Open Letter on Behalf of Gerd Ludemann
March 21, 2000
Minister Thomas Oppermann
Prof. Dr. Horst Kern
Prof. Dr. Anneli Aejmelaeus
Cc: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Dear Mr. Oppermann, Prof. Kern, and Prof. Aejmelaeus:
We are writing to you out of concern for the situation of our colleague, Prof. Dr. Gerd Lüdemann.
We have followed his situation with keen interest because it involves the freedom of professors to express freely the ideas that will ultimately lead to progress and clarity in the field of theology. We understand that the manner of pursuing theological education is different in Germany from the way things are done here in the United States. We also understand that the relationship of the church to theological faculties in your state universities is quite foreign to our way of thinking about state-sponsored education. However, taking all of this into account, we still find reason to be distressed over Prof. Luedemann's situation.
To many of us it seems right and appropriate that the church should show proper concern for the education of its clergy, and to exercise some control over who should participate in the process of qualifying students for ordination. Thus, it does not trouble us that Prof. Luedemann may no longer read the church exams, or offer courses to students preparing for ordination to the ministry, even though many of us believe that Prof. Luedemann's ideas might even prove helpful to the church as it seeks to clarify the meaning of Christian faith in the Twenty-First Century. That the Theological Faculty has not seen the opportunity to engage Prof. Luedemann's ideas within the context of its theological work is quite unfortunate, and represents a loss to the quality of the intellectual environment.
What is most distressing to us is the fact that Prof. Luedemann has also been barred from reading the faculty exams, advising doctoral students, and evaluating the work of Dozents. None of these educational programs necessarily involves the training of persons to serve in the church. That the state, through the offices of the University and the Theological Faculty, should bar him from participating fully in these areas is a grave stroke against academic freedom. The issue here is not the quality or persuasiveness of Prof. Luedemann's views. In fact, many of us have criticized his ideas, even as he has criticized ours. The issue is the free exchange of ideas, in print, and in the classroom. It is our understanding that through the actions taken by the University and the Theological Faculty, Prof. Luedemann has effectively been barred from offering courses or advising students. This goes to the heart of academic freedom. The classroom is above all the place where academic freedom must be exercised. Without this, there is no real academic freedom. And without academic freedom, there is no intellectual integrity.
We understand that our ways are different here in the United States, and that the University must balance the interests of both the church and the broader culture in this matter. We realize that this is not an easy thing to do. And we appreciate the fact that thus far the University, the Theological Faculty, and the Ministry of Science and Culture have sought a solution that does not involve the dismissal of Prof. Luedemann altogether, as the church had apparently desired. Still, the present situation has left Prof. Luedemann without a voice in the classroom. We would therefore urge you all to seek a new solution to the problem, one that restores to Prof. Luedemann an active role in the education of students who are not necessarily preparing for ordination in the Lutheran church. This would include offering courses with credit to students who are not preparing for ordained ministry, participating in the Faculty Exams, advising doctoral students, and evaluating the work of Dozents.
As we enter a new millennium, it has become clear that one of the tasks that lies before us in the west is a critical coming to grips with our Christian past. This is a task not only for the church, but for everyone who is an heir to this cultural legacy. This is precisely what Prof. Luedemann is asking us to do, albeit in a very provocative way. That this challenge should be taken out of the theological curriculum altogether is a travesty. Is there a more important issue with which our students should be forced to struggle at this critical time in our history? We do not think so. That is why we are asking you to reconsider this situation, and to find a new solution that reaffirms his right to engage in full academic discussion of his research regardless of its results or his personal views.
Robert W. Funk
Director, Westar Institute
Robert W. Funk, Ph.D. [Westar Institute]
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