For the record, these are two statements issued by the Protestant Church in Germany following the EU Referendum in the UK:

The Chair of the Council of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, has issued the following statement in the wake of the EU Referendum result:

The Evangelical Church in Germany deeply regrets the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. Now it will be necessary to analyse the reasons for this decision. The imminent departure of a country from the EU is a painful matter and must prompt us to drive the European peace project forward even more energetically. With our international ecumenical network, our churches will continue to work towards a united Europe based on solidarity. If it is confirmed that many young people, in particular, voted for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union, we have a particular commitment not to flag in our dedication. Speaking for myself, I see young people as being the hope of Europe. (Hanover/Berlin, 24 June 2016)

 

The German co-chair of the Meissen Commission (of which I am the English co-chair), Ralf Meister, Lutheran bishop of Hanover, and Petra Bosse-Huber, EKD bishop of ecumenical relations and ministries abroad, are seriously dismayed by the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union:

“With all due respect for the democratic decision in Britain and all the obvious necessity for reforms in the EU, in our view Europe will suffer a painful loss with the upcoming withdrawal of an important partner,” said Bishop Ralf Meister. “The spirit of reconciliation and the ecclesial fellowship between our churches will not be affected by this political step. On the contrary, we will do everything to bring our churches and the people in our countries closer together.

“Precisely in our fragile and vulnerable world, and in a Europe that is so directly challenged today, our churches have a mutual need of each other and want to make an energetic contribution to European and global cooperation,” Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber underlined, speaking between sessions of the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee meeting in Trondheim, Norway. “Together with our sisters and brothers in the Church of England we are working for a Europe of growing community and just peace,” she added.

 

 

[The Evangelical Church in Germany and the Church of England have for 25 years been bonded through the Meissen Declaration. Together they are on the way towards the full, visible unity of their churches. In past decades countless steps have been taken towards greater togetherness – close partnership relations exist between parishes, cathedrals, German regional churches and dioceses.] (Hanover/Berlin, 24 June 2016)

I am in Leicester from yesterday until Saturday night leading a Meissen Delegation Visit. The EKD is focusing this year on 'tolerance' and interfaith issues, so we have a group of English and Germans learning about (and experiencing) interfaith co-existence in an English city.

Very pertinent that we arrived here as the murder of a soldier in Woolwich continues to shock. Yesterday we introduced the Germans to the 'Leicester story' – with quite a lot about Richard III – and ended the day in a Sikh gurdwara.

Today we will be joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the EKD at the St Philip's Centre in Evington – a centre setting the pace for faiths working together (not just talking) in this complex city.

It is purely coincidental that we set the theme of the Meissen Delegation Visit a year or two back and we were only able to tie in the Archbishop of Canterbury once he had been appointed and agreed it. The murder in Woolwich changed the context in so far as the Christian response to it and to the fears of the Muslim community are concerned. Our primary concern has to be for the victim, his family and friends, those serving in our armed forces who do the will of our political leaders, and the community who witnessed these shocking events in Woolwich – the desecration of 'home space'.

But, Muslims have responded with unequivocal outrage to this murder. Yes, there is a fear of copy-cat behaviour on the part of other unhinged fanatics; and yes, there will be some who perversely see such brutality as justifiable in the name of some bizarre jihad. But, the response of Muslims has been immediate and straight – and this needs to be strongly encouraged.

Several newspapers this morning are urging Muslim leaders to be more proactive in addressing hate-preaching and the radicalisation of Muslim young people. They are being exhorted to take more responsibility for addressing some of the serious issues in their own communities. And that is OK. The question, however, is whether the rest of us will encourage them practically as they face this task, standing alongside them in these difficult and challenging circumstances.

The coincidence of the Woolwich murder with this Meissen Delegation Visit sadly adds an immediate emphasis to looking at what we are doing in the field of interfaith work in England – our response offering a cases study in how the English church responds to the immediate in the context of our long-term commitment to the common good.

The rest of today will help us look at both English and German interfaith perspectives. No hard questions will be ducked and the talking will, as always, be generous and straight.

 

I have just got back from Erfurt, Germany, where I spent several days making connections with our (the Diocese of Bradford) link with the Kirchenkreis there. It wasmy first visit to a part of Germany I don’t know. I was recently in Eisenach, but Erfurt is further down the railway line.

