23.01.17 | News, Three questions for

Three questions for...

Florian Gärtner, the new Head of Department for World Mission and Ecumenical Relations of the Protestant Church of the Palatinate
Florian Gärtner

Florian Gärtner visited the EMS Secretariat and took part in the Monday service. (Photo: EMS/Waltz)

Yesterday, Florian Gärtner was inaugurated in his new office as Head of Department for World Mission and Ecumenical Relations. Together with the partner churches in Ghana, South Korea and West Papua, the 41-year-old theologian wants to make worldwide Christianity to be experienced.

You are in charge of World Mission and Ecumenical Relations in the Palatinate church. What made you take this position?

Our Sisters and Brothers in Christ live in the Palatinate, in Germany, in Europa and all over the world. We are all part of the Body of Christ. I want to tell others about this global community and this unique connection across borders and cultures. And I want it to be experienced by as many people as possible. Together we are one - alone we are lonely. We need each other. Of course, there are also conflicts in such a community - like in a family. These conflicts should be handled brotherly and sisterly by talking about it and by seeking compromises. Despite manifold differences we are connected through our faith.

What does it take to make such partnerships work? And how do you want to further strengthen and develop these international relations in your church?

All parties involved need to want and support a partnership for it to be successful. The official exchange of information and the mutual visits - as essential as they are - are not enough to keep up a good partnership. There needs to be an exchange of heart, informal conversations, common experiences and reflections. These elements create a deeper knowledge of each other. I am looking for new ways of encounter which make virtual meetings additionally to the ones in person possible. I am convinced that the direct contact of church members via social media and the internet and the possibility to exchange life concerns and questions of faith will enrich our partnerships - and each and every one of us.

In your opinion, what are the challenges of the worldwide Ecumenical movement? And how do you want to face these challenges in your work and with your church?

There are many challenges. The socio-economic differences are just one example. While we in the Palatinate and our partners in Korea live in a rich industrial nation, our partners in Ghana and West Papua do not. In addition to these differences, there are cultural differences and different theological approaches and understandings. All this can lead to conflicts. In this setting, it is very important to me to not play solidarity and partnership off against theological interpretations. This means that we have to invest in communication and questions of understanding. We should not just persist in our own - allegedly well-founded - understanding of "God and the world", but take the liberty to change our views and allow others this liberty as well. I want to advocate this in my work and in my church.

The interview was conducted by Corinna Waltz.

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