(This comes from the Missouri Synod's partner church The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church [SELK] in Germany by The Rt Revd Dr. Jobst Schöne D.D., Bishop Emeritus, translated by Wilhelm Torgerson.)
What is motivating the EKD?
How an “ecumenical” project came to grief
A commentary by The Rt Revd Dr. Jobst Schöne D.D., Bishop Emeritus of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK)
A new de-luxe-edition of the Luther Bible is on the market, published – surprisingly – by the “Bild-Zeitung”, the tabloid newspaper with the largest circulation in Europe. It was presented to the public on 3 December 2012 in the Castle Church in Wittenberg in the presence of prominent representatives of Church and State. Yet, as things turned out, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the SELK, who had been scheduled to address the assembly, was not even invited to attend.
All kinds of monkey games had been going on ahead of the event. The original plans called for this special edition of the German Bible to appear under the joint auspices of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). This cooperation was to be indicated by Forewords written by both the President of the LWF, Bishop Dr. Mounib Younan from Jerusalem (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land), and the Chairman of the ILC, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of the SELK and member of the Presidium of the Association of Christian Churches in Germany).
Now the Council of the “Evangelical Church in Germany” (EKD, the federation of all Protestant territorial churches in Germany) holds the copyright of the 1984 edition of the text of the Luther Bible. Obviously, the EKD had a hard time granting the permission asked of it. In the end the EKD only gave its go-ahead when the cooperative venture on the part of the LWF and the ILC had been stymied. The Council of the EKD declared it “to be imperative and quite sufficient for the chairman of the Council to write the pre-face.” The Council insisted that pride of place should be given to a new preface by its chairman, President Dr. Nikolaus Schneider of the Union Church (!) of the Rhineland. They insisted also on the removal of the foreword by SELK-Bishop Voigt which had already been submitted. All this despite the fact that the Council of the EKD had not made any contribution to this publishing project; the Council could only insist on its copyright monopoly. On top of this, the introduction I wrote, “On how to get into reading Holy Scripture”, was to be unceremoniously axed. But at this point the Axel Springer Publishing House refused to play along, threatening to stop the entire project if need be.
At the end of the day, the Council of the EKD gave in, at least to some extent. My intro-duction could remain, but only under certain conditions. The head office of the EKD let it be understood that “there is consensus in the EKD that the Old Testament is a book entirely on its own and therefore it cannot and should not be read only and primarily as a witness to Christ...” If the project was to be rescued, a compromise would have to be found, albeit at a heavy price. The EKD would not allow the statement I had made to stand, “that according to the Christian understanding these writings (of the Old Testa-ment) all point to Him who reveals Himself as the Son of God, Jesus Christ....Therefore Christians read and understand the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.” I was informed that “if these sentences were to appear in print, considerable irritation would ensue in our EKD ranks.” Any indication that the New Testament opens up a proper understanding for reading the Bible is something the EKD would “consider most un-usual,” something that could “make absolutely no claim to objectivity.”
We yielded to the EKD’s insistence, simply in order to bring the Bible to people who otherwise would hardly have any access to it. And what could be more important than that?
This new edition of the Bible is now available. But in the process an entirely feasible piece of joint work was thoroughly nixed, and the SELK was cruelly duped. All of this did not display a very “ecumenical” attitude on the part of the EKD, even though President Schneider writes lyrically in his preface that “the Council of the EKD was extraordinarily glad to agree to the request to allow the use of Martin Luther’s translation (1984 revi-sion) in this edition of the Bible.” Who is going to believe him?
Bishop emeritus Dr. Jobst Schöne D.D.
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