The Evangelical Church in Germany (German: Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, abbreviated EKD) is a federation of twenty Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist) and United (Prussian Union) Protestant regional churches and denominations in Germany, which collectively encompasses the vast majority of Protestants in that country. In 2017, the EKD had a membership of 21,536,000 members, or 26.1% of the German population. It constitutes one of the largest national Protestant bodies in the world. Church offices managing the federation are located in Hannover-Herrenhausen, Lower Saxony. Many of its members consider themselves Lutherans.
Historically, the first formal attempt to unify German Protestantism occurred during the Weimar Republic era in the form of the German Evangelical Church Confederation, which existed from 1922 until 1933. Earlier, there had been successful royal efforts at unity in various German states, beginning with Prussia and several minor German states (e.g. Duchy of Nassau) in 1817. These unions resulted in the first united and uniting churches, a new development within Protestantism which later spread to other parts of the world.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, his administration tried to reorganize the old confederation into a unified German Evangelical Church as Hitler wanted to use a single Protestant church to further his own ambitions. This utterly failed, with the Confessing Church and the German Christians-led Reichskirche opposing each other. Other Protestant churches aligned themselves with one of these groups, or stayed neutral in this church strife.
The postwar church council issued the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt on October 19, 1945, confessing guilt and declaring remorse for indifference and inaction of German Protestants in the face of atrocities committed by Hitler's regime as means to address the German collective guilt. In 1948, the Evangelical Church in Germany was organized in the aftermath of World War II to function as a new umbrella organization for German Protestant churches. As a result of tensions between West and East Germany, the regional churches in East Germany broke away from the EKD in 1969. In 1991, following German reunification, the East German churches rejoined the EKD.
The member churches (Gliedkirchen), while being independent and having their own theological and formal organisation, share full pulpit and altar fellowship, are united in the EKD synod, and are individual members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). Boundaries of EKD churches within Germany partially resemble those of the states of the Holy Roman Empire and successor forms of German statehood (to the most part 1815 borders), due to the historically close relationship between individual German states and churches.
As for church governance, the Lutheran churches typically practise an episcopal polity, while the Reformed and the United ones a mixture of presbyterian and congregationalist polities. Most member churches are led by a (state) bishop. Only one member church, the Evangelical Reformed Church, is not restricted to a certain territory. In some ways, the other member churches resemble dioceses of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, from an organisational point of view.
|Evangelical Church in Germany|
Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland
|Orientation||United (Prussian Union) |
|Associations||World Council of Churches|
Community of Protestant
Churches in Europe
|Members||2017 EKD data:|
~57% United Protestant (Lutheran and Reformed)
The German term evangelisch here more accurately corresponds to the broad English term Protestant 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". Dr. Martin Luther encouraged this term alongside Christian.
From the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 to the end of the First World War and the collapse of the German Empire, some Protestant churches were state churches. Each Landeskirche (state or 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 as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
This changed somewhat with growing religious freedom in the 19th century, especially in the republican states of Bremen, Frankfurt (1857), Lübeck, and Hamburg (1860). 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 Weimar Constitution (1919), which brought about disestablishment by the separation of church and state, and there was a desire for the Protestant churches to merge. In fact, a merger was permanently under discussion but never materialised due to strong regional self-confidence and traditions as well as the denominational fragmentation into Lutheran, Reformed, and United and uniting churches.
During the Revolution, when the old church governments lost power, the People's Church Union (Volkskirchenbund) was formed and advocated unification without respect to theological tradition and also increasing input from laymen. However, the People's Church Union quickly split along territorial lines after the churches' relationship with the new governments improved.
It was realised 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 then 28 territorially defined Protestant churches founded the German Evangelical Church Confederation (Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund, DEK). At the time, the federation was the largest Protestant church federation in Europe with around 40 million members. Because it was a federation 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 formed under the influence of the German Christians, a pro-Nazi religious movement. They 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. The Confessing Church arose in resistance to the Nazi regime's ideology. After the installation of Hanns Kerrl as minister for church matters in a Führer-directive of 16 July 1935 and the foundation of the – in the end not materialising – 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 regional Protestant churches in East Germany and East Berlin 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 1970 also joined by the Moravian Herrnhut District. In June 1991, following German reunification, the BEK merged with the EKD.
While the members are no longer state churches, they enjoy constitutional protection as statutory corporations, and 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 regional churches for states or provinces that often no longer exist or whose borders changed since. 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 (and the BEK, 1969–1991) but covering some regional church bodies, which were again themselves members of EKD (and the BEK, 1969–1991).
