â??In the matter of religious freedom Europe owes much to the Evangelical Alliance.â?
(Bonn, 05.08.2019) âSpeak freely! Confess freely!â This was the motto under which around 100 Christian lawyers met at the 2019 Federal Conference of âChrist und Juristâ [âChristian and Juristâ] (German Christian Legal Society).
At the annual meeting the launch of the freshly printed brochure âSpeak freely! Rightly speaking about the Gospelâ took place. This guidebook was contrived jointly by the German Evangelical Alliance, âChrist und Juristâ and ADF International. Astrid Bittner and Mark Bittner, attorneys at law, who had contributed a large part of the contents to the first draft, Hartmut Steeb and Dr. Reinhardt Schink, the old and new general secretaries of the German Evangelical Alliance, as well as Thomas Schirrmacher, associate general secretaries of the World Evangelical Alliance, who had contributed to the brochure and explained in an introduction what the brochure is intended for, were interviewed for the launch.
In his lecture âWhy Christian truth claim and religious freedom go hand in handâ Schirrmacher argued that mission is deeply embedded in the essence of the church. But the mission mandate, correctly understood, presupposes the recognition of freedom to decide for or against the faith. Schirrmacher referred to the 2011 statement âChristian Witness in a Multi-religious Worldâ published by the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the World Evangelical Alliance. Schirrmacher called this document a plea for religious freedom and an âofficial closing document for the Constantinian eraâ, that is, the end of the era in which the major churches tried to convert people to faith with the help of the state.
âIn the matter of religious freedom Europe owes much to the Evangelical Allianceâ, Schirrmacher continued. When the Evangelical Alliance was founded, its aim was to proclaim the Gospel uniformly. The flip side at that time was the acceptance of religious freedom. Schirrmacher stresses its continued validity: âWe must grant the other person complete freedom to decide for or against it.â This advocacy of religious freedom in 1846 had not yet been an accepted political concept, and for many still was something unheard of. âThe Catholic Church was then at the peak of the rejection of religious freedom. In a way, Europe owes thanks to the Evangelical Alliance to this day.â
But mission is the original theme of the church par excellence. âTake mission away from the church, and nothing will remainâ, Schirrmacher said. God himself was basically âthe first missionaryâ, because he had already pointed Adam and Eve to the Last Judgement. According to the theologian, the most successful missionary in history was the Holy Spirit. âNot Paul, not Billy Graham, not even Pope Francis.â Moreover, every Christian is virtually obliged to pass on the message of Jesus, Schirrmacher added. For him one of the most beautiful metaphor for mission is: One beggar tells the other where to get something to eat. Both beggars are on the same level and no one questions the otherâs dignity.
Documentation: Thomas Schirrmacher on the website of âChrist und Juristâ
For lawyers of all denominations and disciplines to unite and interchange ideas is not only important in order to learn how the sometimes stressful life in the legal world can be reconciled with other needs in life, such as family, friends, leisure, church, or social and political commitment, but also for their further progress by way of joint expert discussions.
Law is constantly evolving, both globally and locally. Only if committed people are constantly on the ball here are they able to help shape the future in this area for the benefit of all. Often, however, everyday legal life does not leave much room for pondering fundamental issues.
But if Christians want to help shape our society in democratic interaction, this must also include the legal world. Here it is important to create a platform in which one can first jointly struggle for âjusticeâ and then introduce the achievements into society.
A Christian contribution to human rights issues is not made once and for all, but the worldwide human rights network is constantly being developed, often wisely (such as the latest human right at UN level, the right to drinking water), but sometimes also dubiously (as in my opinion the demand for a right to abortion without at least weighing the human rights of the unborn against it).
Therefore, if lawyers are unable to discuss fundamental issues from time to time, the only thing, if any, left to us is activism. However, as important as it is to stand up for human rights, religious freedom and justice in everyday life and politics, it is equally important to rethink and improve the background layer of fundamental legal considerations and decisions.
I therefore wish for the congress âChrist und Jurist e. V.â many participants under the topic âjusticeâ, lots of joy in conversation and learning, lots of profit for the personal shaping of life, but also that it succeeds in contributing to the deep desire of all to implement âjusticeâ in our world.
Downloads and Links:
- Introduction by Thomas Schirrmacher (pdf)
- Cover of the brochure (jpg)
- Brochure âRede frei!â [âSpeak freely!â] (pdf)
- Photo 1 and photo 2: Thomas Schirrmacher at his lecture at âChrist und Juristâ Â© BQ/Warnecke
- Photo 3 (from left to right): Mark Bittner, Astrid Bittner, Thomas Schirrmacher, Hartmut Steeb, Martin Franke Â© BQ/Warnecke
- Photo 4: Launch of the brochure âRede Frei!â [âSpeak freely!â] Â© BQ/Warnecke
- Greeting by Thomas Schirrmacher: http://christ-jurist.de/cms/index.php/grussworte/grusswort-schirrmacher
- Thomas Schirrmacher, Darf ein Christ vor Gericht gehen, MBS-Texte 7: https://www.thomasschirrmacher.info/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/mbstexte007.pdf
- Thomas Schirrmacher, May Christians Go to Court (Buch): https://iirf.eu/journal-books/global-issues-series/may-a-christian-go-to-court/
- Reports on the meeting (in German):
- https://www.pro-medienmagazin.de/gesellschaft/gesellschaft/2019/05/25/ bundestagung-christ-und-jurist-toleranz-ist-nicht-akzeptanz/
- https://www.idea.de/glaube/detail/orientierungshilfe-zur-glaubensfreiheit- veroeffentlicht-109325.html