Hannover (dpa) – The Church Parliament of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has elected 25-year-old philosophy student Anna-Nicole Heinrich as its new president.
Heinrich was chosen Saturday during the digitally organized spring meeting of the synod as successor to the FDP politician Irmgard Schwaetzer (79), who has held the top position since November 2013. “As chairman of the EKD synod, I stand for a hopeful, integrative and pragmatic church that is constantly rediscovering itself,” said Heinrich. Despite austerity measures, rebuilding and dismantling in the church, trust and a new beginning in the faith are necessary.
The chairman of the EKD council, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm from Munich, judged Heinrich’s election as “a very strong sign”. “There will be a surge of support,” he said. Heinrich, who studies in Regensburg, won the elections with a clear majority against the judge and green politician Nadine Bernshausen (41) from Marburg. In the elections, digitally organized from the EKD headquarters in Hanover, 75 synodals voted for Heinrich and 39 for Bernshausen. There were eleven abstentions and one invalid vote.
Heinrich is the youngest president in the history of the EKD Synod. She was elected to the EKD Synod by the Bavarian Regional Church, to which she previously belonged as a youth delegate. After completing his philosophy studies, Heinrich has been studying the Digital Humanities and Image of Man and Values master’s programs since 2019. She works as a research assistant at the university and is deputy chair of the Protestant youth in Germany.
Among the benefactors was the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing. “I am impressed that you have taken on such an important responsibility in the Protestant church at such a young age,” said Bätzing. “I think that’s a good sign because it will give many young people the courage and incentive to get involved in the Church.” He too was looking forward to ecumenical cooperation, the bishop emphasized.
The president is the president of the church parliament, the synod. This is one of the governing bodies of the EKD, which acts as the umbrella organization of the 20 regional churches with a total of 21.1 million Protestant Christians and approximately 13,500 parishes.
EKD chief Bedford-Strohm promoted a spirit of change in a digitally broadcast speech before the church parliament. “But we should not mourn the past, but rather move towards a fresh, active, confident church.” He also addressed the issues the Church faces in dealing with sexual abuse. Despite all his sincere efforts, he experiences a persistent mistrust of the Church, including the Protestant, whether it is really serious. As long as that is the case, the church must also accept outside offers to come to terms with them. The state, represented by the independent commissioner on child sexual abuse, plays an important role in this.