The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) has a new President. At the first digital regional synod, Thorsten Latzel prevailed against his two competitors in the first ballot with 113 votes. Almut van Niekerk, superintendent of the church district An Sieg und Rhein, was the only applicant from the Rhineland to fail surprisingly with 57 votes.
Reiner Knieling, head of the community college of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (VELKD) in Neudietendorf near Erfurt, received only 17 votes. The new President will be inaugurated on March 20th. Manfred Rekowksi, suffering from leukemia, is retiring after eight years in office.
Latzel, who has been director of the Evangelical Academy in Frankfurt since 2013, faces major challenges. His church is in deep crisis. Both large Christian churches in Germany have the same problem in common: their members are running away in droves.
At the beginning of the synod on Monday, the outgoing President Rekowksi complained about the increasing loss of importance of the church in society and warned of the need for far-reaching structural changes. Accordingly, the church must open up, overcome parish boundaries and seek cooperation in ecumenism, but also interreligious.
Latzel wants to reach out to young people
In order to stop the membership exodus and the resulting decline in church tax revenues, Latzel wants to approach especially younger people between 20 and 40 years of age. They are “fed up with church language,” said the 50-year-old theologian when introducing the candidate, repeating known findings.
“It is no longer assumed from us that we can contribute something existential to their lives.” The Protestant Church with its flat hierarchies and post-material values already offers attractive conditions. With 2.4 million members, the Ekir is the second largest member church within the Evangelical Church in Germany.
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