Carsten Uwe Rentzing © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
Saxony's regional bishop Carsten Rentzing resigns after debate over his membership in a beating student fraternity. The current discussion about this is damaging its primary goal: the unity of the church.
On Friday, he announced in Dresden that he was stepping down as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony at the earliest possible date. He is also the Deputy Presiding Bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (VELKD).
Rentzing declared: "I took office with the desire to bring the different positions within the regional church closer together again. My highest goal was and is the unity of the church. I must state with great regret that the current discussion about my person is detrimental to this goal."It is a burden for him personally and for the entire church at the moment, he said. To prevent damage to the church, he put his office at the disposal.
It was preceded by an online petition initiated by Leipzig pastors demanding that Rentzing distance himself from the fraternity "Alte Prager Landsmannschaft Hercynia" and "publicly and clearly distance himself from all national, anti-democratic and anti-human ideologies".
It goes on to say: "Without this clarification, the impression remains that it is not just a matter of youthful ignorance, but that you are still connected with this group and its ideology." Around 850 people have signed the petition so far.
"Of course I fenced"
Rentzing, who joined the association as a student in Frankfurt am Main in the 1990s and is still formally a member today, said: "I stand for conservative positions and values that I have recognized as correct for me in a long development process. Yet the encounter with Jesus Christ and my faith were formative for me. Going to church has changed me. Positions I held 30 years ago I no longer share today."
Rentzing had previously admitted that he had also taken part in Mensuren der Burschenschaft, the strictly regulated fencing duels with sharp weapons. "Of course I have fenced. In retrospect, there was also adventure involved, that was my bungee jump in my youth, so to speak," he told the newspaper "Sachsische Zeitung". As a leader of the Protestant Church, he sees the duel more critically today.
Rentzing was elected bishop of Saxony in May 2015 by a special synod after six ballots with a one-vote majority.
From the beginning, his rather conservative positions caused discussion in the regional church, such as his critical stance on homosexuality. Rentzing was among the initiators of a "confession initiative" opposing the opening of parsonages to couples in registered civil partnerships.
Bedford-Strohm regrets resignation announcement
The chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, regrets Rentzing's announced resignation. The announcement had surprised him and caused him "consternation and great regret," Bedford-Strohm explained on Friday evening. "I am grateful for all his commitment to our church," added the EKD council president.