It is beautiful – especially in the freezing sun of Saturday. Just google some pictures – it is packed full of great people, wonderful buildings and set in glorious countryside.

I arrived on Thursday evening. After meetings all Friday morning, I was taken on a walking tour of the town by my generous host. It was freezing cold, but, as the Germans say, hochinteressant. Among other things I learned was the fact that Schiller finished writing Maria Stuart at the place that later became Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Humanity and brutality on the same spot, separated only by time.

This is also the place where Martin Luther became a monk, and Napoleon fell for the location, too. It is a place where history is written in stone and that history is as conflicted as any other. ‘Sanierung’ is what was done to the buildings infrastructure once the drab DDR had passed away and colour re-entered the urban landscape. I guess you can clean up buildings in a way that you can’t history.

The last couple of days have seen me meeting key people, saying goodbye to a lovely visiting group from Bradford, enjoying a synod, contributing to a press conference, bringing a greeting to the congregation of the Predigerkirche (before starting the journey back home), going to the pub with some great company, getting a guided tour (by the generous and fascinating Dompropst) of the Roman Catholic Cathedral and Severikirche, discussing ways of growing our partnership link relationships, and having dinner with my hosts and their friends. I even fumbled my way though various conversations in German in which I learned again how much detail I have forgotten – such as vocabulary, genders, endings, etc. (after which there’s not much left…).

I have often remarked that the real benefit of being immersed in another culture is that it forces you to look at yourself though a different lens. the heated issues of the home church, for example, become culturally relativised when seen in the context of another culture that emerges from a different history with different ‘issues’ and in a different language. One particular conversation in the Landeskirchenamt on Friday morning did just this.

The Landeskirchen of this part of the world began around ten years ago to discuss coming together. This was for a host of reasons, and the process has now been concluded. Well, it has reached a certain point of conclusion, but such things are never finished and the end of the journey is never reached. They began by trying to be polite and ‘pastoral’, creating joint ways of working together as a first step on a journey towards unity. One powerful view of some of those involved in making it happen is that this was a mistake. You can put off the tough stuff of change as long as you like, but it won’t mitigate the pain of actually doing it. All it does is prolong uncertainty, foster illusions (that it might never happen), and create space for the sort of imaginative non-engagement that I rather rudely call ‘distraction therapy’.

My point of reflection? The dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield will vote next March on whether to dissolve in order to create a new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. Such a step might be new for the Church of England (what isn’t?), but we could learn from the experience of a church that has already been there and done it. It has not been easy and problems remain – inevitably, as people are involved; but, they have succeeded here in creating the Evangelische Kirche in Mitteldeutschland, creating compromises in order to make it work, and taking a long-term view of how it will develop (and recognise benefits) in the future.

Any change is painful – although often less painful than the pain of thinking about it beforehand – but refusing to face it does nothing to avoid pain… or reality. The key is to be ahead of the game and not always trying to catch up with a world that has already moved on.

The West Yorkshire proposals promise much and I see it as the creative way ahead for the Church of England in West Yorkshire and the Dales. The process is demanding, but also rewarding: it is certainly not boring. But, the lesson from this part of Germany suggests (to me, at least) that it is not ‘pastoral’ to spin things out for ever: after nearly three years (!) of consultation and debate, we need to decide, proceed and lead.

This week’s edition of Die Zeit is fronted by a picture of a large twin-towered German church sinking under the waves of modernity. The huge banner headline reads: ‘Ist die Kirche noch zu retten (Can the church still be saved)?’ The sub-text asks: ‘How Christianity is struggling for survival in modern society’ and promises an interview with the elderly Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Küng.

The church in central (Germanic) Europe is undoubtedly going through interesting times. This has (in my humble opinion) much to do with the rapid changes in receipts from Church Tax and a wrestling with the cultural and missional implications of such changes. If ‘membership’ of your church is denominational and your tax payments buy you your baptism, wedding and funeral, to what extent are evangelism or other elements of mission perceived as necessary or urgent?

Of course, this isn’t the whole story. The Church Tax in Germany has enabled the church to provide amazing (and amazingly high-quality) social provision for children, young people, elderly and sick people. It’s reach has gone beyond the limits of ‘what is good for the interests of the church itself’ and seen care of society as it’s remit. Few would talk this down.

