The Ongoing Division of the German Church

People have Wall “on the Brain”

Election results are deceiving. Though the Christian Democrats were big winners in all four East German elections this year, it wasn't the white-collar church that voted for them. East German Lutherans had developed a unique view on the world during their 40 years of separation.  They liked what they had become.  Eastern congregations were more voluntary.  There, church membership taxes were collected by the church, not by the internal revenue service, which is the case in the West.


The East had smaller class differences.  The lowest church salaries were raised frequently.  By the end of the 1980s, bishops were earning little more than secretaries. The East German congregations had neither generals nor industrial tycoons in their ranks.  In time, Lutherans came to regard this separation from the state as a plus.  The East German Methodists protested recently against plans to begin religious instruction in public schools according to the Western pattern. The new state should not force a world view onto the young, they said.  That's what happened in the past.

Western Lutherans have labeled conscientious objection and military service equally valid expressions of the desire for peace.  In the East though, conscientious objection was deemed a clearer expression of peace.  Several prominent pastors, Heino Falcke and Axel Noack, have threatened to resign in protest if Eastern Lutherans ever accept military chaplains.


Yet none of these concerns may survive church reunification next year.  The Western church considers its habits and beliefs normal, those in the East, abnormal.  Consequently, Eastern believers fear the unique traits of their church will be flattened by the onrushing Western steamroller.


Though Western Baptist church employees may earn 2 to 4 times more than their Eastern colleagues, it is the jobs in the East which are being eliminated.  The sacrifices aren't shared equally:  For now, the Western economy is becoming wealthier, the Eastern, poorer. An observer states:  "These are profoundly indignant people who need time to work through their indignation."  Some claim that a wall in (or on) the brain remains - on both sides.


Bill Yoder

Berlin, November 30, 1990


Written for “Ecumedia News” radio in New York City, 345 words