In a country with strong LGBTQ movements inside Protestantism, the Federation of Free Evangelical Churches starts to face internal tensions, as seen in the last General Assembly.
Should churches bless same-sex unions? Should people with a public LGBTQ lifestyle be allowed to be in ministry leadership?
These questions were the most commented in the General Assembly of the Federation of Free Evangelical Churches of Germany (Bund FEG), held 23-24 September in Solingen (Düsseldorf). According to a report of news website Pro Medien Magazin, the emotional tension was tangible as delegates expressed their views at the gathering.
In a country that passed in 2017 the “Marriage for All” law which gave homosexuals couples full rights (including adoption of children), the mainline Protestant Church (EKD) has been ordaining homosexual priests for already a decade. A huge debate also exploded recently in the German Roman Catholic Church, especially after earlier this year one hundred workers came out as LGBTQ and asked for doctrinal changes.
The theological and pastoral conversation about how to welcome LGBT people in churches has been happening as well in free evangelical churches, such as those who adhere to creed of the German Evangelical Alliance (which holds to a historic understanding of human sexuality and confesses the authority of the Bible in matters of doctrine and life).
In 2019, the Bund FEG published “Handling Tensions. On homosexuality in the Free Evangelical Churches”, a 11-page paper clarifying that its churches believe that “God’s love and the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ is for every person” and that “marriage between a man and a woman, and their life together as a family, is the biblical model”. Therefore, “homosexual behaviour is not compatible with this model”.
But the movements of some Bund FEG member congregations in the last months, has ignited the debate again. A group of pastors just joined the network “Coming in”, which seeks to promote a more “welcoming” approach to LGBT issues in free evangelical churches.
Earlier this year, the leadership of the federation of free churches made clear its stance had not changed in a text that, according to critics, opened the door to expel churches who differ from the consensus in this seen as key theological aspect.
At the September gathering, the Bund FEG emphasised the need to listen to each other and avoid remarks that could be “divisive”. As reported by Pro Medien Magazin, board chair Ansgar Hörsting said 95% have not changed their view on what the Bible says about practised homosexuality. But the general debate at the assembly found pastors expressing their frustration about other pastors who were remaking their theology and practice.
For Hörsting, the discussion around gender and sexuality is important but should not overshadow more central issues for free evangelical churches, such as church planting, mission, welcoming refugees. Nevertheless, the board committed to open a dialogue process among pastors about “lived-out homosexuality”, that will help the free churches form a “formative guiding principle” on the issue. The chair asked delegates in Solingen that this phase of internal debate is seen as “a conversation, not an exchange of blows”.
[title]About the Free Evangelical Churches
[text] The Bund FEG unites around 500 evangelical churches in Germany and 43,000 believers. Worldwide, they belong to the IFFEC federation, which represents 700,000 evangelical Christians in 34 countries.
The federation's motto is: “Moved by God’s love, we build lively churches”.
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