But the world has changed, fewer people attend the churches and the taxes a reducing. rather than simply ignore this, the EKD under Bishop Wolfgang Huber bravely launched a decade of reform leading to the 500th anniversary of the launch of the Reformation in 1517. But even this wasn’t a desperate measure. It was a measured response to change – something churches have to do in every generation.

And I am writing this in Basel where we are staying with friends and looking forward to an ecumenical festival across the city tomorrow. Here the situation is similar to that in Germany. Church buildings have been converted for other (mainly cultural) uses. And therein lies my problem with the Zeit assumption that the church is preoccupied with it’s own survival. Die Zeit is asking the wrong question.

Of course, the church’s role in society has changed, is changing and always will keep changing. Yes, the Christendom model is dead and there is a need for reform in many respects; but this is not primarily for the sake of the survival of an institution. Dietrich Bonhoeffer got it right when he wrote:

“Jesus ruft nicht zu einer neuen Religion auf, sondern zum Leben. (Jesus doesn’t call us to a new religion, but to life itself)” (Gedicht an Eberhard Bethge, Tegel, 18 Juli 1944 – Das Ausserordentliche wird Erreignis: Kreuz und Auferstehung, S.63)

The survival of the church is not the end to which the church aspires. But elements of all churches – in England as well as Europe – need to recover the vision for which they exist in the first place: to be a reflection of the Jesus we read about in the gospels for the sake of the world we live in now.

Now, there are those in England who like to think (in a rather uncommitted liberal way) that if we could only shake off the institution of the church, we could create a new way of being church without all the stuff we find embarrassing or shaming. I recognise that what I am about to say goes wholly against the grain of the self-fulfilment, instant-gratification culture we now inhabit, but such attitudes are naive. They ignore the massive achievements of the church in our cultures – intellectually, socially, educationally, politically, morally, etc. – and collude in the selective memory that encourages costless fantasy.

The Christian Church, in the UK as well as here in Switzerland and Germany, needs to recover confidence in the church itself and the vocation of the church to serve its society. Show me what difference the National Secular Society or the British Humanist Association makes to local communities in every corner of the country. Show me how those Christians who want to re-invent church in terms of like-minded people joining together to re-write theology in their own convenient image change one iota of their local community for the better. If you want to do that, you need buildings, people and organisation, vision, commitment and enormous patience. All things the organised church has and uses for the sake of the society around them. The organised church has a unique vocation and needs its people to start having confidence in it again – not for its own sake, but for the sake of those it serves.

So, survival of the church is not our task. Shaping the church to better be able to serve our communities in the name (that is, according to the character of) Jesus Christ is the challenge. It isn’t an easy one, but it is more interesting and exciting than simply trying to keep an institution afloat. Or, as Stephan Schaede, Director of Evangelische Akademie in Loccum puts it (in the Zeit article):

Church is interesting for society if it says what sort of a society it expects – rather than asks how it can fit into society.</

Ps. I just discovered that the headline in Die Zeit is actually the title of Hans Küng's new book!

If the idea of academic ecumenical conferences doesn’t float your boat, now is the time to click onto a different site. However, if you can get beyond thinking it will be dry or abstract, you might well find that the conversations stimulated by the papers given in Salisbury this last week float your mind and theological imagination off in unexpected directions. I was tired when I arrived at Sarum College on Tuesday, but totally ‘alive’ when I left last night (unfortunately, missing the last morning). Anyway, here’s a summary of key points from the papers and a reflection: it might be quite long, but you have been warned.

Bishop Graham Cray, Ecclesiology, Culture & Mission: This began with an explication of the ecclesiological heterogeneity inherent in Fresh ExpressionsEmerging Church and the churches involved in and around them. Starting with a brief survey of the changing context of English society and the place of the church within it (set out in the Mission Shaped Churchreport), the challenges facing a ‘traditional’ church are not hard to detect. The challenge to the churches is, therefore, to engender new forms of church which stand alongside, emerge from or extend the reach of existing churches.

The key point about Fresh Expressions is that there is no standard model to adopt or replicate; rather, there is a process of thinking, questioning, planning and discerning which has to do with genuine love of neighbour and not the prioritising of preferred worship styles. The theological underpinning derives from (according to the paper) (a) deciding what constitutes ‘church’, (b) the trinitarian nature of the ‘Missio Dei’, (c) mission as incarnational, (d) the church as ‘sign, instrument and foretaste’, and (e) our understanding of the ‘economy of God’.

