Mission Committee decides to close FIT after a transitional period
The Mission Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM)* decided on the 09.03.2021 to phase out the two Bachelor degree programmes at the University of Applied Sciences for Intercultural Theology Hermannsburg. The university will continue to operate for as long as it takes to enable all students, who have already begun their studies, to complete their degree programme in accordance with the respective Examination Regulations.
For the Master degree programme offered by the FIT in cooperation with the Faculty of Theology at the University of Göttingen, possibilities are being sought to continue it in Göttingen.
The Rectorate is already in contact with the General Students' Committee (AStA) about the questions that students now have. Independently of this, students should please contact the FIT rectorate or the management if they have any further questions relating to their studies; FIT is only too happy to assist.
The FIT rectorate, management, lecturers and staff very much regret this serious decision, which was justified by the Mission Committee on the grounds of financial necessity. Details of the Mission Committee's motives can be found in this press release: PM ELM 09.03.2021
The teaching staff of FIT commented on the closure decision in an open letter dated 11.05.2021 to the management of the sponsoring foundation and the sponsoring churches: Open letter FIT to closure decision
The students of FIT have started two petitions through the AStA in which they campaign for the preservation of the university and address demands to the ELM and the three sponsoring churches: Students, AStA, semester ticket & more
Rector Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Richebächer considers the decision by the Mission Committee to be a big mistake in view of the missionary, interreligious-dialogical and social responsibility of the church in an increasingly multicultural society and explains further:
"FIT has been a beacon of hope since 2012. It designed new, practice-oriented, interdisciplinary academic study programmes which gained state recognition. These studies promote interreligious dialogue, support bridge-building between international congregations and the evangelical regional churches and serve cooperations between partner churches in the north and in the south. All these are indispensable concerns in a society that is becoming more multicultural and in which encounters and the coexistence of people of different cultural and religious backgrounds is increasing."
As FIT has been able to gather from numerous reactions and personal statements, this assessment is shared not only by many friends, supporters, cooperation partners and alumni of FIT, but also by actors from academia, mission and ecumenism.
In recent months and years, also the Academic Advisory Board has spoken out several times in favour of the continuation of the University of Applied Sciences: "FIT provides the ELM in the whole of Germany with a unique distinguishing feature. And even more importantly, cooperations with the ELM partner churches and support for the increasingly important migration congregations in Germany and their connection to the regional churches depend in the long run on intercultural theology remaining a subject anchored in the ELM through a research and educational institution such as FIT".
With the closure of FIT, the ELM and its sponsoring churches are giving up an important and socially relevant educational programme with an intercultural concept that is unique in Germany.
In the end however, the Mission Committee prioritized financial aspects over content and social values.
In the ELM press release, Bishop Ralf Meister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover expresses his thanks to the FIT rector and staff for their good work in recent years and says: "In future, we, the church, must work a lot harder than beforehand to very specifically understand that intercultural theology is more than ever a cross-sectional task of the church“.
It will however be much more difficult to cope with this task without academic profiling and taught skills such as the ability to engage in intercultural dialogue and respectful discussion with different religions and denominations.
* The Mission Committee is the governing body of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Agency in Lower Saxony (ELM). It consists of 19 members delegated by the governing bodies of the regional churches and is currently chaired by Bishop Ralf Meister.