“My church has shown courage”

25-year-old student Anna-Nicole Heinrich is the youngest president to head the synod of the Protestant Church in Germany. She herself was surprised by her choice, she says in an interview with the Evangelical Press Service.

However, she does not want to be reduced to her age and wants to take up the ongoing reform processes in view of the loss of members in the Church and help shape them.

epd: Mrs. Heinrich, your election as synod president has surprised many people. She also?

Anna-Nicole Heinrich (EKD President): Of course. My name came into play only three days ago, and then I already had to think: Can I fill this out, both personally and in terms of content?? Both candidates stood for a generational change. And I am honored and delighted to have been elected now.
epd: Is it pure joy?
Heinrich: I am also looking a bit reverently at the next days, weeks and six years at the head of the synod. It is a big task. My church has shown courage to elect me to this office.
epd: As a 25-year-old, you succeed 79-year-old former top politician Irmgard Schwaetzer at the head of the church parliament. Do you see this yourself as a sign of the rejuvenation of the church?

Heinrich: No. Although I have less than a third of the life experience of Irmgard Schwaetzer. I hope, however, that I will not be reduced to being young. My job is to bring synodical concerns to our church. But of course I differ significantly from my predecessor in language and demeanor. We are two children of different generations, and yet we understand each other well.

epd: For many years, a party proportional representation played a role in the allocation of top offices in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). In your election you prevailed against the Green politician Nadine Bernshausen.Where do you stand politically?

Heinrich: I do not belong to any party and am not involved in party politics.

epd: And which church do you stand for?

Heinrich: I would like to represent an open, missionary church, which hopefully is not too strongly guided by political positioning, but always refers to social ies.

epd: What is her personal faith practice?
Heinrich: Theologically I would describe myself as liberal, but in my practice of faith also charismatic.
epdWhat are the most important ies for you in the new synod period??

Heinrich: Future processes are an important topic. We must now take up the package that the last synod packed and set ourselves goals. We must connect these processes with the experiences of the last months. We must reflect on the pandemic period, preserve what is good, and focus on spiritual and theological challenges.

epd: Her predecessor Irmgard Schwaetzer has advocated inviting victims of abuse back to the next synod.Do you want that too?

Henry: A comprehensive reappraisal of sexualized violence is of course only possible with the participation of those affected. We know about the cases of abuse in our church and have seen in the discussions of the last few days that this is a moving, sensitive and at the same time a difficult ie. A reappraisal without the participation of those affected will not work.

And if it can seem at the moment as if the previous form of participation via the Stakeholder Advisory Council is in a dead end, it is important that those affected are involved in the decisions, and that we admit to ourselves that we also make mistakes as a church. An important sign is that we as a synod, as a church-governing body, do not forego the voice of those affected and put their interests first. Otherwise we would not be credible.

epd: In a week's time, the Ecumenical Church Congress will take place in Frankfurt am Main, largely digitally because of the pandemic. Will you participate?
Heinrich: I have planned privately for myself to attend some events. But these are not official appointments as the new Praeses.
epd: How do you look at ecumenism and Catholic-Protestant relations??
Heinrich: In ecumenism we must dare to broaden our perspective. Cooperation with our Catholic brothers and sisters is also important to me. One of the first congratulatory emails came from the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Batzing. I hope for good cooperation in order to show together that the church is on its way and that Christian faith is still relevant today.
epd: If you were to come to Frankfurt and could take part in a denominational service at the Kirchentag, which one would you choose – the Catholic, the Protestant, the Free Evangelical or the Orthodox one??
Heinrich: I would attend the Orthodox service because I am the most curious and have had the fewest contacts so far.

The interview was conducted by Franziska Hein and Karsten Frerichs

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Christina Cherry
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