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Germany: Church Reform

July 7, 2006
Berlin, July 7 (idea) – Faced with a dwindling church membership and growing secularization the mainline Protestant Churches in Germany are about to launch one of the most radical reforms in recent history.

The former “people’s church” in Martin Luther’s home country has suffered continuous losses since the seventies. This decline is likely to continue mainly for demographic reasons: Germany is suffering from a severe lack of children.

Today, the mainline Protestant churches have close to 26 million members. But if nothing changes the total will drop to 17 million by the year 2030. Church attendance is also low. Less than four percent of all church members worship on an average Sunday.

The leadership has proposed radical changes in a paper published July 6 in Hanover. In essence, the church intends to become much more missionary minded.

The church should respond to the emerging interest in religion by sharpening its spiritual profile. All activities are to be oriented at the Great Commission. And the proclamation of the Gospel must take first priority, said the Protestant leader, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, when he presented the paper to journalists in Berlin.

The label “Protestant” must be filled with meaning and content, according to Huber. Social services, for instance, should become more spiritual minded. The Protestant social services comprise more than 27,000 individual institutions with 450,000 employees.

The churches are planning to discuss the proposals at a convention in Wittenberg in January 2007. They want to defy the general decline and “grow against the trend”.

One aim is to stabilize their membership at 26 million, even though the population is shrinking. The percentage of Protestants among the 82 million inhabitants should not be allowed to drop below 31 percent. And at least one in ten Protestants should worship regularly.