Evangelical Church in Germany

Evangelical Church in Germany
Evangelical Church in Germany
Evangelical Church in Germany logo.gif
Logo of the Evangelical Church in Germany.
Classification Protestant
Orientation Lutheranism
Polity A federation of 22 regional and denominational churches that practise their own forms of church governance, the Reformed churches typically practise a mixture of Presbyterian and Congregationalist church governance whilst the Lutheran churches typically practise an Episcopal form of church governance, these are all united with each other under the one united EKD synod.
Associations World Council of Churches,
Community of Protestant Churches in Europe
Geographical areas Germany
Origin 1948[1]
Members 24.5 million;
ca. 10 000 000 Lutheran
14 000 000 United (Prussian Union)
ca. 400 000 Reformed[2]
Official website http://ekd.de/english/index.html

The Evangelical Church in Germany (German: Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, abbreviated EKD) is a federation of 22 Lutheran, Unified (Prussian Union) and Reformed (Calvinist) Protestant regional church bodies in Germany. The EKD is not a church in a theological understanding because of the denominational differences. However, the member churches (Gliedkirchen) share full pulpit and altar fellowship. The EKD has a membership of 24.832 million parishioners or 30.2% of the German population (status 31 December 2007).[3] Membership rates fell in 2008 to 24.515 million parishioners or 29.9% by the end of 2008.[4]

Only one member church (the Evangelical Reformed Church) is not restricted to a certain territory. In a certain way, the other member churches resemble dioceses of the Anglican or Roman Catholic churches from an organisational point of view. However, the member churches of the EKD are independent with their own theological and formal organisation. Most member churches are led by a (state) bishop. One of the regional leaders is elected Council Chairman (Ratsvorsitzender) of the EKD by the Synod and Church Conference. All regional churches of the EKD are members of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.



The German term evangelisch here more accurately corresponds to the broad English term Protestant[5] rather than to the narrower evangelical (in German called evangelikal), although the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England use the term in the same way as the German church. Literally, evangelisch means "of the Gospel", denoting a Protestant Reformation emphasis on sola scriptura, "by scripture alone".


Since the Peace of Augsburg 1555 until the end of World War I and the collapse of the German Empire, some Protestant churches were state churches. Each Landeskirche[1] (regional church) was the official church of one of the states of Germany while the respective ruler was the church's formal head (e.g. the King of Prussia headed the Evangelical Church of Prussia's older Provinces as supreme governor), similar to the British monarch's role in the Church of England.

This changed somewhat with growing religious freedom in the 19th century, especially in the three republican states of Bremen, Lübeck and Hamburg. The greatest change came after the German Revolution with the formation of the Weimar Republic and the abdication of the princes of the German states. The system of state churches disappeared with the monarchies, and there was a desire for the Protestant churches to merge. In fact, a merger was permanently under discussion but never materialized due to strong regional self-confidence and traditions as well as the denominational fragmentation into Lutheran, Reformed and United churches. During the revolution when the old church governments lost power, the People's Church Union (Volkskirchenbund) was formed advocating unification without respect to theological tradition and increasing input from laymen. However, the People's Church Union quickly split along territorial lines after the churches' relationship with the government improved.[6]

It was realized that one mainstream Protestant church for all of Germany was impossible and that any union would need a federal model. The churches met in Dresden in 1919 and created a plan for federation, and this plan was adopted in 1921 at Stuttgart. Then in 1922 the 28 territorially defined Protestant churches founded the German Evangelical Church Union (Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund). At the time, the federation was the largest Protestant church union in Europe with around 40 million members.[6] Because it was a union of independent bodies, the Church Union's work was limited to foreign missions and relations with Protestant churches outside Germany, especially German Protestants in other countries.

