Reports

Northern Germany: Backsliding over the attitude toward Homosexuality

Troublesome developments came to light in the New Apostolic Church of Northern Germany regarding its position on homosexuality.

After events in one congregation, District Apostle Rüdiger Krause formulated a significantly more restrictive guideline for Prayers of Blessing for same-sex civil unions than any other district apostle. His remarks and revisions were also insulting and unacceptable concerning homosexuality. Rainbow-NAC called for a revision of the guideline for Prayers of Blessing by District Apostle Krause.

 

An uproar took place in the congregation of Bad Zwischenahn near Oldenburg. On Saturday, July 19, 2014, Wolfgang and Robert were to receive a Prayer of Blessing for their civil union. The event was planned, invitations to friends and family had been sent out, and hotel rooms were booked. The couple was full of anticipation. Their local priest was to hold the Prayer of Blessing inside the church but the prayer didn’t take place. Three weeks before the date of the ceremony, the priest received orders from the District Leader and the Rector not to dispense the prayer as was planned. The reason: some members had complained and even threatened to leave church if a Prayer of Blessing was performed there.

 

No attempt was made to raise awareness or educate any of congregants about anything regarding the topic of homosexuality. Furthermore, the district leader was adamant: no Prayer of Blessing would take place in the church. This resulted in much unrest in the congregation. To salvage their celebration, the couple agreed to relocate their Prayer of Blessing to their home. However, it was then that they heard that during a ministers meeting, Bible passages were cited to prove that God does not condone homosexuality. In another conversation, high-ranking church officials expounded that there have been cases of homosexuality being cured. This simply crossed the line. Wolfgang and Robert were so disillusioned by the conduct of these church leaders that they withdrew their request for a Prayer of Blessing. Friends and family were informed that the religious celebration of their union was off.

 

The outrage of the local congregants was great. They had embraced Wolfgang and Robert in their midst, and couldn’t believe what happened. They wrote supporting letters to the church leadership and wore buttons from Rainbow-NAC, “Congregations are diverse”. Wolfgang and Robert currently don’t attend the Divine services of their congregation. Their local priest initially went on a leave of absence, and then resigned his office.

 

“Prayers of Blessing” are now to be called “Partnership Prayers”

 

The incident in Bad Zwischenahn generated a title wave. Just two weeks later, District Apostle Rüdiger Krause sent an official letter to the district offices and all district leaders in his work area. Rainbow-NAC is aware of this circular. In it, he also established a guideline for ‘Prayers of Blessing’ for same-sex civil unions. Such guidelines already existed in several District Apostle areas. This prayer is not given in the name of the Trinity, rather it’s only a prayer requesting God’s blessing upon the couple (see ‘Background Information’ below). Such a guideline had been developed and adopted in North Rhine-Westphalia five years ago and subsequently by other district Apostles with almost identical wording. However, District Apostle Krause changed the guideline on some critical points in his version.

It already began by dropping the name: contrary to all other guidelines, the District Apostle talked about a “Partnership Prayer” and not “Prayer of Blessing” like the other District Apostles. He wished to unequivocally remove any doubt that by renaming it, no blessing is given whatsoever to any gay couple by the the New Apostolic Church. The District Apostle and subservient Apostles clearly announced by letter to the congregants of Bad Zwischenahn that it’s very important to understand that homosexuals are not eligible for acts of blessing in the Church.

We perceived the renaming as a significant devaluation of the institution “Prayer of Blessing”. It clearly contradicted the intentions of other District Apostles associated with their introduction. By removal of the term "blessing" from the title, the main importance of the Prayer, the request for God’s blessing, was completely gone. District Apostle Krause’s neologism with the following deviations astounded us all the more. As he continued in his statement, he asserted that the New Apostolic Church is an international organization, and therefore the guidelines on same-sex partnerships must be internationally uniform.

The rules regarding where the partnership blessings are to be held were also more restrictive than anywhere else. While other District Apostles explicitly approved the use of the church premises, District Apostle Krause writes, “The Partnership Prayer is in principle not held in our churches, but preferably at the home of a partner or at some other meeting facility.”

