Chancellor Angela Merkel with the Kirchentag President, Gerhard Robbers (photo credit: Kirchentag Jardine)
As President of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag (German Protestant Church), Professor Gerhard Robbers presided over the 34th Annual Protestant Church Conference held May 1-5, 2013 in Hamburg, Germany. Some 160,000 people — including a number of high-profile politicians — met to pray, celebrate, and discuss together in the event, whose theme was "Soviel du brauchst" ("As much as you need").
The 650-page program of the Congress listed 2500 events, from the opening service on Wednesday afternoon to the "vast closing Eurcharist" on Wednesday evening. The text for the closing eucharist was from Micah: "They shall all sit under their own vines, and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid." The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, ... defined the peace in these terms: "There will be no terror or fear, because you will be satisfied with your own tree and not need to capture your neighbour's tree when you don't need it. After all, you can sit under only one tree at a time, can't you?"*
The modern Kirchentag began in 1946, as a means of bringing the various concerns of the Protestant Churches together after the Second World War. It was first annual, then biannual, and has developed growing ecumenical and interfaith elements.
In responding to questions about the ecumenical approach of the 34th Congress, Professor Robbers said: "Freedom of religion applies to everyone. It is a prerequisite for a peaceful and free society. ... Ecumenism begins for me in the knowledge of one's own position and also in respect for the convictions of others. We should develop and strengthen the commonalities. ... Ecumenism is a Christian commitment and Christian hope for me. At the same time it is enriching - because I can learn from the other.
The 35th Congress will be held in Stuttgart in June 2015.