Raising the Lutheran Profile in Slovenia
Bishop Erniša Awarded State Medal of Merit for Advocating Tolerance
(LWI) - Bishop Geza Erniša of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovenia has said that being awarded Slovenia’s highest state award is a reflection of both his efforts and the church’s work for understanding in the nation.
“We Slovenian Protestants have always advocated for tolerance in dialogue and in dealing with both religious and sociopolitical questions in everyday life,” Erniša said in an interview with Lutheran World Information (LWI). “And, of course, we continue to do so.”
Erniša said that he is pleased that Slovenians of various religious affiliations and worldviews have congratulated him on the award.
“Being a Lutheran in Slovenia means today being a member of a church that is valued by the majority of people and whose standpoints and contributions on all the relevant issues and challenges facing the churches and society are given serious attention,” he added.
On 30 October, the eve of Reformation Day, the Republic of Slovenia President Borut Pahor, awarded Bishop Erniša the Silver Order of Merit in a ceremony at the presidential palace in Ljubljana, noting that he had enhanced the church and the country’s reputation during his 18 years as bishop.
“Bishop Erniša has raised the profile of his church as a reputable institution at home and abroad, as well as in the community of Protestant churches,” the Slovenian president stated in awarding the state honor.
As a living organism, whose members are also citizens, the Lutheran church must have an impact on the country, while working with civil society, Bishop Erniša responded.
“The moral and ethical questions that we confront with the aid of Christ’s social teaching are a constant challenge to society, which has to face many issues relating to human rights, religious freedom and the economy,” he emphasized.
“We Christians are called upon to work together and draw on all biblical and universal human values in order to find the most appropriate responses and solutions,” the bishop stated.
The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovenia, which has been a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) since 1952, has 20,000 members in 13 parishes throughout Slovenia.
Bishop Erniša commented that being part of the LWF is an important aspect of the Slovenian church’s identity, and allows the church an opportunity to work with Lutheran churches worldwide to tackle spiritual and material issues.
“Joy in life and the concerns of this world: these are two things I would like to share with as many people as possible in the world,” Bishop Erniša said. “I believe that we Lutherans have some good, appropriate answers to these questions.
“That is why I am glad to be Lutheran,” he concluded.