The Lutheran pastor, Christian Führer, whose prayer meetings became a catalyst for the protests that overthrew Communism in East Germany died Monday at age 71.
I was struck by this quotation from him: “It is not the throne and the altar, but the street and the altar that belong together.” That’s an interesting version of the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. That concept is often taken to refer just to the relation of the church to earthly governments. That’s part of it, but I think it applies more broadly to society and culture as a whole, where God is also active in vocation and in caring for His creation.
Christian Führer, the Leipzig pastor who rallied East Germans to resist the injustice of the former communist system before reunification in 1990, died June 30 at a hospital in Leipzig. He was 71.
The cause was lung disease, according to German news media.
Starting in the early 1980s, Rev. Führer organized “peace prayers” every Monday in the city’s Church of St. Nicholas, which became a focal point for East Germans engaged in peaceful protest against the regime of Erich Honecker.The nonviolent demonstrations that ensued in October 1989 led to Honecker’s removal as leader and the appointment of Egon Krenz as his successor. The German Democratic Republic had its first free elections in March the following year, opening the way for reunification of East and West Germany.
“Christian Führer was a bearer of hope to many people, both in his profession as a pastor and as one of the defining figures of the peace prayers in the Church of St. Nicholas as well as the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig that led to the peaceful revolution in East Germany,” German President Joachim Gauck wrote Monday in a letter to Rev. Führer’s son, Sebastian.
The Monday prayers at the Lutheran church culminated in a standoff between the resistance and Honecker’s communist party, known in German as the SED, on Oct. 9, 1989. About 70,000 people protested in the streets after the Ministry for State Security arranged for Honecker loyalists to occupy more than 500 seats in the church during the prayer session.
“I always wanted also to move in the earthly realm,” Rev. Führer said in a 2008 interview with the New York Times. “It is not the throne and the altar, but the street and the altar that belong together.”