Mourning for Helga Trösken in the Ecumenical Movement

Many people in the ecumenical movement mourn the loss of Helga Trösken. Throughout her life she was closely connected with the concerns of ecumenism. Among other things, she was marked through her time in the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey/Switzerland and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. She took up thoughts of South Korean liberation theology (Minjung theology) and when on 18 May 1980 demonstrations in the South Korean city of Gwangju were bloodily suppressed by the military dictatorship, she supported the concerns of the democracy movement. … … She maintained close contacts with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) whose members and leadership were engaged in the democracy movement. Later, on her initiative, a partnership between the EKHN and the Gwangju Presbytery of PROK emerged, which has become an important part of the EKHN’s ecumenical relations since 1986.

Reconciliation processes have always been close to her heart. Last Saturday in Warsaw Helga Trösken was honored as co-founder of this initiative at a prize-giving ceremony for „Zeichen der Hoffnung | Znaki Nadziei“. During a memorial and peace service on the occasion of the German invasion of Poland 80 years ago, the Evangelical Augsburg Church in Poland honored the initiative for decades of reconciliation work between Poland and Germany.

 

Recognition of the EKHN

Last Sunday, Helga Trösken, the long-time provost for Rhine-Main, died. The controversial theologian was regarded worldwide as a pioneer in many fields of the Protestant Church. The funeral service will take place next Tuesday in Langen.

The Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau (EKHN) mourns the long-time provost for Rhine-Main, Helga Trösken. She died on Sunday afternoon, September 1, in Frankfurt at the age of 77. In 1988 the theologian was the first woman to take up a spiritual leadership position at the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau (EKHN). Her election as Provost, comparable to the office of a regional bishop, caused a worldwide sensation more than 30 years ago. Trösken was the first female pastor in Germany – five years before Bishop Maria Jepsen of Hamburg – to assume a high Protestant leadership position. Helga Trösken was then until 2006 Provost for Rhine-Main and at that time responsible for over 350,000 Protestant church members around Frankfurt.

Jung: Formative figure of the Protestant Church

The Church President of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau, Volker Jung, described Trösken as a „formative figure of the Protestant Church“. He praised her as a „pioneering Protestant personality who has set standards with her commitment to the rights of women and her socio-political commitment in the church“. Jung named Trösken’s social-diaconal commitment as outstanding, which did not go unchallenged during her time in office as Provost. Her commitment to „the women and men on the margins of society was based on a clear understanding of Christ’s message to stand up for people in need,“ Jung said. Thus, Trösken always emphasized that „God is also there for the godless“. Jung: „Helga Trösken stood completely in the tradition of the Hesse-Nassau church, which had been shaped by its first church president Martin Niemöller. Both were publicly controversial people and committed in their faith to peace and justice“.

Scherf: Important Pioneer of Recent Church History

Ulrike Scherf, Deputy Church President of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau praised Trösken as a great church role model in questions of equal rights. Scherf: „From a worldwide ecumenical perspective Helga Trösken remains one of the most important pioneers for the equality of women in recent church history“. She was one of the first women in a Protestant leadership position to assert herself against „a considerable mistrust with a clear edge and a deep faith in the liberating power of the Gospel“. Scherf: „Their personal clarity and their theological perseverance have re-profiled the prophet ministry. Her commitment to understanding with Eastern Europe, her stimulating sermons on the radio and her special commitment at the German Protestant Church Days and in the Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany, where she was chairman of the committee „Church, Society, State“ for many years, also remained unforgotten.

Oelschläger: unmistakable clarity

The president of the Hesse-Nassau church synod, Ulrich Oelschläger, praised Trösken’s theological positions, which in his opinion were often of „unmistakable clarity“. The fact that they often also caused controversies in the synod, the church parliament, had been important for a contentious church in the following of Christ. Oelschläger: „The Protestant church is deeply saddened by Helga Trösken’s death. Her clear words and her openness will be missed by many“. With Trösken, Hessen-Nassau lost „a pioneer in a male-dominated church that stood up against all resistance for the rights of women and all those pushed to the margins“.

About the person

Helga Trösken was born on 7 April 1942 in Frankfurt. From 1962 to 1967 she studied theology in Frankfurt, Berlin, Heidelberg and Mainz. After her practical training as a vicar in Dillenburg, she worked for almost a year at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey/Switzerland and at the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva and completed an internship in an ecumenical congregation in London. From 1970 to 1988 Trösken was a parish pastor in Langen/Hesse for a total of 18 years. Then the synod of the EKHN elected her as the first provost, who was initially responsible for Frankfurt and later for the extended Rhine-Main area. From 1997 until her retirement in April 2006 Trösken was also a member of the Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD). For many years she chaired the committee „Church, Society, State“. She was also known to a wide audience as the author of preaching programs on Hessischer Rundfunk radio. Trösken most recently lived in Langen in southern Hesse (district of Offenbach). She died on 1 September 2019 at the age of 77 in Frankfurt’s Nellinistift, a care facility in the association of Diakonie.

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