Reformed Christians who value the Heidelberg Catechism may have difficulty imagining Germany as a country requiring reformation. But that’s the reality. Many church buildings are now museums with tourists passing through rather than believers sitting under the preaching of the Word. But gospel light is piercing the dark religious landscape of Germany.
Reformed believers are uniting in an effort to bring Reformation2Germany (R2G). That effort is beginning where an important and highly-personal catechism was written 452 years ago, in Heidelberg. And a current student at Westminster Seminary California (WSC) plans to return to Germany in a few years to help promote the new reformation.
Simon Schuster hopes to graduate from WSC with his Master of Arts in Theological Studies in May of 2016. He has already obtained his M.Div. degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Heidelberg (Reformatorisch-Theologisches Seminar Heidelberg) and desires to return to that city to minister and to teach.
“I do hope to be ordained, but first want to pursue a PhD,” he says. “Without doubt, I want to go back to Germany and do church planting there as my primary focus. But because the RTS [Heidelberg] is a very small seminary and in need of further teachers, I’d like to help there as well.”
The Seminary is closely associated with R2G, which formally began in 2010, when Sebastian Heck was ordained as an associate pastor of Grace PCA in Douglasville, GA, laboring out of bounds in Heidelberg, Germany. After about a year of preaching, Rev. Heck planted the Independent Evangelical Reformed Church in Heidelberg.
R2G is not a missions organization, but an effort to plant more confessional, Reformed churches and establish an indigenous German denomination that is distinctively Reformed. The Heidelberg Catechism is part of its constitution, and the work is under the supervision of the session of Grace PCA and under direct oversight of a subcommittee of Northwest Georgia Presbytery (PCA).
The R2G website states, “We believe that such a committee of Presbytery is a wonderful embodiment of how Presbyterians ought to do missions. It reflects our Presbyterian polity, provides true ecclesiastical oversight, and the necessary structure for setting up a provisional Presbytery in Germany. It also provides the infrastructure for cooperation across denominational borders, particularly as R2G seeks to partner with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the United Reformed Churches (URCNA) and other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations.”
Simon Schuster grew up in a Christian home, but Reformed truth eluded him until he came to understand the difference between justification and sanctification.
“I was always interested in the Bible, even as a child,” he says, “but it was especially this time when I found rest in Christ that aroused the desire to serve as pastor so that many people can have this deep joy of the Gospel.”
Simon became a member of Pastor Heck’s congregation and was licensed to exhort in 2014. While he attends WSC, he is under the oversight of Oceanside URC, which has also licensed him to exhort.
In addition to the Heidelberg church and Reformed Theological Seminary, R2G is attempting to launch a ministry to college students called Reformed University Fellowship. Because Heidelberg University is consistently ranked Germany’s number one educational institution and listed in the top 75 on global charts, more than 30,000 students from around the world enroll in its medical, legal, science, and humanities programs. R2G hopes that the college ministry would spread to other institutions and further the church-planting vision.
The R2G website (reformation2germany.org) explains that because Germans view church planting efforts with suspicion, it is important to share that the work is not bringing anything new, “but simply the old Reformation faith.”
“What could be more natural than founding a Reformed church in a city with a rich and influential Reformed past and teaching the Heidelberg Catechism in the city where it was drafted?”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 20 of the October 7, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.