From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ilona Fritz, First Woman President in Dutch Lutheran Church

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 20 Jun 2002 13:37:42 -0500

Other Synod Actions: Plan to Assess Congregation Members' Opinion
about Merger Process

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands/GENEVA, 20 June 2002 (LWI) - Rev. Ilona
Fritz recently became the first woman to serve as president of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. She
was appointed during the church's May 31-June 1 synod.

Fritz, pastor of a congregation in the capital, Amsterdam,
succeeds Rev. Sietze van Kammen, who resigned for personal
reasons. Van Kammen remains a member of the synod's executive
committee. They had both served as members of the committee since
the May 2001 synod meeting. Kammen's predecessor, Kees van der
Horst, was church president for ten years.

The synod also chose Groningen pastor Susanne Freytag, to succeed
Fritz as vice-president. Both Fritz and Freytag were born in 1962
in Germany, but have served as pastors of the Dutch Lutheran
church since their ordination.

Of the 34 pastors currently in the church, 16 are women. About one
in four pastors are of foreign origin, mainly from Germany and
Scandinavia. With about 15,000 members, the Lutheran church is the
smallest of the three Uniting Protestant Churches in the
Netherlands (UPCN) members, involved in a merger process dating
back to the late 60s.

The process, "Samen op Weg" (Together on the Way), began in 1969
with the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK) and the Reformed
Churches in the Netherlands (GKN). The Lutherans joined in 1986.
Currently the two Reformed churches together with the smaller
Lutheran church, form the country's largest Protestant body, the
Uniting Protestant Churches (Samen op Weg-kerken), representing
some 2.7 million Christians.

Other Synod Actions

In other actions, the synod members unanimously expressed concern
about efforts within the NHK to push for the removal of blessings
of life partnerships other than traditional marriages from the
UPCN's draft constitution.

The Lutheran synod said it was very important that the relevant
article be retained in the constitution, as had already been
decided by the joint synod of the three Uniting Protestant
churches last November.

The synod also approved a plan for a stock-taking of all Lutheran
congregations after 16 years of involvement in the merger process.
According to the plan, synod members will visit the church's 56
congregations to give information about the current state of
affairs in the merger talks and gauge the opinions of congregation
members. The first of these visits are to take place in November.

Church officials set 1 January 2004 as the deadline for the merger
completion, UPCN secretary Bas Plaisier announced April 18. The
date was agreed to re-invigorate the process that has become
bogged down since its launch more than three decades ago. Plaisier
said that members of the synod executive committee will be
available for discussion with district and local church councils
ahead of the merger deadline.

Fritz reminded the synod members how the Lutherans joined the
merger process: "At the time we chose to take an ecumenical
direction. We signed [the] 'Leuenberg' [1973 Agreement of the
Reformation churches in Europe] and thereby expressed that there
are no longer any issues between the NHK, GKN [and Lutheran
church] that divide us as churches. At the same time, we wanted to
intensify the Lutheran witness and Lutheran pastoral care in that
[merger] process."

She cited Lutheran professor Sonny Hof who in the 1980s had
confronted the synod with some hard facts. "The Lutheran church
needs help. How else can we still be church with such falling
membership figures," Hof had asked. Declining membership was, and
is not a uniquely Lutheran problem, but common to all three
churches. "We must join together in our efforts to tackle the

Fritz said the Lutheran church has maintained its commitment to
the joint decisions taken over the past 16 years. From the outset,
the process' goal was the merger of the three churches. A group
opposed to the merger had tried to change the synod's stance, but
to no avail.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
has been a Lutheran World Federation member church since 1947.

(By LWI correspondent Andreas Havinga)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 133 member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5
million of the 64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted,
material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the
LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article
contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced
with acknowledgment.]

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