Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Brethren receive apology for the persecution of the 1700s in Europe.

During the international celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren movement, held in early August in Schwarzenau, Germany, the Brethren received an apology for the persecution their faith ancestors suffered during the early 1700s in Europe. Ingo Stucke, a member of the Governing Board of the Protestant Church of Westphalia, Germany, made the apology during the formal Anniversary Program on the afternoon of Aug. 3.

"The persecutions are a black spot on the history of the Evangelical Protestant Church," Stucke said. "We regret the persecutions of that time and ask your forgiveness."

The apology to the Brethren follows on the heels of a decision in mid-July by the main governing body of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to seek forgiveness for Lutheran persecution of Anabaptists during the 16th century in Europe. The LWF decision was made at the recommendation of a committee chaired by a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, Germany, and comes out of a Lutheran-Mennonite study commission. In 2006, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made a formal apology for Lutheran persecution against Anabaptists.

Stucke prefaced the apology with remarks noting that he has been gaining insights into the history of Anabaptist and Pietist movements. He named three conclusions about the ecumenical coexistence of his own faith tradition with that of the Brethren: that the Protestant Church of Westphalia was founded after World War II but is located in the first German territory where religious tolerance prevailed historically; that it was Lutheran and Reformed Christians who persecuted the Pietists and Anabaptists; and that where Pietism and revival movements have been active they have left their mark.

"When we look at the legacy of Pietism I regret that the potential of this movement did not develop here, but celebrate that it did thrive elsewhere," Stucke said.

Stucke characterized a celebration like the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren as an invitation to place commonalities in the foreground. The 250th anniversary of the Brethren was an important ecumenical event for German churches during the time of reconstruction after World War II, he said. This year's celebration offers another occasion to critically examine theological concepts about baptism and other marks of faith, and perhaps a call for more conversation about theology, he said.

He added a personal hope that such conversation may lead to the reality "That they all may be one." Unity is not about uniformity, Stucke said, but about a witness to the world.

Source: 8/26/2008 Newsline

No comments: