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German United Methodists celebrate 150 years of history

10/25/2000 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By United Methodist News Service

Theologians briefly became jazz musicians as German United Methodists celebrated 150 years of history during an Oct. 17-20 meeting in Munich.

About 150 people, including 94 voting delegates, attended the Central Conference of the United Methodist Church in Germany, which occurs once every four years. Besides discussing issues of church structure and programs and joining together in worship, participants were given an entertaining review of church history.

Faculty from the denomination's theological seminary in Reutlingen provided jazz music for the evening, a special cabaret show was presented, and three active and retired bishops from the former East and West Germany shared their experiences from the past 40 years. The evening ended with the serving of fresh Bavarian pretzels and beverages.

The Methodist movement in Germany began in 1850, when the Evangelical Association - a predecessor of the Evangelical United Brethren Church -- sent its first missionary, Johann Conrad Link, from North America to Germany. That same year, the first quarterly conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church took place in northern Germany. In 1968, the two denominations merged to form the United Methodist Church.

Today, the German church has four annual (regional) conferences - North Germany, East Germany, Southwest Germany and South Germany - for a total of 64,000 members in 593 congregations. Bishop Walter Klaiber was elected in 1996 to an eight-year term.

In his episcopal address to the conference, Klaiber challenged the church to a new and more intensive encounter with Christ. He also called for more attention to the Bible and a strengthening of the church's relationship with the younger generation, including the use of regular youth worship services on a regional basis.

Klaiber rejoiced in the denomination's ecumenical cooperation, particularly with the Evangelical Alliance in Germany. Ecumenical leaders bringing greetings to the conference included Prelate Lothar Waldmueller, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Munich-Freising; Ivo Huber, Bavarian Lutheran Provincial Church; the Rev. Karl Wengeroth, Ecumenical Association of Munich; and the Rev. Kim Struebind, a Baptist pastor whose congregation uses the building where the delegates met.

In other business, the German Central Conference delegates:

· Acknowledged the many local, regional and national task forces for dialogue, encounter and worship with Roman Catholics and expressed disappointment over the Vatican's recent "Dominus Iesus" document.
· Sent a letter to all German ministers of the interior, asking for a "quick, pragmatic and humane solution for those refugees still in our country," rather than forced expulsions.
· Accepted a draft of a new hymnal, due to be published in 2002.
· Tabled, for now, a proposal to created a single annual conference in Germany but urged closer cooperation among the current four annual conferences.
· Heard from United Methodist Bishop Ruediger Minor, a German based in Moscow, about the denomination's work in Russia.

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*Ingo Stauch and the Rev. Matthias Walter provided information for this story, and the Rev. James Dwyer of Peace United Methodist Church in Munich handled translation.

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