Fresh Expressions have generated significant challenges, particularly at the interface of ecclesiology, mission and culture. The place  (and dynamic) of sacramental life in the priority of a new Christian community is a key challenge within the church, but this has also to do with the nature, identification and generation of appropriate leadership. The ecumenical challenge is not the least of these.

The paper led on to discussion of key points, such as the nature of consumerism as both context and (potential) content of Fresh Expressions. The Germans are interested in how the Church of England in particular – given its particular history and culture) has come to a point of agreeing (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) that permission should be given for such risk-taking and ground-breaking initiatives.

Bishop Professor Dr Friedrich Weber, Current Missiotheological Discussion in the EKD following the 1999 Mission Synod in Leipzig: The German context differs from the English in that (a) membership of the Church is counted according to those who pay the Church Tax (two thirds of the population – 50 million – belong to a church), and (b) the division of Germany and subsequent reunification has profoundly challenged not only society in general, but the churches also. Projections in Church Tax income over the next thirty years led to the Reformprozess and some renewed thinking about the raison d’etre and mission of the Protestant Church in Germany. (The English cynics need to realise that the huge income from the Tax also funds massive and massively impressive social care provisions.)

Based on the image of ‘breathing in’ (worship, teaching/preaching, sacraments and fellowship) and ‘breathing out’ (mission, outreach and service), mission is not an optional add-on for churches that like that sort of thing. A brief survey of German social trends (de-christianising of society; reducing church membership; individualism of faith; the eclectic provisionality of personal ‘meanings’) explains why the mission question has gained in urgency since the late 1980s. The Mission Synod in Leipzig in 1999 was a key point in getting mission on the agenda of the EKD.

The state of play in Germany in relation to mission theology is characterised by such themes as: mission as a worldwide partnership for questions of peace, justice and the integrity of creation; mission as keeping alive the question of God beyond territorial borders; mission in the context of globalisation as intersubjective dialogue; mission as the recruitment and winning of people for the community of the church; mission as the conversion of people to one another and, therefore, the struggle for the unity of the church; mission as planned dialectical behaviour.

This has all led over time to specific initiatives in the EKD and its constituent churches, including: the establishment of centres of mission and evangelism training; courses on church growth, evangelism, nurture, education and service; nurture course resources; church planting.

There is a lot going on, but there is also resistance to these impulses for mission. Nothing new there, then!

Revd Professor Loveday Alexander, Mission & Unity in the Acts of the Apostles: Every church uses the Acts of the Apostles to justify (or direct) their (wildly diverse) ecclesiology and missiology! We are given a paradigm for a church that is apostolic, but also (and often forgotten or ignored) one that demands “strong – and equally costly – commitment both to the unity of the church and … to the catholicity of the church“. Luke gives us not a propositional model, but a narrative illustration of the first churches.

Via an exploration of the word ‘ekklesia’ and its use to denote both the ‘local church’ and the ‘whole church’, we can see mission as key to Luke’s narrative explanation of what the church is for. The church has always allowed space for diversity within its overall unity (of origin, place and practice). Antioch is the ‘fresh expression’ model of church, but Paul insists on its (and his) accountability to the ‘traditional/centre’ church in Jerusalem: the ‘centre’ and the ‘marginal’ are mutually dependent and mutually accountable. It was his taking this so seriously that ultimately cost Paul his life.

So, mission is not the sole preserve of the ‘fresh’ or marginal churches, but permission, generosity, complementarity and mutual accountability are the hallmark of a genuine missiological ecclesiology.

Professor Dr Martin Wallraff, Mission & Media: Remarks on the Spread of Christianity in Late Antiquity: Christian mission always uses certain media for communication and these also shape that mission and the church itself. (a) Communication of the church’s mission in the early post-apostolic centuries (up to the fourth century) did not centre on the use of media: “For the church, the widespread communication of its missionary activities was not important.” (b) The spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire coincided with the proliferation of the new medium ‘codex’ (i.e. from ‘scroll’ to ‘book’). The early Christians soon learned how to positively take advantage of this new medium. But it raises questions about what it means to call Christianity a ‘religion of the book’. (c) Stories of mission in late antiquity often emphasise that the conversion of whole peoples began not with a church government initiative or a bishop’s commission, but with surprising and ‘humble mediators’. (d) Christian mission often corresponded with a historical quantum leap in terms of media: (e) Liturgy (preaching, performative acts & aesthetics) acquired an exceptional position on the ‘religious market’ in late antiquity. (f) More work is needed on the correlation between media and mission – and this must be done ecumenically.