In July 1933, the German Evangelical Church (Deutsche Evangelische Kirche, DEK) was created. Formed under the influence of the German Christians, the National Socialists had much influence over the decisions of the first National Synod, via their unambiguous partisanship in successfully backing Ludwig Müller for the office of Reich bishop. He did not manage, however, to prevail over the Landeskirchen in the long term, and after the installation of Hanns Kerrl as minister for church matters in a Führer-directive of 16 July 1935 and the foundation of the Protestant Reich Church, the DEK played more or less no further role.

In 1948, freed from the German Christians' influence, the Lutheran, Reformed and United churches came together as the Evangelical Church in Germany at the Conference of Eisenach. In 1969, the churches in East Germany broke away from the EKD and formed the League of Evangelical Churches in the German Democratic Republic (German: Bund der Evangelischen Kirchen in der DDR, BEK). In June 1991, following German reunification, the BEK merged with the EKD.

While the members are no longer established churches, they are still called Landeskirchen, and some have this term in their official names. A modern English translation, however, would be regional church. Apart from some minor changes, the territories of the member churches today reflect Germany's political organisation in the year 1848, with state churches for states or provinces that no longer exist. For example between 1945 and 1948, the remaining six ecclesiastical provinces (Kirchenprovinzen), each territorially comprising one of the Old Prussia provinces, within the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union assumed independence as a consequence of the estrangement among them during the Nazi struggle of the churches. This turned the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union into a mere umbrella, being itself a member of EKD but covering some regional church bodies, which were again themselves members of EKD.


Protestantism is the major religion in Northern, Eastern and Middle Germany: the Reformed branch in the extreme northwest and Lippe, the Lutheran branch in the north and south, and the United branch in Middle and Western Germany. While the majority of Christians in Southern Germany are Roman Catholic, some areas in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are predominantly Protestant, e.g. Middle Franconia and the government region of Stuttgart. The vast majority of German Protestants belong to a member church of the EKD. With 25,100,727 members in 2006,[7] around 30 percent of all Germans belong to a member church of the EKD.[8] Average church attendance is lower, however, with only around a million people attending a service on Sunday.[9]

Important Protestant denominations that are not part of the Evangelical Church in Germany include the United Methodist Church (German: Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche, EmK), the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Baptists organised in the Union of Evangelical Free Church Congregations in Germany (Bund evangelisch-freikirchlicher Gemeinden), Pentecostals organised in the Union of Pentecostal Free-Churches (Bund Freier Pfingstgemeinden), the Union of the Free Evangelical Churches in Germany (Bund Freier evangelischer Gemeinden in Deutschland), Seventh-day Adventist Church and the New Apostolic Church.

Structure and practices

Nikolaus Schneider, Chairman of the Council of the EKD

The structure of the EKD is based on federal principles. Each local church is responsible for Christian life in its own area while each regional church has its own special characteristics and retains its independence. The Church carries out joint tasks with which its members have entrusted it. For the execution of these tasks, the Church has the following governing bodies, all organised and elected on democratic lines:

  • Synod
  • Council of the EKD
  • Church Conference (permanent body)
  • Church office of the EKD (President: Hans Ulrich Anke)

The Synod is the legislature of the EKD. It has 126 members - 106 elected by Landeskirchen synods and 20 appointed by the Council. These 20 are appointed for their importance in the life of the Church and its agencies. Members serve six year terms and the synod meets annually. The Church Conference is where member churches, through the representatives of their governing boards, can directly participate in the work of the EKD. The Council of the EKD has 15 members jointly elected by the Synod and Church Conference who serve terms of six years. The Council meets 10 to 11 times a year. It has authority in all areas not reserved to other bodies and also issues regular reports on the work of EKD bodies.

