Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door in 1517 (taken from a cinematic recreation). Did he realise what it would lead to?
“The Pastors and Margarita” in the title is a play on words taken from the title of “The Master and Margarita”, a famous novel by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940). Mikhail Afanasyevich was NOT a close relative of the heretic theologian Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1943) (Sergei Nikolaevich was one of the founders of St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris and (unfortunately) a formative influence on ADS). I believe there is a distant family connection, as Mikhail Afanasyevich’s ancestors included Orthodox clergy.
The dialogue between the major religious bodies in Russia and Germany, the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Evangelical Lutheran Church (EKD), one that has been in existence for the past 50 years, is now jeopardised. Indeed, communication between the two churches may stop altogether, according to an announcement yesterday by Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the head of the MP Department for External Church Relations. The reason cited for this was the recent election in the EKD of new leader. More precisely, it concerns the person who is now the head of the EKD.
On 28 October, the Synod of the EKD elected as its chairman 51-year-old Margot Kässmann, the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Hanover. She is divorced and the mother of four children. The approval of Ms Kässmann went surprisingly smoothly, only five of the 142 members of the Synod voted against her. Thus, for the first time in the long history of Lutheranism (which dates back to 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses against the Catholic clergy), a woman was at the head of this 25 million-strong German Protestant church.
“We do not recognise the ordination of women to the priesthood, nor do we recognise such ordination to the episcopate”, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev said in reiterating the principles buttressing the MP’s position. In his opinion, of course, the MP could continue inter-church dialogue with the EKD, but, it would involve many “protocol issues”. For example, it is unlikely that the First Hierarch of the MP would meet with Ms Kässmann. “How would the patriarch refer to her or meet with her?” Vladyki Hilarion wondered. This situation will continue for at least the next six years (that is the length of her term as leader of the EKD).
In 1992, Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias attended a Holy Assembly of First Hierarchs of the Local (Orthodox) Churches. That meeting released a communiqué where the Orthodox hierarchy firmly rejected some recent trends in ecumenical relations, including the problems introduced by the ordination of women to the priesthood. In this regard, Orthodox found solidarity with Roman Catholics. For example, the Vatican’s relations with the Church of England markedly deteriorated after the Anglicans in 1994 (until now, considered one of the most conservative Protestant “denominations”) allowed women to be ordained to the dignity of the priesthood. As a side-note, the newly-elected head of the EKD, Margot Kässmann, promised that she would not demand that Catholics ordain women to the priesthood and abolish clerical celibacy. (Editor’s note: this last sentence probably means that Ms Kässmann is putting no prerequisites on her relations with the papists… at least, that is what it says to me. BMD)
“I don’t think that Ms Kässmann’s election will lead to a break in relations between the Orthodox and Lutheran churches”, Pastor Konstantin Andreyev, rector of the Moscow parish of St Michael the Archangel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, said in an interview with our correspondent from Up-to-the-Minute News. “Strictly speaking, we don’t consider Ms Kässmann the head of the EKD, but, she is the chairman of the Synod of the EKD, the largest Lutheran Association in Germany. As long as the MP participates in inter-church dialogue, it can’t ignore this powerful and very conservative organisation”, Pastor Andreyev concluded.
Not every Russian Lutheran welcomes the fact that their German fellows elected a woman as their head. For example, Pastor Ivan Chernyshov, commenting on Ms Kässmann’s election, recalled the words of the Apostle Paul that a bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife. “If you follow this example literally, a woman couldn’t serve at the altar simply because she can’t be the ‘husband of one wife’, quite simply, because of her gender”, Pastor Chernyshov noted. In addition, he called to mind the words of the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Corinthians, Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted for them to speak.
12 November 2009
Vremya Novostei (Up-to-the-Minute News)
As quoted in Interfax-Religion
http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=10622 (in Russian)