2. 02. 2012 | News, Archive 2012

40 years of international ecumenical partnership

"Association of Churches and Missions in South Western Germany" now called "Evangelical Mission in Solidarity"

Jerusalem Forum 1991 (Foto: EMS)

On 28 January 2012 EMS celebrates the 40th anniversary of its foundation in Landau/Germany as the "Association of Churches and Missions in South Western Germany". At almost the same time, at the beginning of this year, the society has given itself a new constitution and a new name. The new title "Evangelical Mission in Solidarity" reflects the development of relations between the German members and their foreign partners in the past four decades, moving towards a fellowship of "churches and missions in international partnership" on an equal footing.

As from the 1990s the programmes and methods of the EMS became increasingly internationalized under the guiding principle of "Common Witness to the coming Kingdom of God". In future the six churches and five mission societies in Germany and Switzerland together with 17 churches in ten countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East will enjoy equal legal rights in order to develop the association jointly. "In the EMS we experience that we have really become part of each other", said Dr. Habib Badr, Senior Pastor of the National Evangelical Church in Beirut. "The internationalization of the EMS and its decision-making bodies also means that the mutual solidarity of the churches and mission societies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe will be significantly strengthened."

Church services, meetings and participation projects

The EMS is going to celebrate its forty-year history and its new constitution with numerous events and activities. "The new name of the EMS is also our programme," says Ulrike Schmidt-Hesse, Deputy General Secretary of EMS and responsible for the celebrations. "We invite local congregations and groups in all parts of the EMS fellowship to hold special worship services on the theme of 'Mission in Solidarity', to participate in international encounters and to support exemplary projects in different countries."

Following the Constituent Assembly of the new EMS in Herrenberg/Württemberg on 11 November there will be regional Jubilee Services with international participation at various places in South Western Germany. A "Day of Encounter" with representatives of the Provisional Mission Council from three continents is planned for 23 June in Frankfurt/Main, and on 30 September a benefit concert conducted by Professor Frieder Bernius will take place in Stuttgart under the title "East meets West". Study materials, orders of service and background information are intended to encourage local congregations and individuals to take an interest in mission and international ecumenical partnership, to support exemplary projects such as theological education and environmental protection and to integrate mission and ecumenism creatively into their local church activities. The various documents and aids will be made available during the course of the year on the EMS website together with a historical review of the association's ecumenical self-understanding in the last 40 years.

Mission in transition: Learning from each other

From the very outset in 1972 the EMS was marked by the desire to achieve equal "partnership" between the churches in Germany and overseas. "Today the word 'solidarity' expresses this deeper relationship which has grown over the years as well as the trust and cooperation in mission", says EMS General Secretary Bernard Dinkelaker. "We take all decisions together, we bear joint responsibility for programmes and projects, and we learn from each other in faith and action. Over and again the strength of the EMS fellowship is proved in crisis situations, for example last year as we supported our Japanese sister church", he says.

Marianne Wagner, chairperson of the Provisional EMS Mission Council, emphasizes the inestimable value of the fellowship with international partners for the German churches, especially in view of the changed understanding of mission. "In the EMS fellowship mission was never called into question as a essential feature of the church. And the positive aspects of the propagation of the Christian faith were always evident", says Rev. Wagner, who is responsible for World Mission and Ecumenism in the Protestant Church of the Palatinate. She underlines the fact that her own regional church has gained experience from the EMS in all kinds of ways, "for example in discussions on a modern understanding of mission with our young candidates for the ministry, by active participation in mission campaigns, in advice on bilateral partnerships, the service of ecumenical co-workers or the Ecumenical Youth Volunteer Programme (ÖFP)".

Responsible for EMS Jubilee:
Ulrike Schmidt-Hesse, Head of Department for Mission and Partnership and Deputy General Secretary, phone: +49 711 636 78 -33, schmidt-hesse@ems-online.org
Media Contact: Gerd Sander, Press Officer, Tel.: +49 711 636 78 -85, Mobile: +49 178 636 78 33, sander@ems-online.org