Wittenberg 2017

Weg der Versöhnung


The Healing Mission of the Trauma of Münster

Original report of a remarkable trip to Europe
(May 9-13, 2018)

Lloyd Hoover

Awaiting 500 years for the healing of a festering wound is seemingly a long time. For this wound of Münster we can now say the healing has begun.

The Castle of the Salm-Salm Family


On May 7, 2018 a small group of Anabaptists began to gather in Wallhausen/Germany to pray and prepare for the healing journey. The participant group from the U.S. was Lancaster Mennonite Bishops Keith Blank, Steve Weaver, Lloyd Hoover, Franconia Pastor Charles Ness, Amish Bishop Ben Girod and his 2 sons Benjamin and Stephen. European Mennonites joining the planning meetings were Swiss Mennonite Pastor Ernest Geiser, Netherland Mennonite Theologian Andrea Lange, Netherland Mennonite leader Jacob Schiere, and German Mennonite Pastor Wolfgang Krauss. The gathering place was at the Castle of Prince Michael Salm-Salm and his wife Prinzessin Philippa. The castle was in the family of Prince Salm-Salm for 30 generations. His wife Philippa is a descendant of Bishop Waldeck, the Catholic Bishop of the conquest with the Anabaptists of the city of Munster.

The hospitality and experience with Prince Michael and his family was very humbling as they shared stories of their heritage as families of nobility and involvements in the many wars of Germany pre-dating the era of Napoleon. Prince Michael is a respected leader of multiple businesses and organizations including the German and EC Landowners Associations comprised of the families of nobility across Europe. Their family winery is one of the top 100 wineries of the world. During our 3 days in the Salm-Salm family castle there was an extensive interview and filming initiative by the Christian History Institute from Worcester PA as they see the need to produce a documentary telling this story of healing and reconciliation. It was a history-making week in the Salm-Salm family as Prince Michael was in the midst of passing on the family inheritance of castle, business, and hundreds of acres of ground to his oldest son Constantine to serve as the 31st heir of the estate. Our U.S. team was warmly welcomed to bless this generational transition with our prayer, prophetic words as we joined with them in anticipation of something special in this next generation as they have opened their hearts for an outpouring of His Spirit.

The Katholikentag is a 4 day conference where Catholics gather every 2 years for their church celebration. This year it was held in Münster, May 9-13, 2018 providing the setting for the healing meetings between Anabaptists and Catholics and the forum for dialogue in open seminars. The gathering attracted over 40,000 Catholics filling the streets with excitement.

Castle Stay in Vorhelm


Since the city of Münster was 3 hours from the home of Prince Michael, arrangements were made for lodging for the U.S. delegation in the village of Vorhelm with Prince Michaels’ cousin, Graefin Christina and Graf Wilderich von Schall-Riaucour. Their family castle, on a 2500 acre estate, was in their noble family since 1450. This setting was another dreamland of royal treatment beyond imagination. The castle included its own chapel for holding mass as the family is conservative Catholic. The castle contained the largest library with a thousand plus volumes of leather bound books mostly from the 16th to 18th centuries. This couple of nobility was hoping to host some Catholic priests coming to the area for the conference and initially tuned down the request from Philippa Salm-Salm to host us because we were Anabaptists. As we arrived, we were welcomed with apprehension. The Lord gave grace for us to love on them and, shocking to themselves, they opened up their hearts to us especially to Stephen Weaver who stayed on with them and quickly became a minister to the deep needs of their soul. It was an amazing moment of healing that is leaving Steve with his own feelings of shock for what the Lord has done.

Merveldt Castle


On the evening before the scheduled healing meetings in Münster we were taken to a surprise reception at Wolbeck, arranged by Philippa, in another castle built in 1554-57 by Dirk van Merveldt. Dirk was the highest ranking military office of Bishop Waldeck and is credited for leading the courageous recapturing of the Anabaptist Dynasty in 1535. The Bishop rewarded General Merveldt lavishly with sufficient funds to construct this elaborate magnificent 3- story castle and surrounding buildings. The reception included members of the Merveldt family, some of it traveled great distances to be there, as well as other Mennonites from Germany, the head of historic buildings in Münster, Catholic theologians, historians and other members of noble families. The reception was an exceptionally warm time around tea and soup which quickly opened the way of going deep into the dark history that plagued our denominations for ages. We were awestruck with the realities of this history.

