LWF mourns former Vice-President Horst Hirschler

14 Aug 2023

Former LWF Vice-President, Bishop em. Horst Hirscher has died at the age of 89. The LWF remembers him for his commitment to the process running up to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

Bishop em. Horst Hirschler at a reception at Loccum Monastery in January 2020. Photo: Jens Schulze

Bishop em. Horst Hirschler at a reception at Loccum Monastery in January 2020. Photo: Jens Schulze

“A man of great integrity, committed to ecumenical dialogue”

(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) mourns the death of Horst Hirschler, former LWF Vice-President and Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, who died in Loccum, Germany, at the age of 89 on 8 August.

From 1990 to 1997, Hirschler was LWF Vice-President for Central Western Europe. During that time, he worked with great commitment for the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed in 1999 by the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church.

Hirschler always pointed out that there is more that unites than divides Lutherans and Catholics, states the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (VELKD) in a press release. He emphasized that putting Christ at the center must be the foundation of every ecumenical dialogue.

“In the history of the LWF, Bishop em. Hirschler has proved to be a man of great integrity, committed to the church beyond its borders and especially to ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. We are very grateful for his witness to reconciliation and dialogue. To his immediate family and his church, I would like to express my sympathy and assure them of our prayers,” said Rev. Dr Ireneusz Lukas, LWF Regional Secretary for Europe.

In 1993, Horst Hirschler became the Presiding Bishop of the VELKD and, simultaneously, Chairperson of the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF).

“For me, Horst Hirschler was a person whom God endowed with many special gifts,” recalls the GNC/LWF chair, Bishop em. Frank Otfried July. He was “theologically highly reflective and simultaneously very down-to-earth, approachable in his dealings with people. That shaped his proclamation of the gospel. As vice president in the LWF and in his work in the GNC/LWF, he impressively related the theological view of the global church and the many personal experiences and encounters.”

Throughout his life, Hirschler was a sought-after preacher and speaker. He regarded the interpretation of the Bible, particularly through sermons and worship, as the central task in life. In the pulpit, Hirschler saw himself as an heir of Martin Luther, whose theology and powerful interpretation of the biblical scriptures always guided him.

For his “knowledgeable, competent and passionate commitment as a preacher,” Leipzig Church University awarded him an honorary theological doctorate on 21 April 1992.

Horst Hirschler was born in Stuttgart on 4 September 1933 and trained as an electrician after leaving school. From 1955 to 1959, he studied theology and, after his vicariate, first became a student pastor in the church’s youth ministry in Hanover and, subsequently, a parish pastor. In 1988 he was elected bishop of the church. In 1999, he retired and then served as abbot of Loccum Monastery from 2000 to 2020.

The funeral service for Horst Hirschler will take place in Loccum on 19 August.

LWF/A. Weyermüller