Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another reason why Global North is declining?

Hundreds queue for 'Erotic Church Service'

June 12, 2007
Ruth Gledhill is The Times
Religion Correspondent.

Yes, this really is a picture from a recent liturgy celebrated at a Protestant church in Cologne, as reported here. Thanks to Chris Gillibrand for his translation, which I've shamelessly lifted from his CathCon blog. I think this is a first for the Protestant Church anywhere. What a relief that it should have happened in Germany, and not the US or the UK.

Is this Church of Carthusians part of one of the numerous Protestant assemblies worldwide that are 'in bed with' with the CofE or TEC, so to speak? Preliminary enquiries with the CofE in London suggest they think not, because they're not part of the EKD. However, Chris's own clarification, that I've put at the end, indicates otherwise. Meanwhile, read on for Chris's translation or the original in Kölner Stadt-Anzeigerbelow. (Update: CofE insists are definitely neither 'in bed with' nor 'in communion with' this lot. See end for their statement.)

[PIC - which I decided not to post here]
'A female dancer dances in a skin coloured stocking in the middle of the church in front of the altar. She crawls about on the floor and wraps herself in a hanging down white cloth. Is this a blasphemous provocation, a scoffing at the Christian religion?

'No it is only one of the items on the agenda of the Protestant Church Assembly. The six-hundred-year-old church, the Church of the Carthusians in the south of Cologne has become the stage for an erotic church service. Nearly one thousand interested people waited outside the door of the former monastery, despite a thunderstorm- but in the end there was only room for four hundred people.

'For those who managed to get in, they had to take off their shoes on a white painted church interior. Above the entrance, there was the caption, “a warm welcome to the Vineyard of Love”. The space between the benches had been overlaid with velvet and from the ceiling wine and rose leaves were strewn onto the spectators. A man came to the microphone and announced, This is an erotic church service, can you move a bit closer together, all of you. This was followed by saxophone music and dance.

'The vicar arrived in a black cassock and barefoot. He announced that eroticism and lust are not taboo areas pushed aside by God. In fact, "lust has to be lived out", said Armin Beuscher, who tempered his speech immediately, by saying, “we are of course today in this service only able to implement this in a limited manner”.

'He talks about his family doctor who once surprised him with the question, “Do you pray with your wife regularly and do you make love regularly?” He was at first embarrassed and later became conscious of the deep meaning in this question, that both spirituality and eroticism are nourished by repetition. It is therefore certainly part of life which has been shown in the TV series “O God, Vicar” when he immediately after sleeping with a woman then went to a funeral. The speech at the grave, immediately thereafter came under the motto of the Church Assembly, “Lively, Powerful and more Spicy”. Beuscher’s conclusion was therefore “ perhaps we clergy should go more often to bed with our loved ones.”

'The faithful were then asked to take part in an anointing ritual in which they should massage the forehead and hands of the person sitting next to them. Some go further and embrace each other whilst others kiss. The atmosphere gets more relaxed. This is how most church services should be said Birgit Kruger (59 years old) from near Hamburg and the Bavarian Gertrude Schirmer (72 years old) said “I found the anointment most beautiful”. Then they all said an Our Father together and then Vicar Beuscher admonishes the parish with the words “praise God with your body, your lust and tenderness”. Judging by the enthusiastic applause, the audience fully intend to do this.'

The Church of Carthusians is part of the Protestant Church Assembly. During its recent meeting, where this service was discussed, Cardinal Meisner invited delegates to Cologne Cathedral. So this indicates that this body is well within the ecumenical loop. If so, is it conceivable that an 'ecumenical representative' of this lot might end up at Lambeth 2008 as an observer? In the meantime the unimpeachable Martyn Minns, the discreetly faithful Gene Robinson and a number of other extremely orthodox Anglican bishops will be excluded.

According to Chris, who saw this reported on German television, the newspaper article translated above in no way conveys the full sordid reality of the whole thing. Ironic, as he comments on his blog, that one reason behind the Reformation was the supposed 'decadence' of the Catholic Church. St Augustine would have had fun with this lot, both before and after his own Damascene experience I suspect. But what would the authors of the Carthusian Rule make of it? Reading this certainly helped me understand better some of the reasons for the Catholic priestly rule of celibacy. Original sin? There's nothing original here, that's for sure. Pity those who imagine there is.

Update: Is the Church of Carthusians in communion with the CofE? No, says the CofE.

This is what Chris says: 'The congregration there is part of Kirche-Koelne. The Cologne church grouping is part of the Rheinland Protestants which hosted the Kirchentag, which is itself nominally independent from the EKD [the body the Meissen agreement was made with] as a result of Second World War [no more officially organised mass rallies]. The Rheinland Protestants however are part of the EKD. The erotic event itself was part of the official programme of the Kirchentag. Things are never simple in Germany.'

This is what CofE says: 'The German Protestant Kirchentag (DEKT) is a lay-led festival launched in 1949, whose organisation is independent of the 'official' Church. As we understand it, the 'Erotic Church Service' was organised by an independent special interest group as part of this year's DEKT programme, among approximately 3,000 other debates, church services, concerts etc, which together form one of the largest Christian festivals in Europe.

'The venue where the church service took place, the Evangelische Karthäuserkirche, is part of the Evangelischer Kirchenverband Köln und Region, which again is part of the regional church Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland, which is a member Church of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The Church of England and the EKD are in ecumenical relationship (not 'communion') through the Meissen Agreement.'

So they are in 'ecumenical relationship'. Is that how the Anglican Communion might end up describing its relationship with its own constituent parts? Still conceivable that some of them might end up at Lambeth as ecumenical observers.


BKing said...

What do you think of saying that the church in the 21st century would be "from everywhere to everywhere" (a phrase I first heard used by Samuel Escobar, but he probably borrowed it from someone else!) instead of a shift from North to South? Interestingly, I see that Jenkins has a new book coming out where he argues that it is premature to proclaim the death of Christianity in Europe.

In any case, I think pluralism is going to be a huge challenge, and Asian/global south churches, being more used to living in pluralistic societies, might lead the way in modelling how we should love and reach out to those of different faiths without becoming syncretistic. (A bit like the New Testament world!)

I agree with Dave that thinking through issues of the marginalized (exile?; economically, culturally, politically etc.) within a biblical framework would be very much needed.

My one cent. :>

Global-South said...

yes bking,

The phrase "from everywhere to everywhere" is a great phrase for the 21st C church, especially when we see the different Diaspora happening. It will probably replace the slogan "The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world." It will no longer be "from the west to the rest."

And while it is true that the church in Europe will not die, the current trend seems to show that the church in the South will grow more rapidly.

It is most encouraging to see Christians from the South reaching out in Europe. They may be the catalyst for an European revival. But I think it will take awhile before we see any significant turnaround in Europe, as secularism is quite entrenched. But God may surprise all of us.

Recently i met a missionary couple from Germany who were doing outreach in Creative Access Nations. I was most encouraged when they choose to remain near the country of their outreach when they were forced to leave by the authorities.

There is much to do and to think about in this pluralistic and post-postmodern (new emerging trend!) situation. That's why I am trying to write this paper on training Asian or non-Western missionaries and spiritual leaders. If only I can breakthrough this mental block and stay focus, arghhh ...