This setting became a time of pulling back the black curtains when Ben Girod, Charles Ness and myself openly and clearly acknowledged the wrongs of the past and asked forgiveness for these gross misrepresentations of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit by the Anabaptist leaders during the reign of the Anabaptist dynasty in the 16 short months of disaster. This sacred moment of confession prompted a holy hush around the room and it seemed like a vial of healing oil was being poured out as the unexpected happened, hearts melted, and forgiveness found space among the sons and daughters of the living Lord. To reverse the disgrace over the castle and the family connected to it, Bishop Steve led a powerful prayer representing the hearts of all Anabaptists present to bless the castle, the entire Merveldt family, including the son Benedict who is the present heir whom has a vision for the castle to be renovated into 21st century relevance and life. This is a foretaste of the new life that will come forth from the healing of this age-old wound.

Katholikentag Conference


Friday, May 11, was the day for the Anabaptist participation in the Katholikentag. The first 3 meetings were planned with very dedicated input from Wolfgang Krauss. The first meeting was a panel discussion and presentation to reveal the separate stories from Catholic and Anabaptists. This panel was facilitated by Wolfgang and included presenters: Dr. Ralph Klotzer, historian in Munster; Andrea Lange, Mennonite Theologian; and Professor Dr. Hubertus Lutterbach, Catholic Theologian and Historian. The meeting room which held several hundred, was insufficient space for the interested crowds. Several of the presenters were at the previous evening reception and were radically impacted by that time of sharing and confession. The floor was opened for questions and input. This allowed for a greeting from our U.S. Anabaptist delegation which expressed desire to process our need for forgiveness for the gross misrepresentation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Explanation was given of a recognized fear of the Holy Spirit that has a grip on the Anabaptists and this fear seems to have its roots in this trauma of Münster. This input concluded with the hope for a new day with a healthy experience with the Holy Spirit for all denominations and the crowd erupted with applause.

Cages at St. Lamberti Church


The second session involving Anabaptists was at the St. Lamberti Church, the setting of the Anabaptist cages, for a time of confession and worship. This time of prayer including Catholic and Anabaptist confession was led by 4 presenters: Keith Blank, Mennonite; Joerg Hagemann, Catholic deacon of Münster; Andrea Lange, Mennonite Theologian; Jacob Schiere, Mennonite Netherlands; Ulf Schlien, Lutheran Superintendent of Münster. This historic moment of repentance after 500 years of silence was greeted by an overflow crowd of hundreds of people. The welcome was given in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Anabaptists went first with a statement of repentance read by Andrea Lange. “We want to ask God and each other for forgiveness. The 3 cages hanging above in all their cruelty serve as a reminder of these transgressions. We want to confess our historical guilt, pray for the healing of memories, ask for God’s reconciliation, and encourage each other to continue taking steps toward reconciliation.” Followed by a song, “Repent, Repent, and You Shall Live”, Ezekiel 18:32. After multiple overviews of the Catholic/Anabaptist history in Münster, more repentance followed as Ulf Schlien repented with deep regret. Lutherans today feel deep regret and pain over the persecution of Anabaptists by the Lutherans……”and we ask for forgiveness for the suffering that our ancestors caused the Anabaptists in the 16th century”.

Joerg Hagemann communicated the heart of Pope John Paul II when in 2000 he spoke his “willingness to repent for the sins that have damaged the unity of the church. Catholics can use this willingness to repent for sins committed in the conflicts between Catholics and Mennonites in the 16th century. They can express a willingness to repentance, ask for forgiveness for all sins that were committed against Mennonites, call for God’s mercy, and call upon God’s spirit for a new relationship to the Mennonites today”.

