Media Centre

Learn the lingo says Bishop of Bradford on the 20th anniversary of Meissen Agreement

We should embrace other languages and cultures, particularly those of our European neighbours, says the Bishop of Bradford the Rt Revd Nick Baines in a Church of England podcast, published today, to celebrate 20 years of Anglo-German ecumenical links. Both in business and in the classroom we need to broaden our horizons, he adds, or we are in danger of missing out.

The Meissen Agreement was published in 1988, before Germany was re-united, between the Church of England and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in the German Democratic Republic (DDR) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).  A signing service followed in 1991 in Westminster Abbey.

The mark of Meissen today is a host of thriving relationships between German and CofE churches at all levels; between individuals, parishes, dioceses and church schools as well as between senior church leaders and political figures. (See case studies below)

Hospitality is one of the key themes of all Meissen partnerships with the Committee meeting each September alternately in Germany and in England. The national committees meet three times per year in their own country.

The Revd Dr Leslie Nathaniel Secretary Co-Secretary of the Meissen Commission, and European Secretary for the CofE's Council for Christian Unity said: "The fruits of the Meissen Declaration continue to touch the hearts and minds of people in a diversity of regions and congregations building a confident church in a pluralistic Europe."

The German ambassador in London hosted a seminar and reception at the Embassy to celebrate the 20th anniversary and also contributes to the podcast explaining the importance of the Agreement.

Speaking after the anniversary celebrations Bishop Nick added: "We are impoverished by our inability to understand the languages of others. To learn a language is to enter beneath the surface of a people, their history and their culture, and it enables us to begin to understand why the world looks as it does from their perspective". 

Case studies
Coventry Cathedral, bombed during the Second World War has a strong partnership with the Frauenkirche in Dresden, also razed to the ground during the War.

The Commission has helped the Diocese of Southwark establish an RE teacher exchange with the German area of Ostfriesland; a contact group of head teachers and others in England met in May 2011.

The Nurnberg-Hereford partnership is an example of parish/diocesan collaboration. Two German pastors from Bavaria are currently working in the local ministry team in the town of Leominster. This has given the Meissen partnership a great visibility with preparations being made for an English priest to work in Nurnberg.

Notes to editors
+Nick Baines blog http://nickbaines.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/twenty-years-of-meissen/