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Social Service Agency of the Evangelical Church in Germany

DW comprises the regional social service agencies of the 17 member churches of the EKD, 10 other Protestant denominations with their service institutions and more than I DO different professional associations. These members represent about 18000 independent institutions of varying size and legal form with more than 260 000 staff under full-time or part-time employment. About 12 000 parishes of the participating churches support the work of the social service agencies with hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

The supreme authority of DW is the Diaconical Conference. It constitutes 10 members of the EKD, one representative each from the Protestant Free Churches, one representative each of the associated social service agencies, up to 25 representatives of the professional associations, and up to 15 members to be appointed by the Diaconical Council. DW is presided by the Diaconical Council in accordance with the resolutions passed by the Diaconical Conference. The headquarters of DW is in Stuttgart, with branches in Bonn, Berlin and Bremen.

The history of organised Diaconia (the Church's social outreach) in Germany dates back to 1848 when a program of the Inner Mission to fight spiritual and material poverty was presented by Johann Hinrich Wichern at the Wittenberg Church Convention. The "Central Committee for Inner Mission of the German Evangelical Church" was then founded. Following this example, local and regional associations of the Inner Mission were founded in towns and regions with legally independent homes, asylums, lay missions, and institutions which took care of education, nursing and welfare for people in need.

After World War 11, the "Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland" (the Relief Agency of the EKD) was founded in 1946 under the leadership of Eugen Gerstenmaier. By organizing foreign aid and reanimating ecumenical contacts, this organisation helped considerably in alleviating the famine in post-war Germany, settling refugees and displaced persons and fighting youth unemployment. Every parish was integrated into this work.

Both pillars of Diaconia - the Inner Mission and the Relief Agency - have been amalgamated in regional organisations from 1957 onwards; they were united with the Social Service Agency (Dikonisches Work - DW) of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in 1975.

Ecumenical Diaconia

Diaconia is called upon to help people in need also on an international level. According to the statutes of DW, Diaconia is intended "for individuals and groups, for people far and near, for Christians and non-Christians in an ecumenical dimension". This mission is carried out by different kinds of services. The best known of these is "Bread for the World". started as a campaign in 1959 in order to support the development of countries in the Third World.

Beside "Bread for the World", there is the "Emergency Desk" sub-department - organizing and coordinating relief measures for people impaired by natural disasters or military conflicts.

The "Human Rights Desk" was established in 1977 to provide, organize and coordinate assistance for victims of human rights violations and to support organizations for the defence of human rights. The Human Rights Desk carries out this task as part of the world-wide network of ecumenical and secular nongovernmental human rights organisations.

The ecumenical program "Churches Helping Churches" has been founded to support foreign churches and local parishes in carrying out their mission and to assist wherever help is needed in parishes and church work. Help is directed to Protestant minorities in Europe, Orthodox churches and churches overseas.

The "Ecumenical Individual Aid" cares for individuals through the intermediary requests of partner churches in Eastern Europe and in developing countries. In most cases, the help is needed for health problems: therapeutic treatments, which are impossible to obtain in the native countries, and the procurement of medicine and orthopaedic aids.

Ecumenical scholarship programs are intended to enable foreign students to study at German universities for one or two years. To an increasing extent, educational measures are carried out in the native countries of the students, training leading staff of the middle management on a non-academic level.

Projects in Russia supported by Diakonisches Werk "Churches helping Churches" department

The central office of Diakonisches Werk in Stuttgart with its department "Churches helping Churches" is supporting a range of diaconical initiatives of the churches in the Russian Federation. Among the present projects are:
  • The St. Dimitry Sisterhood in Moscow is widening training programs for nurses working in the home care (patronage), especially with elderly people. Model courses, adaptable also in other Russian regions are developed, course materials are published. For St. Dimitry's extending work with orphans support was granted to furnish an orphanage's kitchen with equipment.
  • In Wladiwostok the local Lutheran parish has organized a soup kitchen in cooperation with one of the Orthodox parishes and the local administration. The meals are served free mainly to pensioners. "Churches help Churches" helped to get this project started.
  • "Vosvrashenie" is a St.-Petersburg based NGO devoting itself to the rehabilitation of former drug addicts. Their dynamic founder Dimitri Ostrovskij has from the start closely cooperated with Konjenvskij Monastery and several local Orthodox parishes in the St. Petersburg region. "Churches helping Churches" program supported one of their building projects and a small farm on which former narkomani find back into a life worth living.

It is important to note that DW has a very federal structure which sometimes complicates the work with partners in Russia: in each regional church (down to the circuit or even parish level) there are independent units of the DW, which sometimes (and for all the German churches together it runs up to a lot) have their own contacts to churches or NGO's in Russia. They are not less (even in their financial potential) DW than central office in Stuttgart with it's department "Churches helping Churches" in Stuttgart/Berlin is.
President:  Reverend Jurgen Gohde 
Address: Diakonisches Werk der EKD P.0.Box 101142 D-7000 Stuttgart 10
Telephone:  (0) (0711) 2159-201
Telefax:  (0711) 21 59-288

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