How Pastor Elser from Hegnach divides his congregation


WBernhard Elser is probably one of the few people in Germany who can advertise with the promise “No G”. “No G” means: You can get access to an event without any problems and you don’t have to prove a test, recovery or vaccination. You just go in.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

Elser can do this because he is a Protestant pastor in the Württemberg parish of Hegnach in the north-east of Stuttgart and there is an exception to the strict 2-G rule for church services. The vaccination critic, corona skeptic and rebel against the Elser church leadership likes that. He is one of a group of evangelical pastors throughout Germany who have taken increasingly radical positions in recent years.

The best-known among them is the Bremen pastor Olaf Latzel, who was convicted of hate speech after derogatory statements about homosexuals. The verdict is not yet final, an appeal is pending. Latzel is a member of the “Bible and Confession Network” founded by Ulrich Parzany, an 80-year-old pastor from the Rhineland. To this day, Parzany finds resonance in the Pietist and Evangelical scene, which has been increasingly divided over political issues such as gender, migration and Corona for about a decade. The conflict is between moderate, tendentially younger Evangelicals on the one hand and tendencies such as the “Network Bible and Confession”, which is extremely critical of the course of the EKD and its national churches. Elser from Hegnach also belongs to this network; Parzany has already been a guest speaker in his Hegnacher community.

The Bremen pastor Olaf Latzel in court in 2020 when he had to face the charge of hate speech: According to the indictment, Latzel is said to have described homosexuals as criminals and homosexuality as a


The Bremen pastor Olaf Latzel in court in 2020 when he had to face the charge of hate speech: According to the indictment, Latzel is said to have described homosexuals as criminals and homosexuality as a “degenerative form of society” at a marriage seminar in October 2019.
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Image: dpa

In Hegnach it has been a tradition for decades for the Protestant, Catholic and Methodist congregations of the Pietist town to meet for an ecumenical discussion in mid-November. Because of the pandemic, the pastors initially decided to hold the meeting in the largest church – that of Pastor Elser. But a conversation is an event and not a service. The 2-G rule applies here.


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