Where Protestant influences manifest themselves in European societies and where Protestantism becomes visible – these questions were discussed by 12 young theologians from 9 European countries at their conference in Sibiu, Romania April 12th-15th. Volkmar Ortmann, associate professor at the University of Giessen and board member of the Protetant League Hesse was impressed by the great commitment and the focused cooperation of the participants despite their different contexts and theological backgrounds. For him, it showed that „theology unites Europe.“
“We became courage” was one among many phrases Gerhard Servatius-Depner coined during this years conference in Sibiu. For me it is an appropriate summary of three days filled with laughter and joy, deep conversation and thoughts about theological and at the same time personal issues. I returned home full of courage and hope for the future and as a part of a European network of young theologians. Having had the chance to getting to know so many engaged theologians from different countries and churches in my age who are all interested in dialogue between church traditions was pretty unique!
My name is Benedikt Jetter. Right on the ‘Forum Young Theology’ conference in Sibiu in 2023, I turned 34. My ecclesiastical background is the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg (Germany), where I’m serving as pastor in the region of Stuttgart. Born in the year of the fall of the Berlin wall, I feel European in the broadest and most positive sense. Still, in the last years, I have the impression, that crossing borders and linking people from differing historical, emotional and confessional contexts, is not as obvious as it might seem. There’s still a lot of relations to establish. From my civil service in France with the organization ‘Initiative Christians for Europe’, I adopted the motto ‘building bridges for Europe’. Almost everything I do, is somehow related to that, always in the perspective of the One Church of Jesus Christ transcending time & space and all human borders. Europe has become for me a fascinating ‘training area’ (referring to ‘train’ both as exercising and using the railway). Through studies abroad internships, steward programmes, conferences and work stays in different churches, I got acquainted with broad parts of the ecumenical family, where I feel spiritually at home.
Participation in a community means to share successes and sufferings.
Participation is the attitude leading a community to liveliness even in the situation of shrinking, but to tolerance even in the situation of growth. Through bringing inside the community the life realities of many many different individual situations it protects against authoritarianism in cases of succesfull expansion.
Such, in my opinion, participation should also release energies for keep the community on living, even if one member (eventual the „leader“) misses. My questions before this conference is: How to strengthen the participation inside a congregation, in order to not become inwardly extinct, while from outside (f.i. from a community´s fan club through „online services“) comes a lot of ensurement and compliment but no kind of spiritual cohesion and support?
I am, 26 years old from France (Strasbourg). I am studying Protestant Theology in order to become a pastor in my local Church, the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace-Lorraine. I am really happy to be back for this new edition of Forum Young Theology 2023 with this very interesting topic of participation! As a young queer woman in my Church, it is not always easy to be heard and to feel seen and I think all our Churches have to improve themselves in their way of making a place for minorities. I look forward to discussing this issue with other young theologians and also to discovering Sibiu and the Romanian culture!“
„For us as Protestants, it is vital to participate in the public community.“ With sentences like these, the theologian Adrian Schleifenbaum from Giessen opened the second Digital Academy of the Forum Young Theology in Europe. Only by participating in church and other social networks Protestants can share what they have, learn new things, celebrate life and ultimately put their theological insights into practice.
Volkmar Ortmann also says: „Participation is part of the DNA of Protestantism“. He is the head of the Forum Young Theology in Europe and the Digital Academy – seven digital lectures that took place from November to February under the theme of „Participation and Protestantism“. Ortmann is a private lecturer at the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen and a member of the board of the Protestant League of Hesse. Every fortnight, 20 mainly young theologians from different European countries and churches met via Zoom vor the digital lectures.
The second conference will take place in Sibiu, also known under its German name Hermannstadt, in Romania from 12 to 15 April 2023. The theme is:
Taking responsibility – giving hope – being visible
At this conference, we want to discuss where Protestant influences manifest themselves in our European societies and where Protestantism becomes visible. We will examine these issues with reference to a range of religious-sociological and ecclesiological approaches. At the same time, we shall also consider the point at which Protestantism can and should assume responsibility and what rays of hope it can offer to society. The conference thus aims to reveal the binding points of Protestantism in Europe.
You will be accommodated in the Protestant Academy of Sibiu in a single room. Travel expenses incurred will be reimbursed upon request. apply now
Protestantism and Participation is the topic of the second part of the Forum Young Theology in Europe. It will start with a Digital Academy on 3 November 2022 with seven lectures every two weeks from 6 to 8 pm, followed by a conference in presence from 12-15 April 2023 in Sibiu, Romania. There the findings of the lectures will be deepened and specific output for the practice in school, parish, and civil society debates will be developed.
At the May 2022 meeting of the Forum Young Theology in Europe 20 participants produced various workshop outputs on the theme of nationalism and cosmopolitism. First, they developed nine theses on inclusive identity in Christ. With a spiritual guide for worship and a lesson outline, the participants show how to put the theses into practice. Finally, they composed and wrote a canon.