By Michaela Koller, March 11, 2021, Die Tagespost

Thomas Schirrmacher © Carsten Behler for WEA

Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher, a theologian and religious scholar from Bonn, is the new General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance. He thus represents the second largest religious organization in the world after the Catholic Church.

Since his inauguration last Saturday in Cologne, the new Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher, a theologian and religious scientist from Bonn. He thus represents six hundred million Protestants united in this largest evangelical umbrella organization. Even if this news does not make the front pages of the gazettes: the WEA is, after all, the second largest religious organization in the world after the Catholic Church. Since 2016, Schirrmacher has been the leading bishop of the “Communio Messianica,” a community especially for converts from Islam to Christianity.

Comes from a dynasty of scholars

He is married to the scholar for Islamic studies Christine Schirrmacher.

At ecumenical meetings, Thomas Schirrmacher will be able to meet Pope Francis at eye level in the future, although this will probably not change anything in their dealings with each other: The two leaders have already met dozens of times and also talk to each other on the phone.

The Evangelical Alliance has a flat hierarchical structure and sub-communities enjoy the greatest possible independence. The vast majority of Christians under this umbrella live in the southern hemisphere.

Schirrmacher comes from a dynasty of scholars. The historian Friedrich Wilhelm Schirrmacher was his great-grandfather, and his father Bernd Schirrmacher, a professor of communications engineering, was on the board of a missionary society and a pioneer in the evangelical school movement.

Thomas Schirrmacher studied in Switzerland and the Netherlands, where he earned his first doctorate in 1985. After a doctoral thesis in the U.S. and three honorary doctorates, his dissertation on “Hitler’s War Religion” in the field of religious studies was completed in Bonn in 2007. Schirrmacher began his teaching career as early as 1983, working at academies and universities in Germany, the USA, Brazil and Romania. More than a hundred books bear his name on the title, as author or editor.

Traveling networker for human rights

Among his works are numerous books on specific human rights topics such as religious freedom, persecution of Christians and human trafficking, concerns for which he was already able to forge alliances with high representatives of religious communities and government officials as WEA vice secretary general for many years. As a traveling human rights networker, the first German to hold this post became internationally known, and his election last fall came as no surprise to observers.


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