Russian Orthodox Church threatens to break ties over female German bishop | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.11.2009
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Russian Orthodox Church threatens to break ties over female German bishop

Russian Orthodox Church leaders have threatened to cut ties with Germany's Protestants for electing a divorced woman as the head of their church. The election has been described as a "sign of crisis in Western society."

A Russian Orthodox priest superimposed next to Protestant head Margot Kaessmann

A female Protestant bishop has angered Russian Orthodox Church leaders

Dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and the German Protestant Church (EKD) has been amicable for 50 years. In fact, the two churches are planning to celebrate the long relationship in late November. But that celebration will now be the last official contact between the two religious groups, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Russian Orthodox clergy are outraged by the election of a divorced female as the head of the EKD. The Russian Orthodox church does not allow women to become priests, let alone take on leadership roles.

Russian Orthodox Reverend Georgy Zaverershinsky says the election now makes dialogue between the two churches impossible.

"A female as bishop goes against the principles of Protestantism," Zavershinsky said.

The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church, Kirill I, still has to rule on the matter.

"Crisis in Western society"

Margot Kaessmann

Kaessmann called for mutual respect between the churches

Conservative members of the Russian Orthodox Church are supporting the threats to ostracize the German Protestants.

Russian Orthodox priest Alexander Priluzki called the election of a woman a "sign of crisis in Western society."

However, the woman at the center of the debate, Margot Kaessmann, has expressed surprise at the reaction from the Russian church and has sent a letter to Patriarch Kyrill expressing her lack of understanding for the attack on her from Russia.

She said that while she understood some churches do not allow women to become leaders, she also expected those churches to accept that this was possible in some denominations.

"Ecumenism (religious cooperation) is about accepting different churches and the roles within them," Kaessmann said.

"Mutual respect" was the basis for this, she added.


Editor: Susan Houlton

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