German preacher forced to depart congregation after conservative article
Rev. Marcus Piehl, a preacher in Nordstemmen, Germany, announced his forced departure on Thursday evening during a congregation meeting.
The Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung reported this on Thurday, July 15th. The pastor of the St. Johanniskirche in Nordstemmen, near Hannover, came under fire after he criticized the theme of gender in May.
That same month he was informed that he had to leave his congregation. During Thursday evening’s meeting, the consistory further explained its decision to no longer “want to work with Rev. Piehl.” About 200 church members attended the meeting, which took place in the open air.
In an article in his church bulletin in May, the pastor calls today’s view of gender diversity “an attack on God’s order.” He also points out that God “blesses the lifelong union of a man and a woman.” He acknowledges that these statements “may no longer be popular”. Still, Piehl indicates that Christians should stand up for “what God says in His Word.”
In his article, the pastor refers, among other things, to recent statements by rapper Reyhan Sahin, who performs under the name Lady Bitch Ray. In an interview with German Social Democrat Party (SPD) representatives, she called the existence of two sexes something “invented, developed and culturally conditioned.” According to Sahin, it is part of feminism to “break away from binary gender constructions.”
Two supervisors of the Hildesheimer Land-Alfeld church district criticized the views of Rev. Piehl in a statement. Among other things, they mention his view that family relationships other than those of father, mother and child are the cause of many psychological problems in children and adolescents. One of the ecclesiastical supervisors, Christian Castel, calls the pastor’s entire contribution “extremely fruitless.” Castel indicated to the Idea news agency that talks would be held with the pastor.
The Hannover Regional Church also distanced itself from the article by Rev. Piehl. “From the point of view of the regional church, Pastor Marcus Piehl’s article in the parish contains fundamentally wrong and dangerous views,” said press spokesman Benjamin Simon-Hinkelmann. “We welcome all people, regardless of their gender, to the church.”
Rev. Piehl apologized shortly after his article was published. He said he regretted the “injuries and irritations” caused and apologized to those he hurt. “Although I critically view social developments from my understanding of the Bible, this approach was not fruitful.” Rev. Piehl underlined in his statement that he supports his consistory’s view that “all people regardless of gender are welcome in the church.” The pastor’s church council also previously distanced itself from Piehl’s statements about gender, stating that they “are contradictory to our mission as a church community.”
Adaptation to the world
Certainly, not everyone can understand the decision of the consistory, according to news agency Idea. The Protestant news agency spoke with, among others, the couple Slava and Julia Machleid. In their view, Rev. Piehl is one of the few German pastors who stand up for “the verbatim, Holy Ghost-inspired inerrancy of the Bible,” according to Idea. According to them, however, the church council and “congregation members who only attend services at Easter and Christmas” want to take a different course, which would ultimately lead to “adaptation to the world.” In this situation, Rev. Piehl would not have been able to preach freely because his proclamation led to conflict.
The couple regrets that the Evangelical Lutheran Country Church of Hanover has not “protected” the pastor. The Machleids will draw the consequences from this: “We will leave the national church.”
Idea also spoke with the former regional bishop Eckhard Gorka from Hildesheim. In the commotion that arose after Rev. Piehl’s publication, he advised both the consistory and the pastor. Last week, Gorka also attended the congregation meeting.
Speaking to Idea, the bishop noted that Nordstemmen is a “great” congregation with “many pious and cheerful members.” Although he believes Rev. Piehl has written a “bad article,” he says that this does not mean that he is also a “bad preacher”: in several places, “he has done a good service.”
According to Gorka, the meeting last week took place in a pleasant atmosphere. At the same time, it became clear that the St. John’s congregation is very divided. For that reason, too, it would be better if Rev. Piehl could make a new start elsewhere. The Hannover Regional Church wants to support him in this, according to the former regional bishop.