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Pioneering Lutheran bishop resigns amid criticism

HAMBURG, Germany — The Lutheran bishop of Hamburg, Maria Jepsen, has resigned amid criticism that she mishandled a sex abuse case in her diocese.

The accusations against Jepsen, who was the first Lutheran female bishop in the world when she was appointed in 1992, relate to alleged sexual abuse of between five and 20 minors by a pastor in the town of Ahrensburg, in Jepsen's diocese, during the 1980s.

Jepsen, 65, is accused of not reacting appropriately to the alleged abuse. The bishop said she was not resigning in an admission of guilt, but rather to prevent further damage to the church.

"My credibility will now be in doubt. I do not see myself in the position to continue to spread God's word as I had promised," she said in a brief press conference in Hamburg.

The latest case comes as both major Christian denominations in Germany are being shaken by scandals dealing with abuse or other misconduct.

The Catholic Church is battling dozens of separate allegations of sexual molestation by priests dating back to the 1950s, as well as a power struggle between the Vatican and the former bishop of Augsburg, also over allegations of mistreatment of children.

Margot Kaessman, the former head of the protestant federation of churches in Germany and the bishop of Hanover, resigned in February following a drunken driving incident.

In the Ahrensburg case, a witness claims to have informed Jepsen of the alleged abuse as early as 1999, an assertion that Jepsen has disputed.

A victims' association also accuses a church-instigated disciplinary committee, set up to investigate the pastor in question, who has since retired, of foot-dragging.

The disciplinary committee had been due to produce its findings later this year.

Pioneering Lutheran bishop resigns amid criticism 07/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 7:58pm]
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