Pastor Maik-Peter Schirpenbach sees the problems of the churches closely linked to social crises. Nevertheless, he urges people to live their faith with self-confidence.
DOMRADIO.DE: These are difficult times for the church. But the title of your book contains an appeal that can give courage: “Let’s save the church”. Can we save the church?
pastor dr. Maik-Peter Schirpenbach (author and leading pastor in Grevenbroich and Rommerskirchen): Yes. I think we can definitely save them if we get clear about what and who the church is. The fact that the church is not what it is often reduced to, its purely institutional part, but each and every one of us who is baptized, who is involved in a community, is part of it.
We are the Church. We need this self-confidence.
DOMRADIO.DE: Why is it so important that the church is saved at all?
Schirpenbach: We are in a time of total crisis, socially, actually in every respect. Whether it’s the climate crisis, which is my top priority, or many other things. I don’t need to list it. Above all, we need inner strength to be able to deal with it.
That is actually what our Christian faith, our Christian path, wants to open up to us. It would be fatal if this inner strength and also this cohesive strength – for me Catholic means all-encompassing, i.e. open to all people – were lost right now, right now. That would be fatal.
DOMRADIO.DE: You say that as a Catholic pastor. But if someone is far from the church, they just shrug their shoulders when they hear that.
Schirpenbach: That can be good. But I myself am in contact with many who have left the church. I am moved by their homelessness. Because somehow there is nothing new for them. If something else came up, I could still say: “Okay, then I can still take responsibility for it”.
But a large part of the people remain homeless. And they don’t leave because they no longer have any faith, but because they have a problem with parts of the church leadership and can’t stand it any longer.
DOMRADIO.DE: And then there is a connection between the church crisis and the social crisis?
Schirpenbach: I am deeply convinced of that. This is one of the key points in the book for me. Because it is always fear that ultimately makes us give up our own hope. In the Church it is the fear of taking responsibility for institutional mistakes in dealing with the abuse scandal that has been created around the clergy and above all the celibate clergy. That was partly in the direction of idolatry.
In our society, for example, it is the fear of changes that we have to take on in view of the climate crisis that will simply demand global justice from us.
It is always fear that ultimately makes us give up looking ahead. We live in the present and repress what is in front of us. We kind of don’t care. Fear blocks us.
DOMRADIO.DE: What can the church do to save itself?
Schirpenbach: From my point of view, the very first thing is to strengthen the self-confidence of people who see themselves as Christians. Church literally means Ecclesia in Greek – those who are called out. That I recognize myself as someone who is called, who is actually somehow touched by God personally, and then out of self-confidence says: That’s why I’m a Christian and I live it.
It doesn’t depend on who is in a particular position in the Church.
I think it’s important not to leave that to those who are officially perceived as a church. Also to help these people. Otherwise, what is being projected onto bishops and others is completely overwhelming.
DOMRADIO.DE: Your book was published in July. Has your book changed anything positively since then? Did you hear anything?
Schirpenbach: What moves me a lot is the reaction of many people who read this. Here with us in Grevenbroich and Rommerskirchen, in communities where I used to be, in Bonn, in my home town of Leverkusen, in Brühl, and also from completely different corners of Germany.
People say: “I’ve found something for me”. Exactly what gives me this self-confidence. Something that builds me up. A book that has depth, that opens up sources for me and at the same time very soberly analyzes the problems of our time and especially the ecclesiastical ones.
Statements like: It moves me, it touches me, but it also gives me strength, liveliness and a new lightness. That is beautiful. I think it was worth the effort to write this book.
Tobias Fricke conducted the interview.
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The original of this post “”A large part of the people remain homeless”” comes from DOMRADIO.DE.