“One is moved and a bit embarrassed”, with these words the new Saxon Bishop of Saxony of the Evangelical Church, Tobias Bilz, stepped in front of the 79 synods who had just elected him on Saturday. Already in the third ballot, in which a two-thirds majority was no longer necessary, and unusually clear, the Oberlandeskirchenrat prevailed against its competitors Ulrike Weyer and Andreas Beuchel. The 48 votes for him were evaluated by Bilz in the Dreikonigskirche in Dresden as “a sign that we will stand together”.
That will also be necessary. Because as fraternal and framed by songs and trombone choirs, the synod of the Evangelische Landeskirche Sachsen also took place, but it only reflects the divergent trends in society. The 55-year-old Tobias Bilz now inherits that Carsten Rentzing, against whom he was only slightly inferior in the 2015 bishop election.
Rentzing resigned last fall after his membership in a striking fraternity and especially his student writings against democracy and plural society became known in a right-wing magazine.
Rentzing had followers primarily in the Ore Mountains and the Vogtland, at the same time focal points of evangelical currents in Saxony. They even wanted to put up their own candidate but received a rejection from their West German favorite. The new bishop also sees the evangelicals as “a pillar of the Saxon state church”.
He has a plural, universal image of this church in the spirit of the New Testament. For him, the message of Jesus also applies to the society in which Christians live. “Church is pious and political,” he said during a candidate interview. But that doesn’t mean that she should do government work.
Avert impending division
A choice of direction does not mean the choice of Tobias Bilz. All three candidates were apt to avert a division of the state church into an ultra-conservative and an enlightened wing that threatened after the Causa Rentzing. All three distanced themselves from extremisms. For Bilz, nationalism, and Christian belief don’t go together. He asked voters to think about where our society would head if certain parties came into play.
Friends and the majority of the synods were the most likely to assume the required moderator role. The ambitious hiker and jogger also work when he speaks of growing trust in the typical light pastor Saxon before the synod. How else should the priest’s son from the Wurzen area speak?
Bilz and his wife have three grown children, grandchildren were present in the Epiphany Church. One can also well imagine that the man, who seems to be very authentic, who likes to cover his bald head with a wide-brimmed hat, can be seen as a pastor in Saxony for eleven years. The Protestant youth immediately signaled support for the organization of his inauguration on April 25.
In addition to the inner cohesion of the regional church, almost impossible tasks await the new bishop. Parish structures can hardly be maintained, there is a lack of pastors and money.