Discussion went on to the disaster for mission that is the unruly horrors of the internet when used by competing Christians engaging in their theological controversies. However, this particular genie is already out of the bottle.

The Revd Dr Paul Weston, The Missionary Church in the Theology of Lesslie Newbigin: This paper was an excellent and timely reminder of the greatness of Newbigin. It looked at ecclesiology in (a) eschatological perspective, (b) corporate perspective, and as (c) ‘foretaste’. Newbigin writes: “The disunity of the church is a public denial of the sufficiency of the atonement. It is quite unthinkable that the church should be able effectively to preach that atonement and to become, in fact, the nucleus of the reconciled humanity, while that denial stands.”

The connection between the doctrine and its consequent ethics has clearly still not been understood by the squabbling church whose Gospel lacks credibility in the light of its behaviour and discourse.

Professor Dr Michael Weinrich, Missio Dei and the Mission of the Church: Systematic Theological Suggestions in the Perspective of Karl Barth: This paper (in the absence through sickness of the author) represented a Reformed understanding of the church – one that drew criticism from all sides of the conference. However, it put emphasis on the activity of God in mission and placed a question mark over a church which busies itself with self-justifying activity aimed at self-preservation or self-perpetuation for its own sake. Mission begins and ends with God and is not primarily about bigging up the church. However, one comment suggested that an ecclesiology that reduces the church to nothing raises the question about why anyone should bother with it in the first place. (Weinrich disputes that reading of his text.)

Professor Dr Corinna Dahlgrün, Protestant Theology in a Religious Vacuum: This offered a searching and moving reflection on the experiences and challenges of  ‘a missionary perspective on the study of theology in Eastern Germany’. It covered the differences between the experiences of the church in the two Germanies and the particular challenges faced (particularly by the East) since reunification – which include small membership in the post-Communist East, residual ignorance of church and Christianity, materialism, and the imbalance between churches of East and West. The three concluding theses were: (a) the churches need individuals to undergo a ‘spiritual reformation’ in order to renew the church and society; (b) to do this, the church must learn to translate its message into a language people can understand; (c) the church needs to worry less about its internal purity and take seriously its vocation to mix it in the world for the sake of the world it is called to serve.

Dr Cathy Ross, An Exposition & Critique of the Five Marks of Mission: This paper offered a clear tracing of the development of mission understanding in the Anglican Communion in the last thirty years. It is remarkable how much energy and how many words can be expended in trying to sort out ‘mission statements’ when there is less evidence of their fruit to be seen. How on earth has the church managed still to obsess about the artificial division between evangelism and social action? “When Jesus was asked to sum up what God required of us, he did not answer in terms of either a set of ‘projects’ to be performed or a set of ‘doctrines’ to believe. Instead we are called to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbour in the same way we love ourselves.” (Ramachandra) We were helpfully reminded (with reference to Oscar Romero) that “no mission statement can say everything, that we cannot do everything, that the final responsibility lies with God and that we are only ministers, not messiahs.” The ‘five marks’ were summed up by CMS as: ‘Proclaim, Teach, Respond, Seek, Renew’. But, perhaps ‘worship’ ought to be in there somewhere?

Bishop Martin Schindehütte, On the Missionary Dimension of Diaconal Service/Work: God wants everyone to be helped, saved, healed. That is the basis of the German church’s vast and expansive service of young, sick and vulnerable people through its Diakonia work. This led on to reflections on how those who work in this way (both employed and volunteers) are supported professionally and spiritually.

The Revd Hans-Hermann Pompe, The Recovery of Mission at Parish and Regional Level in Germany: Mission is back on the agenda, but there is still denial of its importance and urgency. This paper looked at some of the challenges to a recovery of mission and the implications of effective mission for the shape of the church.

The Revd Dr David Holgate observed the impact of mission thinking on the training of clergy and church leaders and called for  ‘robust theologies of culture’. In a changing world the church needs to get to grips with new demands and fit its leaders accordingly. (This followed an earlier contribution by Canon Dr Vernon White in which he described the changes in ministerial training and formation in the Church of England in the last thirty years or so.)