Since 1973, when many Protestant churches in Europe, including the EKD members, concluded the Leuenberg Agreement, also the then 21 EKD members introduced full communion for their parishioners and ministry among each other.
Since also the regional Protestant churches in East Germany had signed the Leuenberg Agreement, thus the then ten members of the Federation of Protestant Churches in the German Democratic Republic practised full communion with the EKD members too. Ordination of women is practised in all 20 member churches with many women having been ordained in recent years. There are also several women serving as 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. Blessing of same-sex unions is practised and allowed in 18 of 20 member churches. 
The EKD has undergone a split in the 20th century and lost a bulk of its adherents in East Germany due to state atheist policies of the former East German government. After 1990, membership was counted and amounted to around the same number as the Roman Catholic Church. In the 21st century, membership in both the Evangelical Church and the Roman Catholic Church stagnates as more people are becoming religious nones. German religious landscape changes, as Evangelical Protestants (in the so-called Freikirchen) and Muslims are on the rise.
Protestantism is the major religion in Northern, Eastern and Middle Germany, with the Reformed branch predominating 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, around 30 percent of all Germans belong to a member church of the EKD. Average church attendance is lower, however, with only around a million people attending a service on Sunday.
The regional Protestant church bodies accept each other as equals, despite denominational differences. No member church runs congregations or churches in the area of another member church, thus preventing competing with each other for parishioners. The only exception is the Evangelical Reformed Church, which combines Reformed congregations within the ambits of usually Lutheran member churches, which themselves do not include the eventual local Reformed congregations. Thus, for example, a Lutheran moving from a place where their parish belongs to a Lutheran member church, would be accepted in their new place of domicile by the locally competent congregation within another member church, even if this church and its local parish are Reformed or of united Protestant confession, with Lutheran being exchangeable with the two other respective Protestant confessions within the EKD. This is due to full pulpit and altar fellowship between all EKD member churches.
In this the ambits of the member churches resemble dioceses of the Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, however, else there is no common hierarchy supervising the member churches, who are legally independent equals with the EKD being their umbrella. Members of congregations within the member churches – like those of parishes within Catholic dioceses and those enrolled in Jewish congregations also enjoying statutory corporation status – are required to pay a church tax, a surcharge on their normal income tax collected by the states of Germany and passed on to the respective religious body.
|State ||Church membership (2011)||Percent of the population|
The structure of the EKD is based on federal principles. Each regional church is responsible for Christian life in its own area while each regional church has its own special characteristics and retains its independence. The EKD 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:
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 EKD Council is the representative and governing body of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The Council of the EKD has 15 members jointly elected by the Synod and Church Conference who serve terms of six years.
The representative of the EKD is the Chairman of the Council of the EKD.
The Church Conference is where member churches, through the representatives of their governing boards, can directly participate in the work of the EKD.
The Church Office is the administration of the EKD and shall the business of the Synod, Council and Conference of the EKD.
The EKD Church Office has approximately 200 employees.
The EKD helds various charities ("Hilfswerke") under its auspices. The Gustav-Adolf-Werk (GAW) (Gustaphus Adolphus Union formerly) was founded 1832 in Leipzig as the first and eldest such organization and is responsible to aid feeble sister churches, especially in Roman Catholic countries and the Protestant diaspora. It has separate branches internationally, the organization in Austria is still called the Gustav-Adolf-Verein. Brot für die Welt is responsible for international development aid.
The umbrella of the Evangelical Church in Germany comprises 20 regional churches:
These bodies are termed Landeskirchen ("Regional Churches") 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.
The Moravian Church ("Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine") and the Federation of Evangelical Reformed Congregations are associate members.
The Church of Lippe (German: Lippische Landeskirche) is a Reformed (Calvinist) member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany that covers what used to be the Principality of Lippe.
