Saturday, February 17, 2024

EKD Synod President Heinrich rejects special conference on abuse

The President of the Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), Anna-Nicole Heinrich, rejects a special meeting of the Synod to discuss the abuse scandals in the Protestant Church and Diaconia. 

She told Welt am Sonntag that "first of all, measures should be derived from the study and its recommendations as quickly as possible and as carefully as necessary in the participation forum, which will then be presented to the synod in November".

The participation forum created in the EKD in 2022, made up of representatives of those affected and church commissioners, is the central place for further work on the forum study, Heinrich added. 

The study presented at the end of January by a large research association on sexual abuse had identified at least 1,259 suspected perpetrators and 2,225 victims in the 20 regional churches of the EKD and the Diakonie and spoke of a presumably much higher number of unreported cases. 

The study also pointed to church structures that had favoured the crimes and their cover-up.

Synod member Angela Rinn, Professor at the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau, is now calling for an early special session of the EKD Synod, which usually only meets once a year in November. 

Democracy must be practised in the church, especially now. 

"This can only be achieved by transparently addressing all institutional factors that have facilitated sexualised violence, prevented it from being clarified and made it more difficult to come to terms with it," says Rinn.

Responsibilities unclear

Church members have not yet understood who is responsible for what "in the federal network of churches", Rinn continued: "This thicket is one of the reasons for the decades-long failure to uncover acts of abuse." 

The members should not get the impression that "the church's reappraisal of its failures is also stuck in this thicket".

Synod President Heinrich referred to the "agreed procedure". The results and recommendations of the study will then be analysed this weekend in the participation forum and upcoming tasks identified.

The former chairman of the German Ethics Council, Protestant theologian Peter Dabrock from the University of Erlangen, called for clear conclusions to be drawn from the study. The study attests to a "decades-long diffusion of responsibility and competences in dealing with specific acts and allegations of abuse". 

It is to be feared that "this diffusion of responsibility will continue in the face of the resulting shambles".