Germany: Top Protestant church official resigns

Germany’s most senior Protestant theologian, Annette Kurschus, has resigned. However, she said as she quit that allegations of having covered up sexual abuse within the church were unfounded.

Annette Kurschus, the head of Germany’s largest national Protestant church federation, the EKD, abruptly resigned both from her national post and as the most senior cleric for the region of Westphalia on Monday.

However, as she quit, she also said that recent reports of her knowing about alleged sexual abuse by a church employee years ago were unfounded.

“In this matter I am at ease with myself,” Kurschus said. “At every moment I acted to the best of my knowledge and my conscience.”

However, Kurschus said that the isssue had nonetheless led to her decision to quit.

“But public trust in my person has taken damage,” she conceded at a press conference in Bielefeld on Monday.

Kurschus said that the decision had not been easy. She said she decided that the loss of public trust meant she could no longer help the church’s work dealing with historical cases of sexual abuse.

Disputes allegations, says they still prompted her decision to quit

The allegations against Kurschus revolve around an investigation into a local vicar in Siegen, a city in western Germany where she used to work. He’s accused of a pattern of sexually inappropriate conduct toward other men over years.

The local Siegener Zeitung newspaper reported that Kurschus was informed “in detail” about allegations against the man as early as the 1990s, citing two men who they said had submitted evidence under oath on the matter.

However, Kurschus said on Monday that she had at first only been aware of the man’s “homosexuality and unfaithfulness in marriage,” and that she first heard of an anonymous complaint against the individual in early 2023.

“Before that I had no knowledge of acts of sexualized violence by this person,” she said.

A spokesman for a victim support group, Detlev Zander, had over the weekend called for Kurschus to quit, saying her evasive comments on the issue were “damaging” for those in the protestant church who were “serious” in their desire to clear up the issue.

Although probably not as wide-ranging or renowned as the sexual abuse legacy facing the Catholic church in Germany and further afield, similar issues have also haunted Germany’s Protestant churches. The church set up a special council and study to investigate its past in recent years.

Kurschus becomes the third person to step down as the EKD’s top theologian. Famously, the first woman ever to hold the role, Margot Kässmann, also quit in 2010, just months after taking the job. She was caught running a red light drunk at the wheel of her company car.