Seat of the church administration is Detmold. The preaching venue of the spiritual leader (Landessuperintendent) of the Church of Lippe is the Redeemer Church in Detmold. The Church of Lippe comprises 69 congregations and 159,396 members. The Church of Lippe is mostly Reformed with a Lutheran minority (c. 30,000), 80% of the members belong to one of the 59 Reformed parishes.Diakonisches Werk
The Diakonisches Werk is a charitable organization of Protestant churches in Germany (Evangelical Church in Germany), Austria as well as numerous free churches. Its Roman Catholic equivalent is the Caritas.Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony (Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche Sachsens) is one of 22 member Churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), covering most of the state of Saxony. Its headquarters are in Dresden, and its bishop (styled Bishop of Saxony) has his or her seat at Meissen Cathedral.Evangelical Church in Central Germany
The Evangelical Church in Central Germany (German:Evangelische Kirche in Mitteldeutschland) is a United church body covering most of the German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia and some adjacent areas in Brandenburg and Saxony.Evangelical Church in the Rhineland
Protestant Church in the Rhineland (German: Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland; EKiR) is a United Protestant church body in parts of the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Hesse (Wetzlar). This is actually the area covered by the former Prussian Rhine Province until 1920.
The seat of the church is in Düsseldorf. The church leader is not called a "bishop", but a praeses (German: Präses), and there is no cathedral. The Protestant Church in the Rhineland is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), and is a Prussian Union Church. The current praeses is Manfred Rekowski. The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland is one of 22 Lutheran, united, and Reformed churches of the EKD. As of December 2017, the church has 2,544,325 members in 809 parishes. The Protestant Church in the Rhineland is a member of the UEK and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and also the Reformed Alliance. In Bonn the church runs a conference venue called Evangelische Akademie Bonn-Bad Godesberg. It is a member of the Conference of Churches on the Rhine.Evangelical Church of Anhalt
The Evangelical Church of Anhalt (Evangelische Landeskirche Anhalts) is a United Protestant member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Its seat is in Dessau-Roßlau in Saxony-Anhalt, in the former duchy of Anhalt.
The Evangelical Church of Anhalt is affiliated with 214 churches in approximately 150 parishes in central Saxony-Anhalt. In December 2017, the church had 32,611 members, making its membership the smallest among the member churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In 1922, by contrast, the church counted 315,000 parishioners; at the time, it was the twelfth-smallest of Germany's 28 regional Landeskirche. The ordination of women has been allowed.Evangelical Church of Bremen
The Evangelical Church of Bremen (German: Bremische Evangelische Kirche) is a United Protestant member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
The seat of the church is in Bremen. It is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), and is a United church combining both Lutheran and Reformed traditions. Brigitte Boehme became the church's first female president in 2001. The church had 193,099 members as of December 2017 in 68 parishes. Laic presidency is one of the special characteristics of the Evangelical Church of Bremen. It has no theological headmaster. The parishes have a high degree of autonomy, and there is a great variety between liberal and conservative ones. Each member of the church has the free choice, which parish he wants to join. Bremen Cathedral is the most prominent place of worship, but it has no higher status than any other parish. The Evangelical Church of Bremen is a member of the UEK and of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe. In Bremen the church has its own evangelical academy. The church has allowed the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions.Evangelical Church of Westphalia
The Evangelical Church of Westphalia (German: Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen, EKvW) is a United Protestant church body in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The seat of the praeses (German: Präses, the head of the church) is Bielefeld. The EKvW emerged on June 13, 1945, when the ecclesiastical province of Westphalia within the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union assumed its independence as church body of its own. The EKvW is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD),and the Reformed Alliance and is a church whose bases are in a Union between parishes in Lutheran and Calvinistic traditions. The church is also a member of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe. Because the church is not run by a "bishop" there is no cathedral. Präses (President) of the church is Annette Kurschus (2012). Annette Kurschus became the first female praeses of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia in 2011.Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (German: Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern) is a Lutheran member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany in the German state of Bavaria.
The seat of the church is in Munich. The Landesbischof (bishop) of the church is Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. There are six regional bishops (Regionalbischöfe). The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria is one of 22 Lutheran, United Protestant and Reformed churches of the EKD. The church has 2,370,179 members (2017) in 1,540 parishes. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria is a member church of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and of the Lutheran World Federation. The Church runs a conference venue at Tutzing called Evangelische Akademie Tutzing. The most prominent churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria are St. Matthäus Church in Munich and St. Lorenz Church in Nuremberg where new state bishops get inaugurated. Munich is predominantly Catholic, whereas Nuremberg is a Lutheran stronghold.Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick (German: Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche in Braunschweig) is a Lutheran church in the German states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.
