A little peace

After a long interruption, the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church are talking to each other again. The Orthodox had broken off contact after the election of Margot Kabmann as EKD Council Chairwoman.

On the fringes of the Dresden Kirchentag, the EKD Council President, Praeses Nikolaus Schneider, and Bishop Martin Schindehutte met with the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion, as the EKD announced on Monday (06.06.2011) announced in Hannover. Both sides expressed their support for a continuation of the ecumenical dialogue and agreed on a working group for this purpose.

Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's foreign office, and Schindehutte reportedly discussed the state of relations between the two churches and "the difficulties that have arisen in recent years". After the election of Margot Kabmann as chairwoman of the EKD Council, the Russian Orthodox Church suspended interchurch contacts at the leadership level in November 2009. Hilarion stated that the patriarch could not meet with a female bishop. Contacts continued at the working level. the dialogue of EKD with the Russian Orthodox Church goes back to 1959.

Points of contention: ordination of women and homosexuality
Russian Orthodox Church rejects women's ordination in Western churches. It also takes exception to the Protestant churches' stance on homosexuality. The Moscow Patriarchate broke off relations with the Lutheran Church of Sweden in 2005. The occasion was the decision of the Swedish popular church to bless same-sex partnerships ecclesiastically.

According to the EKD, Hilarion and Schindehutte spoke "in detail" about different perspectives of the dialogue. Afterwards, the EKD Council Chairman and President of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Schneider, met the "Foreign Minister" of the Moscow Patriarchate. Schneider thanked for the "open and fruitful conversation" and welcomed the formation of the joint working group to clarify problematic ies. Observers describe the meeting as friendly and a step toward normalizing inter-church relations. At the request of the Russian Orthodox side, there was also a meeting with the Bishop of Saxony, Jochen Bohl, who is also deputy chairman of the council.

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