"The Church in Germany"

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    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 63, #2, 1994 - Erwin Weber

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In the last issue of the journal, the 1000-year-old history of Magdeburg and the suffering of its inhabitants throughout the ages was described. In this issue, Dr. Hartmut Johnsen, President of the Lutheran Church Administration in the Church Province of Saxony discusses the role of the church in the former German Democratic Republic before and after the fall of the Wall in 1989.

According to Johnsen, 90% of the inhabitants of Germany after World War II belonged either to the Roman Catholic or Protestant Church. In West Germany, half of the Christians were Catholic, the other half Protestants. The Christians in East Germany were primarily all Protestants. When the Socialist-Communists took over the regime in East Germany in 1945, church attendance was discouraged. The church had to live within the Socialist-Communist regime. The result was 75% of the East Germans had no connection with the church at all. Yet, the Protestant Church demanded and received favors from the state. It was granted permission to educate its pastors at the university level and in seminaries. It advocated and sponsored peace movements which led to the fall of the Wall. The church in East Germany had a two-fold mission, namely, it contributed to the stabilization of East Germany by urging its members to remain in East Germany, to live and to work there. Secondly, it sought to improve the quality of life for the people by obtaining more freedom and organizing discussion groups for finding solutions to problems in their daily lives.

My cover photo shows a fruit stand in Magdeburg after the fall of the wall. For 40 years, under the Socialist-Communist regime, the East Germans had never seen such a stand. The emphasis had been on basics, such as bread, milk, and potatoes, and not luxuries such as television sets, automobiles, fruits, meats, and fresh vegetables. The expression on the East German's face says it all, you may be able to buy it now, but it is very expensive, almost prohibitive.