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Whereas the general situation in the country has not substantially changed since the last IMWAC-meeting in Dublin (1 – 3 November 2013, cf. the report from Austria for the Dublin meeting), the situation in WaC Austria has changed a lot.
On April 5, 2014 we had our regular general meeting with voting. The only candidate for the chair was Martha Heizer, who was elected with great majority.
Trouble arose, when on May 23, 2014 Bishop Dr. Manfred Scheuer excommunicated Martha and her husband Gert by handing them the excommunication document maintaining, that they had excommunicated themselves by celebrating the Eucharist in a private circle without a priest and letting a short TV documentary be made of the celebration. He told them that the excommunication could be lifted any time, if they repented and promised not to repeat the celebration. They refused, recurring to their consciences. This roused great media interest and provoked a lot of public reaction all over the world, mostly expressing support, but to a small extent also rejection, partly in rude terms.
There was a split among the members of WaC Austria between those who thought that an excommunicated person could not be chair and Martha had to resign and the others – the majority – who considered an excommunication an exaggerated and impossible punishment and quite out of the time and expressed their support for Martha.
We then had an extraordinary general meeting on September 27, 2014 with open discussion and secret voting on two questions: 1) Should WaC accept celebrations of the Eucharist without priest in a private circle but with authorization by the local bishop as part of its reform program? 2) Should an excommunicated person be able to be chair of WaC?. The outcome was 67% pro for the 1st question and 78% pro for the 2nd one.
In the meantime the new council has been consolidated. Several council meetings took place, 11 press releases have been sent out and 4 lectures were given by Martha. Together with the other reform groups WaCAustria organised a study day on the topic “Women in the church. Equal dignity –equal rights” on November 15, 2014 with 130 participants.
The year 2015 is also a jubilee year: On September 25/26 we will celebrate “20 years We are Church” in Salzburg. “Give the Church new fire” will be the motto.