Wendebourg and others call, among other things, for ordinations “of equal standing,” whereby episcopal and presbyteral ordinations are equally recognized. The “Admonition” cites the Augsburg Confession throughout.
Written by Pastor Kris Baudler
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Bay Shore, NY
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Brentwood, NY