German Lutheran bishop makes a meaningful apology to LGBTQIA+ people

According to a report in The Irish Times, the presiding bishop of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lutheran Church has apologized to LGBTQIA+ people for the ways in which the church has stigmatized and harmed them in the past.

Photo of Bishop Christian Stäblein
Dr Christian Stäblein, bishop of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lutheran Church, Germany

Bishop Christian Stäblein was speaking at a service in the Berlin Marienkirche (St Mary’s) for Berlin Pride 2021. He acknowledged the Church’s responsibility as a community for these wrongs, and asked the LGBTQIA+ community for forgiveness.

Dr Stäblein’s apology is meaningful because his church has already put right the attitudes and policies for which he has apologized. “We excluded them and made them pariahs,” he said, and behind all this was a theology that denied LGBTQIA+ people “their rightful place as children of God in the image of God”. Same-sex couples have been able to marry in most provinces of the German Lutheran Church since 2017, and LGBTQIA ministers are no longer discriminated against.

One can’t help comparing this with the apologies that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has made to LGBTQIA+ people. How can we take his words seriously, given that the Church of England continues to treat its LGBTQIA+ members unjustly, to discriminate against us and to throw out good priests whose only ‘crime’ is to marry?

The Church of England should follow the example of the German Lutheran Church – we must repent and put right our own wrongdoing first. Then the Archbishop will be able to apologize meaningfully.