Head of Germany's Lutheran church quits over drunk driving


IT COULD happen to a bishop, and yesterday it did.

Bishop Margot Kässmann, the popular head of Germany’s Lutheran church, resigned yesterday afternoon after being stopped for drunk driving on Saturday night.

The 51-year-old divorced mother of four said she had “damaged” her office and had let down the 25 million German Protestants she represented.

“I would not have enjoyed the same freedom to address the ethical and political challenges of our time as I have done,” she said at a press conference.

“An adviser told me to stick to what my heart advised and my heart tells me I cannot remain in office with the necessary authority.”

Police in Hanover stopped the bishop on Saturday night after she ran a red light in her official car. She had drunk two glasses of wine and two glasses of sparkling white wine and had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.

Dr Kässmann’s decision to serve the church in future as a regular pastor came as a surprise. Hours earlier she received the backing of the 13 other council members of the German Evangelical Church, a union of 22 Protestant churches.

The council said the church would “miss Kässmann’s directness and clarity in her theological, socio-political positions”.

It was clear yesterday that the popular ex-bishop continues to enjoy the support of churchgoers in her former seat of Hanover.

“We’ve had people calling all morning hoping that she wouldn’t resign,” said Hanover pastor Hanna Kreise-Liebermann. “People say a resignation is out of proportion to the good she has done our church, something I believe too.”

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Germany’s Catholic prelate, said he regretted the resignation of Ms Kässmann, a key figure in German ecumenical work.

“I know Ms Kässmann for a long time as a person who is prepared to accept responsibility, therefore I respect and understand her decision,” he said.

Last year, Pastor Kässmann recommended giving up alcohol for Lent, telling Der Spiegel: “I know how quickly a glass of wine in the evening can turn into a habit.”