Canon Professor Paul Avis, Toward a Missiological Ecclesiology: The conference concluded (in my absence) with a paper that drew on the 1910 Edinburgh Conference and the emphasis on unity that ran through it. There is an “inseparable biblical and theological connection between unity and mission and … this deserves to be recognised in theological study, ministerial training, church policy and pastoral practice”.

So, there it is. Far too long a ‘digest. And I didn’t mention the worship, the pub, the meals or the fact that the conference was excellently chaired by the Bishop of Guildford, The Rt Revd Christopher Hill and Professor Dr Friederike Nüssel from Heidelberg.

You really had to be there…

This Meissen Theological Conference in Salisbury is proving too full for me to have done an easy digest as we go along. So, I’ll offer a quick summary of themes here and then try to make time when I get back home to write a resume of content.

Bishop Graham Cray opened up a conversation about Fresh Expressions, looking at ‘Ecclesiology, Culture and Mission’. This led into quite serious debate about how the ‘charismatic’ and adventurous ‘margins’ (Antioch) relate to the ‘centre’ (Jerusalem) and where the accountabilities lie in church life. This was given fascinating treatment on the basis of the Acts of the Apostles in a paper given by Professor Loveday Alexander on‘Mission and Unity in the Acts of the Apostles’.

If you want funny stuff, go to a German Patristics scholar working in a Swiss university. Professor Dr Martin Wallraff came at the ecclesiological questions from left-field by looking at media development in Christian history: ‘Mission and Media – Observations on the Expansion of Christianity in Late Antiquity’. Dr Paul Weston (Cambridge) took us back to and through the thinking of the great Lesslie Newbigin in ‘The Missionary Church in the Theology of Lesslie Newbigin’. This led into papers by (the absent) Professor Dr Michael Weinrich on ‘Missio Dei and the Mission of the Church’ followed by Professor Dr Corinna Dahlgrün on ‘Protestant Theology in a Religious Vacuum’.

Today we are looking at changes in the church’s approach to its mission before going on to how the English and German churches are tackling (practically) their engagement with the cultures and societies in which they are set.

The papers have been immensely stimulating, but the real benefit is in the conversation and debate that follows. It is impossible to do justice to the extent of the material, but a couple of quotes might be suggestive of the direction of travel:

Perhaps we have given too much uncritical emphasis on the church as steward of the inheritance from the past, and too little on the church as an anticipation of the future. (Graham Cray)

The fundamental task of mission is to bear witness to Christ – to be, if you like, ‘fresh expressions’ in the world of God’s living Word. (Not fresh expressions of the church!) (Loveday Alexander)

I’ll try to digest the discussions and papers later when I get the space.

This is a massive tragedy. Margot Käßmann resigned earlier today both as Bishop of the Hannover Landeskirche and as Chair of the EKD Council (Ratsvorsitzende).

Following the incident a few days ago when she drove through a red light, was stopped by the police and found to be well over the alcohol limit, she resigned all her posts. The Council had a teleconference last night and gave her unanimous support – and I gather support has come in from just about everywhere. She made no excuses and made no attempt to duck her responsibility. So, her resignation press conference demonstrated just what the EKD and Germany have lost: a woman of stature, humility, dignity, clarity and courage. She is the best communicator the EKD has and is by far the best media operator in the Church.

When she finished her statement and rose to leave the press conference, the journalists applauded her.

It is too early to say why she resigned so quickly and against the will of so many in and outside of the church. She said that her ability to offer a prophetic critique had been compromised, but I am not sure that is true. I think many people are more ready to listen to the challenging voice of one who has ‘fallen’ and speaks with humility from a place of realism (and not from a pedestal of righteousness). Her departure is a tragedy and I have emailed her personally to assure her of my personal support, prayer and love.

Her statement ended with this affirmation:

Zuletzt: Ich weiß aus vorangegangenen Krisen: Du kannst nie tiefer fallen als in Gottes Hand. Für diese Glaubensüberzeugung bin ich auch heute dankbar.

‘You can never fall deeper than the hands of God.’ James Jones once wrote a Lent book called Falling into Grace. In it he makes the point that whenever we fall into sin we then fall further into the grace of God. Clearly that is what Margot is saying. That same grace must lead her through this trauma and then restore her gifts and experience to the service of the world through her service of the Church. She must be encouraged to speak, to preach and to write – she is brilliant. That’s what I am praying for her on a very sad day.