The concluding statement of repentance for Anabaptists was led by Schiere: “We as Mennonites cannot come to Münster with our heads held high, but rather in God-fearing humility. We cannot come, without recognizing that we also need God’s grace and forgiveness. Here today in Münster, we as Mennonites regret the words and deeds of those past Anabaptists who contributed to the destruction of the Body of Christ. We regret the manifest suffering inflicted on their Catholic and Lutheran brothers and sisters. The acts by the Anabaptist leaders in Münster appear to us today as extreme results of a misrepresentation of the Gospel.” A challenge was shared for all: “Let us now and in the future stand up for Christ’s peace with all our strength. Let us begin here, in the St. Lamberti Church. Let us share with each other a sign of peace and of reconciliation.”

The healing service came to a close with the song “Lord Have Mercy”, a time of greeting each other with a blessing of peace, reciting together the Lord’s Prayer, and a closing song “Come Lord, Bless Us”.

The third session was a panel discussion between Catholics and Anabaptists about baptism. Again the crowd was greater than the room capacity. Wolfgang Krauss was the moderator for the panel of Catholic Bishop Dr. Reinhard Hauke and Mennonite Theologian Andrea Lange. After very good presentations, a young Catholic priest stood up and made a clear position that whether Catholic or Anabaptist, it appears it is absolutely essential for an individual to make a personal decision of “ich will” or “Ich will nicht” follow Jesus Christ in my life. And if the person says “I will” the church needs to take the decision serious and come alongside to disciple them. The room was filled with applause.

The fourth session of participation was the ecumenical worship service in the elegant St. Paul’s Cathedral which was and still is the hub the City of Münster surrounds. Thousands of worshipers packed the sanctuary, which is taller than it is wide, for the glory of God. The 90 minute service was led by the Catholic Bishop of Münster and other Orthodox and Protestant priests and ministers from across Germany.

After the worship service the Anabaptist participants of the healing mission met together. Wolfgang Krauss committed to leading the journey of healing to next steps with the possibilities of a meeting with additional Catholic leaders in Münster in 2019.

The U.S. delegation accepted a late night invitation to dinner at a village restaurant by Prince Ferdinand Graf von Merveldt, a relative of General Merveldt whom led the recapturing of Münster from the Anabaptists. The graciousness of Prince Ferdinand and his wife Katharine was beyond explanation. He had stayed by our side most of the day, purchased us lunch, and flowed with our group as if an Anabaptist himself. What was a little unsettling for us is when individuals who knew him in his role of nobility greeted him, they always kissed his hands.

Healing Mission Reflections


The final day for most of the U.S. delegation was spent back at the Salm-Salm castle. Michael and Philippa were not at home, but they gave the key to us to enjoy the castle. Michael was off on business and Philippa was on her way to Jerusalem for the 70th Anniversary of the Jewish State.

On the last night at the castle a surprising phenomenon was experienced by Bishop Ben Girod. While he was in the bathroom connected to his bedroom, he heard a strange percussion sound and a hole popped in the wall above him showering him with plaster as electrical wires sprung through the hole. The incident and the timing of the moment left us with a message: “the walls will no longer be able to hold back the power of God as new life will spring forth in the body of Christ.” Lloyd received a word of promise from Jeremiah 8:22: There is a balm in Münster! There is a physician there! There is healing coming for the wound of my people. My head is like a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears of joy.

Conclusion


It is obvious that the healing has begun. The Lord has blessed us with kinship with key individuals that have been radically impacted in ways that will lead to a decision of how the story of this wound will change. Possibly it will include the decision to bring down the “Anabaptist” cages after hanging on the cathedral steeple for 500 years. Possibly a new symbol will be added to the cages to tell the story of forgiveness and peace. We anticipate doors will open for further steps involving additional leaders for further representation of the streams involved. The Spirit of the Lord is clearly interested in healing His bride and a new day of freedom for the Spirit to break through the walls of historical resistance within the Catholic and Anabaptist circles is on the way. May the Body of Christ experience the fulfillment of Jesus prayer in John 17: 23-24 that we may be one with Him in fellowship with the Father and Holy Spirit.

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