Internet publications are prohibited

 

Finally, District Apostle Krause stated, “Refrain from posting any report on the Internet.” With this wording, it occurred to us: only a few months ago, laws were passed in Russia making coverage of homosexuality illegal. We are horrified that foreign censorship laws have crept into the Church in Northern Germany.

The District Apostle defended his decision by claiming that Rainbow-NAC’s online reports could put brothers and sisters in Africa in jeopardy. But what image is the Church conveying when prayers of blessing are performed where no one would overhear any of it, preferably behind closed doors, and not allow it to be openly publicized?

 

Africa above all

 

In the explanatory text to the guideline, Krause argues that in other countries such as in Africa or Russia, they would categorically reject same-sex partnerships and they’re often severely punished. The next sentence reads exactly thus: "You can think about this however you please.” Brothers and sisters in areas would be at risk of life and limb if people in these countries learn of this practice that’s going on in Europe.

Not only do we hold that this argument is misleading and wrong on its merits. The indifference of the persecution and oppression of millions of gay people in some parts of the world that was commented on left us speechless. Is it consistent with our faith that we simply “think however we please” about what happens in other countries? No, certainly not! Discrimination and persecution of people are not a matter of personal opinion. They not only violate fundamental rights, but also stand against the central principle of Divine love.

 

Homosexuality equates to just sex?

 

Regarding the basic understanding of homosexuality, we recognized in this text sad developments: While in other regions the instructions for Prayers of Blessing denounce valuating homosexuality, even some started to recognize as an "orientation, which individuals cannot choose", District Apostle Krause continues quoting the Official Position of the NAC on Homosexuality from the year 2005: "On the grounds of Biblical tenets and Christian tradition, the New Apostolic Church deems practiced homosexuality to be unacceptable.” On a teleconference with representatives of Rainbow-NAC asking for explanations, Krause confirmed again that he fully stands behind this statement.

From the perspective of Rainbow-NAC the concept of "practicing homosexuality" is completely misguided and insulting. Homosexuality is not a trait that is a choice, but an orientation. You cannot act gay or lesbian, but “are” gay or lesbian.

Also, upon our specific demand, the District Apostle couldn’t give us any satisfactory answer as to what "practiced" homosexuality meant. If you wanted to consistently adhere to the statement of the Church, he admitted it would ultimately lead to abstinence. However, he stressed this conclusion is the responsibility of the members. But where can a lesbian sister or a gay brother begin with this statement? From our perspective, what is unfortunately missing throughout the entire text of the Circular is the mention that homosexual relationships as heterosexual relationships are primarily about love, affection, and mutual commitment to each other. District Apostle Krause saw no need to change or supplement it.

 

Revision of the guideline is mandatory

 

Both the District Apostle Krause´s special arrangements regarding Prayers of Blessing and his additional statements are unacceptable to Rainbow-NAC. The Prayer of Blessing for same-sex partnerships in this new guideline is clearly devaluated compared to other district apostle areas. In addition, the fabrications of the District Apostle show regressive trends in attitudes toward homosexuality, which are troublesome to us. We urge the NAC of Northern Germany to revise the guidelines regarding these points.

 

Tell us your thoughts!

 

What do you think about these developments in Northern Germany? Send us your opinion on this subject, or send a message directly to District Apostle Krause. We will forward it, or use the contact form of NAC Northern Germany at:

 

www.nak-norddeutschland.de/index/kontakt/

 

 

Background Information

 

For five years, same-sex couples have had the opportunity to receive a prayer of blessing by a minister from the New Apostolic Church for their civil union or marriage. None was done in the name of the Trinity, but was merely a prayer for God's blessing upon the couple. Prayers of blessing can usually take place inside our churches, in private accommodations, or in the register of deeds office.

The first prayer of blessing was held in 2009 in the District Church of North Rhine-Westphalia. Upon request of Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber, the then District Apostle Armin Brinkmann developed a guideline for the implementation of such a prayer. Other District Apostles subsequently duplicated this guideline, thus creating the possibility for prayers of blessing in their work areas. Many couples in Europe, South Africa, North and South America have since received a prayer of blessing for their life journey together.

 

Next meetings

May, 5-8, 2016: Hennef (near Bonn/Cologne, Germany)

Basic info:

NEW:

"The Bible and Homosexuality" Matthew Vines´ speech

Interview Rainbow-NAC from nacworld on Vimeo.