The 57th synod of the Old-Catholic Church in Germany ended in Mainz on 3 October with a ceremonial service led by Bishop Dr. Matthias Ring. There had been a great deal of work to do for the members of the synod: over 50 applications to discuss and decide on. The synod passed important resolutions concerning ecumenical relations, gender-neutral language in official statements, ethics, social responsibility, and financial and legal questions. “Numerically we are a small church in the wide world,” stated Bishop Matthias. “But we have great courage in taking clear and straightforward positions in society. In our church I feel a tremendous sense of excitement about the future.”
“As an Old-Catholic church we are part of the global community of Catholic churches but with a clear commitment to evangelic freedom,” states Old-Catholic theologian Prof. Günter Esser from Bonn. With a large majority, the members of the synod passed a decision on gender-neutral language to make it visible at this level that women and men are equal in the Old-Catholic churches. “The way someone talks shows how he or she thinks,” explains Prof. Angela Berlis from the University of Bern (Switzerland).
Another important synod decision allows the establishment of Competency Commissions. These will be convened when required to discuss specific issues and to formulate Old-Catholic statements and positions, for example on ethics or social questions such as sustainable energy supply and ethical capital investment. As Vicar-General Jürgen Wenge made clear: “We want to underline our mission in society by taking an unmistakable stand.” Worrying about the number of church members should be replaced by a catching vitality and enthusiasm. “The question is not in which state of mind someone attends a service, but whether he or she leaves it feeling more spirited and vigorous than before,” said Bishop Matthias.
The Old-Catholic parish of Augsburg received the go-ahead to begin building a new church of its own in 2011 for its growing number of members, and the parish of Hanover will complete the construction of its new church by the end of this year. “Building a new church while others are closing is a decision pointing to the future,” declared Alexandra Caspari, the Old-Catholic parish priest in Augsburg. “We don’t have to hide, because we can offer people a welcoming spiritual home.”
A further synod decision concerns the Namen-Jesu-Kirche in Bonn, which is to become an Old-Catholic cathedral for the whole German diocese. It will be filled with spiritual life from all parts of the Old-Catholic Church in Germany.
At the end of the synod, its long-time president Dr. Hans-Joachim Rosch was honoured. Bishop Matthias presented him with the Reinkens Medal in gold in recognition of over 30 years of voluntary service for the Catholic Diocese of the Old-Catholic Church in Germany.