Thursday, April 7, 2011

German Prof on Preaching and Preachers

I translated this piece from a Dutch on-line paper. Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Graf reflected on trends in European churches. He comments on the change in the character of preaching, and the changing character of the office, because of women's ordination. He also muses about the relationship of church and state in Germany in light of the rise of Islam on European continent. On the one hand he calls for the return to Word based "masculine" preaching. On the other hand, he sees the need for the old state church to adopt a 'free church' model for the present multi-kulti age we live in. 

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Graf, professor of systematic theology and ethics at the University of Munich, thinks that a large part of Sunday preaching not good enough. "We have plenty of symbolic communication, candles are carried from left to right, and so on. That is all beautiful and important. But the word-culture, the sermon-culture, which was once a distinctive feature of Protestantism, has for the last thirty years lost its appeal to many ministers. We are now experiencing a kind of infantilisation of communication. "

The church should not squander its intellectual heritage, says Graf. "Christianity is, in the formulation of Hegel, a thinking religion, and I would love to hold to that. You can’t, in a society whose complexity is increasing, do just the opposite in the religious culture. You can not rely on the soft and infantile. I recently spoke to an friend who is marginal to the church. When he went to church, he said, it seemed as if he was not being taken seriously, right from the start. "

According to Graf, today we face two major trends: "event orientization" and "psychologizing." People want some sensational experience; which mean special events like a papal visit or an exceptional Sunday service. In addition, all theological and religious content is simplified and turned into "a psycho-jargon, which is only concerned about feeling good, and where the basic tensions and contradictions of life hardly play a role."

Graf sees the feminization of the church offices as one of the causes of the problem. Because the profession of a preacher has become a feminine calling, its role undergoes significant changes. "The sociological question also applies here: ‘What does it mean when a job is no longer attractive to men?’"

This development also changed the [understanding of the] image of God, and the nature of faith in the church, says Graf. He sees among his colleagues, "young women with a predominantly petty-bourgeois, socialist background: more mummy type, than intellectual." So "a form of religiosity that connects a cuddly God with bad taste

In light these trends and developments, Graf advocates for a return to the tradition: "In our kind of society cultural traditions are a very, very unstable and fragile heritage." Therefore, institutions like the church are necessary, despite the fact that in the past half century they have greatly diminished in authority.

The Munich professor finds a massive distrust of religious institutions. "If you ask the Germans, they trust a politician or a firefighter, infinitely more than a Roman Catholic priest. That is not a sign that this kind of teaching authority, by institutions, is still working. "

Nevertheless, it is necessary that the church as an institution remains. "You can only pass on the foundations of our culture to future generations if you have developed an institutional framework. If such frameworks suffer erosion it will become hard to pass on [the traditions]. "

Meanwhile, Graf finds it worrisome that churches in Germany are subsidized by the state. As long as the church has no financial worries, "reform impulses", according to professor, have little effect.

Churches need therefore to reflect on their relationship to the state, says Graf. Too much dependence on the government could well be harmful to the churches. "In addition, real problems of justice arise if the state gives privileges to the Christian churches and not to Muslim communities."

Against this background Graf calls for equal treatment of Christianity and Islam in politics. At least, at certain points. So he thinks that the German universities should have equal opportunities for Muslim theologians for imam training. "Integration means that Muslims should never feel that they have in German society are discriminated against."

Dutch .

based on this German interview report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: .

(I used Google Translate and Babelfish to produce my version. Errors remain mine.)


1 comment:

George van Popta said...

Interesting. Yesterday I was speaking with someone who is a member of an ANiC church who said that he had changed his mind on women's ordination, not for exegetical reasons, but because of what it has done to church offices. He spoke about the feminization of the clergy. Five new ministers are being inducted into the local ACC diocese this week, and they are all women. He did not think that the femination of the clergy was a healthy development.