Ordination of women is practised in all 22 member churches with many women having been ordained in recent years. There are also several female bishops. Margot Käßmann, former Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover and Chairperson of the Council of the EKD from 2009 until February 2010, was the first woman to head the EKD.[10] Blessing of same-sex unions is practised in 10 member churches.[11]

Member churches

The territories of the 21 member churches (pink=united, blue=Lutheran, orange=Reformed)

The umbrella of the Evangelical Church in Germany comprises 22 regional churches, two Reformed (Calvinist), nine Lutheran and 11 united (Lutheran-Reformed) bodies. These bodies are termed Landeskirchen ("Regional Churches")[12] though in most cases, their territories do not correspond to the current federal states, but rather to former duchies, electorates and provinces or mergers thereof.

  1. Evangelical Church of Anhalt (Evangelische Landeskirche Anhalts), a united church body in Anhalt
  2. Evangelical Church in Baden (Evangelische Landeskirche in Baden), a united church body in Baden
  3. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern), a Lutheran church body in Bavaria
  4. Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (Evangelische Kirche in Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz), a united church body in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia merged in 2004 from:
    • Evangelische Kirche in Berlin-Brandenburg
    • Evangelische Kirche der schlesischen Oberlausitz
  5. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick (Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche in Braunschweig), a Lutheran church body in Brunswick
  6. Evangelical Church of Bremen (Bremische Evangelische Kirche), a united church body in Bremen
  7. Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover (Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Hannovers), a Lutheran church body in Hanover
  8. Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau (Evangelische Kirche in Hessen und Nassau), a united church body in Hesse and Nassau
  9. Evangelical Church of Hesse Electorate-Waldeck (Evangelische Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck), a united church body in former Hesse-Cassel and Waldeck
  10. Church of Lippe (Lippische Landeskirche), a Reformed church body of Lippe
  11. Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg (Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Mecklenburgs), a Lutheran church body in Mecklenburg
  12. Evangelical Church in Central Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Mitteldeutschland), a united church body that was created in 2009 from the merger of:
  13. North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church (Nordelbische Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche), a Lutheran church body in Northern Germany
  14. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oldenburg (Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Oldenburg), a Lutheran church body in Oldenburg
  15. Evangelical Church of the Palatinate (Evangelische Kirche der Pfalz) or Protestantische Landeskirche, a united church body in Palatinate
  16. Pomeranian Evangelical Church (Pommersche Evangelische Kirche), a united church body in Pomerania
  17. Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland), a united church body in the Rhineland
  18. Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony (Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Sachsens), a Lutheran church body in Saxony
  19. Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schaumburg-Lippe (Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Schaumburg-Lippe), a Lutheran church body in Schaumburg-Lippe
  20. Evangelical Church of Westphalia (Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen), a united church body in Westphalia
  21. Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg (Evangelische Landeskirche in Württemberg), a Lutheran church body in Württemberg
  22. Evangelical Reformed Church in Bavaria and Northwestern Germany (Evangelisch-reformierte Kirche - Synode evangelisch-reformierter Kirchen in Bayern und Nordwestdeutschland), a Reformed church body, covering the territories of No. 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 14, 18, and 19

The Moravian Church and the Federation of Evangelical Reformed Congregations are associate members.

See also


  1. ^ a b http://www.ekd.de/english/4247.html
  2. ^ www.reformiert-info.de(German)
  3. ^ http://www.ekd.de/statistik/mitglieder.html
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Peter Terrell, Harper Collins German Unabridged Dictionary, 4th ed., (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1999), 273 sub loco.
  6. ^ a b D. Karl Bornhausen, "The Present Status of the Protestant Churches in Germany," The Journal of Religion, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Sep. 1923), 501-524.
  7. ^ "Christians in Germany 2006
  8. ^ Statistical information "Zahlen und Fakten zum kirchlichen Leben" (EKD)
  9. ^ EKD: Services of Worship and Holy Communion 2006. Accessed 16 March 2010.
  10. ^ Deutsche Welle, 2009-10-28. German Protestant Church elects first woman as its leader. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
  11. ^ Deutsche Welle, 2009-10-28. regional churches that allow same-sex blessings. Retrieved 2010-03-08
  12. ^ EKD - Regional Churches

External links

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