The seat of the Landesbischof (bishop) is Wolfenbüttel. Its district as a Landeskirche covers the former Free State of Brunswick in the borders of 1945. As of 2017, the church had 334,951 members in 329 parishes. It is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), and is based on the teachings brought forward by Martin Luther during the Reformation. It is also a member of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Council of Churches. It is linked with the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn. . Leading bishop of the church is Dr. theol. Friedrich Weber (since 2002). The Church of Brunswick owns about 480 churches; the most famous of these is Brunswick Cathedral.Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany (Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Norddeutschland) is a member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, EKD). It was established on 27 May 2012 as a merger of the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg, and the Pomeranian Evangelical Church. It covers the combined area of all those former member churches, which are the federal states of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Nordkirche is the only Landeskirche in Germany which covers parts of both New states of Germany and West Germany. It is also called Nordkirche (North Church). It has 2,027,751 members (31/12/2017). There are 1,704 ordained pastors and more than 84,000 volunteers working for Nordkirche (4/2016).Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oldenburg
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oldenburg (German: Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Oldenburg) is a Lutheran church in the German state of Lower Saxony.
The seat of the church leaders is in Oldenburg, as is the preaching venue of its bishop at St Lamberti Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oldenburg is a regional church (German: Landeskirche) and a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). As one of just two regional churches in the EKD, the church is only a guest member of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) and the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK). The church is also a full member of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and the Lutheran World Federation. The church has 423,756 members (2015) in 123 parishes, with approximately 260 pastors (men and women). It is the largest Protestant denomination in the area of the former state of Oldenburg.Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia (Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Thüringen) was a Lutheran member church of the umbrella Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The seat of the church was in Eisenach. The church covered those parts of the state of Thuringia that were not part of the former Province of Saxony. It was the largest Protestant denomination in this area.Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schaumburg-Lippe
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schaumburg-Lippe is a Lutheran member church (Landeskirche) of the Evangelical Church in Germany. It covers the former principality of Schaumburg-Lippe and seated in Bückeburg.
The church has 51,234 members and is one of the smallest regional Protestant churches in Germany. The church is one of the members of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) and of the Confederation of Protestant Churches in Lower Saxony. The ordination of women has been allowed.Evangelical Reformed Church in Germany
The Evangelical Reformed Church (German: Evangelisch-reformierte Kirche), until 2009 Evangelical Reformed Church – Synod of Reformed Churches in Bavaria and Northwestern Germany (German: Evangelisch-reformierte Kirche – Synode evangelisch-reformierter Kirchen in Bayern und Nordwestdeutschland) is a Reformed member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).
It has its seat in Leer (East Frisia). The church has 173,305 parish members in 142 parishes (December 2017) and is one of the two reformed churches within the EKD. Member of the Reformed Alliance. It belonged also to the Confederation of Evangelical Churches in Lower Saxony, and joined 2003 of the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany. It is also a member of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe. The main church of the Evangelical Reformed Church is the Große Kirche ("great church") in Leer.Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau
The Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau (German: Evangelische Kirche in Hessen und Nassau, EKHN) is a United Protestant church body in the German states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. There is no bishop and therefore no cathedral. One of its most prominent churches is Katharinenkirche in Frankfurt am Main.
Dating back to the union in the Duchy of Nassau in August 1817, before the Prussian Union of September 1817, it is the first United and uniting church in the world. The EKHN is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), and is based on the teachings brought forward by Martin Luther during the Reformation. The Church President is Volker Jung (since 2009). It is a united church, combining both Calvinist and Lutheran traditions. Member of the Reformed Alliance in Germany. The Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau is one of 22 churches in the EKD, has 1,549,255 members in 1,184 parishes (December, 2017). The territory of the EKHN includes the territories of the former People's State of Hesse and the Prussian Wiesbaden Region, which now form the southern and western part of the German state of Hesse and portions of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rhenish Hesse). It's the most important Protestant denomination in this area. The church is a member of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.Protestantism in Germany
Protestantism in Germany consists of the Evangelical Church in Germany and free churches.Union of Evangelical Churches
The Union Evangelischer Kirchen (German: Union Evangelischer Kirchen, UEK) is an organisation of 13 United and Reformed evangelical churches in Germany, which are all member churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany.United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany
The United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (German: Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands) (VELKD) was founded on July 8, 1948, in Eisenach, Germany. Its total membership is 9.5 million people. The Member Churches of this organisation are in full fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). All its member churches belong to the Evangelical Church in Germany, with which it co-operates closely. It has recently been reduced from an independent legal entity to an administrative unit within the larger Evangelical Church in Germany.
The seat of the VELKD is in Hanover. The leading bishop (German: Leitender Bischof) is Gerhard Ulrich.
Regional churches of the EKD
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