Germany’s Evangelical Free Churches Open Emotional Debate on Homosexuality, Evangelical Focus

Should churches bless same-sex unions? Should people with a public LGBTQ lifestyle be allowed to be part of the leadership of the ministry?

These questions were the most commented upon during the General Assembly of the Federation of Free Evangelical Churches from Germany (Bund FEG), on September 23 and 24 in Solingen (Düsseldorf). According to a report from the news site Pro Median Magazinethe emotional tension was palpable as delegates expressed their views during the meeting.

In a country that passed the “Marriage for All” law in 2017, which grants homosexual couples all rights (including the adoption of children), the vast majority of the Protestant Church (EKD) has been ordaining gay priests for a decade now. A huge debate has also erupted recently in Germany a Roman Catholic churchespecially after the start of this year, about 100 workers came forward as LGBTQ and demanded doctrinal changes.

The theological and pastoral conversation on how to welcome LGBT people in churches This has also happened in free evangelical churches, such as those adhering to the creed of the German Evangelical Fellowship (which holds to a historical understanding of human sexuality and confesses the authority of the Bible in matters of doctrine and life).

In 2019the Bund FEG published “Managing Tensions. On homosexuality in the Free Evangelical Churches”, an 11-page document stating that its churches believe that “the love of God and the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ are for each person” and that “mmarriage between a man and a woman, and their family life, is the biblical model”. Therefore, “homosexual behavior is not compatible with this model”.

But the movements of some Bund FEG member congregations over the past few months, has revived the debate. A group of pastors has just joined the network “From”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 it clear that its position had not changed in a text that critics say opened the door to expel the churches that differ from the consensus on this key theological aspect.

At the September gathering, the Bund FEG insisted on the need to listen to each other and avoid remarks that could be “dividing”. As reported by Pro Median Magazineboard chair Ansgar Hörsting said 95% did not change their minds on what the Bible says about practicing homosexuality. But the general debate at the congregation found pastors expressing frustration about other pastors remaking their theology and practice.

For Hörsting, the discussion of 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 has undertaken to open a process of dialogue between pastors on “lived homosexuality”, which will help free churches form a “formative guiding principle” on the issue. The president asked delegates in Solingen that this phase of internal debate be seen as “a conversation, not an exchange of blows”.

Posted in: Evangelical focus – europe
– Free Evangelical churches in Germany open an emotional debate on homosexuality

Barry F. Howard