Voices from the Communion: Dr Anna Krauss on her ecumenical leadership and interchurch relations
(LWI) - 2023 has been a demanding yet fruitful year for Dr Anna Krauss, a German-born theologian and ecumenist, who currently serves as General Secretary of the Council of Lutheran Churches (CLC) in Great Britain.
In March, she worked closely alongside the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain (LCiGB) to help organize the European Pre-Assembly in Oxford, ahead of the LWF’s Thirteenth Assembly in Krakow, Poland.
In May, she was appointed to head the so-called ‘Fourth Presidency’ group of Churches Together in England, the country’s main ecumenical body bringing together over 50 different denominations and Christian communities.
In September, at the Krakow Assembly, she was officially elected and inducted as a member of the new LWF Council and Executive Committee, representing the small but vibrant Lutheran church in the British Isles.
In October, she led celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the CLC, which brings together nine Lutheran churches of different national origins.
You have a passion for ecumenical work – where does this interest stem from?
I grew up in a mostly Lutheran family in Northern Bavaria where everyone was very involved in the church. A small part of the family was Roman Catholic, but for the most part, I was raised with a very strong Lutheran identity and sense of belonging.
During my school days, I had friends from different churches, but then I went to study for a year abroad at Aberdeen University in Scotland, where there were almost no Lutherans at all. I got very involved with both the (Reformed) Church of Scotland and the local Roman Catholic chaplaincy, which were challenging but very formative experiences for me and I have been involved in ecumenism ever since.
You are an Old Testament scholar and an expert in early biblical manuscripts – how does this inform the work that you do today?
The Bible is something that we all share as Christians, but we come to it from different perspectives and with very different experiences. My research focuses on early biblical manuscripts and the origins of the Bible so I learn a lot about how people interacted with Scripture in their own contexts from those early days. This is really helpful when I try to understand how Christians from other traditions read and understand biblical texts today.
How does your broad ecumenical experience affect your daily life?
Many people see the theological agreements as the end of a very long process, but for those living in an ecumenical partnership, these agreements are really the beginning and the foundation of something very beautiful. The Lutherans in England have a very good relationship with the Church of England, which is the established church here. Through the Porvoo Communion, Lutheran and Anglicans in Europe, have very close relationships that foster trust, collaboration, and shared witness.
On Reformation Day this year, you led celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Council of Lutheran Churches in Britain – what stood out for you from the various events that you helped to organize?
Yes, it was a memorable occasion, with the participation of ecumenical delegates alongside the many past and present leaders of the CLC. We were delighted to receive a message from the LWF vice president for Europe, Bishop Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmitt, encouraging us to continue our work at both national and international level.
I was able to preach during a celebratory service at the Norwegian church in London and to join in discussions about the past and future of the Council. Another moving moment was the blessing and dedication of many bibles, as we had asked the Council’s member churches to provide a bible for all of the different languages that we use in our worship and liturgies.
What does your role as a president of Churches Together in England involve?
It is quite an honor for me, as a young, non-ordained woman, to be serving alongside other presidents that include the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Catholic and Orthodox archbishops. CTE is one of the widest national ecumenical networks, representing everyone from the Orthodox to the newest Christian groups that are accepted as members after significant theological scrutiny.
There are six family groups, that is the Anglicans, the Orthodox, the Catholics, the Pentecostals and Charismatics, the Free Churches and our fourth group which includes Quakers and Reformed Churches alongside the Lutherans. With such a diversity of representation, it can be difficult to formulate action sometimes, but when we do issue shared statements on key issues, it can be very powerful to see all the Christian churches speaking with one voice.
What are you looking forward to in your role as a member of the LWF’s governance?
At the Krakow Assembly, it was exciting to see and hear from people living in such different contexts, sharing their understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran in the world. The theme [One Body, One Spirit, One Hope] was such an important topic at a time when all global bodies seem to be struggling to maintain unity and asking the same questions around what is the hope that we are striving for.
At the European Pre-Assembly, it was fascinating to hear from churches dealing with restructuring as their memberships decline and I hope I can share some insight from my experiences, both in a majority context in Germany and as a minority church in the UK. As a member of a tiny church, which still has a strong sense of identity and mission, it makes me both proud and hopeful that the church is not simply a structure which needs as many people as possible, but rather it requires the right sort of people who are committed to working for the kingdom of God.