A bishop's resignation and its consequences

A bishop's resignation and its consequences

In a petition, the authors demanded "clarity" against the right of regional bishop Rentzing. The resigned – and the petitioners were considered "bishop murderers". Today they criticize that this remained so, demand more Aufarbeitung and clarity.

On 13. In October, Saxony's Protestant regional bishop Carsten Rentzing offered his resignation – to this day, many are asking the question "why?". As Rentzing shied away from inquiries until the very end, a statement spread, among others, that assigned the blame to four men from Leipzig: pastors Andreas Dohrn, Sebastian Keller and Frank Martin, as well as churchwarden Matthias Rudolph.

The four had been arrested on 27. In September, the Catholic Diocese of Leipzig launched a petition entitled "Charity demands clarity". In it, they demanded that Rentzing distance himself "from all national, anti-democratic and anti-human ideologies"; plus an explanation of why the bishop is a member of a dutiful fraternity, which had become public a few weeks earlier.

"Episcopal murderers, inquisitors."

Because of the petition, the four were soon labeled "bishop murderers" after Rentzing's resignation. In conservative media there was talk of the "smell of the inquisitorial," of "double standards" and "hypocrisy". In a resolution passed by the Saxon state synod in mid-November, it was stated that "public petitions against individuals and office holders" were "not a means of clarifying factual ies and damage our structures.".

Rentzing himself spoke in his farewell speech of the "fishhook in my life": "One has searched, and finally one has found," he explained. In addition, it must be made clear that those who refuse to be loyal to synod elections and decisions "excommunicate themselves from the ecclesial community". There was also hostility against the petitioners in the church and personal environment.

Petition as ultima ratio?

How do they look at what happened today? One thing is certain: it has left wounds. Martin first clarifies that before the petition there had been two attempts within the church to get Rentzing to take a stand. Only after their failure did they go public. Dohrn considers it "weak in terms of leadership" that the church leadership has not approached the four until today; also that Rentzing's farewell speech stood without contradiction.

Rudolph, when asked about the resolutions, still gets emotional today. The petition was not directed against individuals, he snorts: "We asked questions."And Martin says: "If we are no longer allowed to do something like this, namely to demand unambiguousness against Nazis, then I think we have understood the Protestant understanding of the church only in part. If I have a duty as a pastor somewhere, then to contradict where inhuman speech is made".

Desire for better communication

That Rentzing's unwillingness to face questions about his past brought him down in the end was soon seen by church leaders as well. In addition, one had "underestimated the effectiveness" of Rentzing's 30-year-old texts, which the regional church office had published on 13. October as "anti-democratic," Church Office President Hans-Peter Vollbach said at a discussion evening in mid-January in Leipzig: "There should have been faster."

For the future, all involved wish for better communication. "If we see things," Martin explains, for example, with regard to right-wing entanglements of church people, "then there must be contact persons of whom I also know that they react and make something transparent." The bishop's deputy Thilo Daniel said at the evening in Leipzig that it was "important that as many as possible have the opportunity to get involved in these talks".

"Border between conservative and right-wing extremist"

The synod also passed a resolution in November to develop a distinction "between value-conservative Christianity and right-wing extremism. A working group has been set up. "It's about drawing a line, and I want to have that, too," Rudolph explains. For Dohrn, however, the question misses the reality. In his view, it would be more important to deal with a new group of religious rightists "who position themselves exactly in the middle of these two poles and quite deliberately open channels in both directions".

For Martin, meanwhile, "a basic evangelical attitude" is central: "I do not find devaluation of people, racism, nationalism, patriotism, sexism in the Gospel," he explains. Therefore, the church must clarify what it is available for and what it is not available for, he said. He also considers a decision on incompatibility of AfD membership and church offices necessary. First, however, the synod will elect a new bishop in three weeks. One thing is already certain: there is much to be done.

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Christina Cherry
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