Evangelical Church

Evangelical Church

Evangelical Church: see Evangelical United Brethren Church.
EKD redirects here. For the Basque political party, see Democracia Cristiana Vasca.

Evangelical Church in Germany (German Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, abbreviated as EKD) is a federation of 23 regional Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant churches. In fact only one member church (the Evangelical Reformed Church) is not restricted to a certain territory. In a certain way the other member churches (Gliedkirchen) resemble dioceses of the Anglican or Catholic Church from an organisational point of view. However, the member churches of the EKD are independent with their own theological and formal organization. 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.


Most member churches of the EKD are either Lutheran or "United" (Lutheran-Reformed). Only two member churches are Reformed churches (the Evangelical Reformed Church and the State Church of Lippe).

In Northern and Eastern Germany, the major religion is Protestantism, the Reformed branch in the extreme northwest, and the Lutheran branch in most of the rest. While the majority of Christians in Southern Germany are Roman Catholic, there are some mainly Protestant areas as well, e.g. in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

The vast majority of German Protestants (30.8 % - reduced further to 30.5 % in 2006 - of the overall German population) belong to a member church of the EKD. Important Protestant denominations that are not part of the Evangelical Church in Germany include the Evangelical Methodist Church (about 62,000 members), the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK, about 37,000 members), Baptists organized in the Bund evangelisch-freikirchlicher Gemeinden (Union of Protestant Free-Churches, about 85,000 members), Pentecostals organized in the "Bund Freier Pfingstgemeinden" (Union of Pentecostal Free-Churches, with 43,500 adult members or 120,000 family members, per BFP 2007 website statistics ), Seventh-day Adventist Church, about 36,000 members and the New Apostolic Church (350,000 members).

The Evangelical Church in Germany maintains full communion relationships with member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. Ordination of women is practiced in all 23 churches within the Evangelical Church in Germany, and many women have been ordained during recent years. There are also several female bishops. Blessing of same-sex unions is practiced in some churches within the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Bishop Dr. Wolfgang Huber has been Chairman of the Council of the EKD since 2003. He is the bishop of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.


Until the end of World War I, the Lutheran churches in Germany were closely tied to the monarchies in the German states (see Confederation of the Rhine, German Confederation, North German Confederation, German Empire). The expression Landeskirche (State Church) originally meant that it was the official Protestant church of the respective German state. Often these were established churches with the local Prince, Duke, Grand Duke, or King (e.g. the King of Prussia) as formal head of church (like the Queen in the Church of England). This changed somewhat with growing religious freedom in the 19th century, but the greatest change came when Germany became a republic in 1918 and the princes of the German states abdicated. The churches nevertheless are still called Landeskirchen, and most have this term in their official names; a more modern English translation would perhaps be regional church. Apart from some minor changes, the territories of the different member churches today reflect Germany's political organisation in the year 1848, with state churches of states or provinces that don't exist any more. (The Prussian church in 1947 split into provincial churches for each Prussian province because the state of Prussia was dissolved according to the Treaty of Potsdam).

After the defeat of Germany in 1918, a republic was established, and the ties between state and church were broken. Although there had already been strivings towards unification for several years, only in July 1933 was the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche (DEK, or German Evangelical Church) formed, as a union of the 28 German Protestant Landeskirchen and a successor to the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund (German Evangelical Churches League) of 1922. The DEK had been formed under the German Christians' influence, and the National Socialists had major influence on the decisions of the first Reichsynod, 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, however, and after the installation of Hanns Kerrl as minister for church matters in a Führer-directive of 16th 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 churches, the Reformed churches and the United Churches came together as the Evangelical Church in Germany (Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, or EKD), at the Conference of Eisenach. In 1969 the churches in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) broke away from the EKD and formed the Bund der Evangelischen Kirchen in der DDR (the League of Evangelical Churches in the German Democratic Republic). In June 1991, following German reunification, the BEK merged with the EKD.

Federative principles

German Protestant church structures are based on federal principles at all levels. 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.

Central governing bodies

The Church has the following governing bodies, all organised and elected on democratic lines:

They are responsible for fulfilling the Church's tasks as laid down in its constitution.

The 23 member churches

Independent organisations of member churches in the EKD

  • VELKD: Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands (United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany)
  • UEK: Union Evangelischer Kirchen (Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany)
  • Confederation of evangelical churches in Lower Saxony
  • Confederation of evangelical churches in Mitteldeutschland (EKM)

Institutes and important offices of the EKD

  • Brot für die Welt, Stuttgart (counterpart to Bread for the World)
  • Diakonisches Werk (DW), Stuttgart
  • Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Stuttgart
  • Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED), Bonn
  • Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland e.V. (EMW)
  • Gemeinschaftswerk der Evangelischen Publizistik gGmbH (GEP), Frankfurt am Main
  • Evangelisches Zentralarchiv, Berlin
  • Kirchenrechtliches Institut der EKD, Göttingen
  • Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen (EZW),Berlin
  • Konfessionskundliches Institut (KI)
  • Institut für Kirchenbau und kirchliche Kunst der Gegenwart, Marburg
  • Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut der EKD (SI), Hanover
  • Evangelische Schulstiftung in der EKD
  • Evangelische Arbeitsstelle Fernstudium für kirchliche Dienste, Gelnhausen
  • Gemeinsame Arbeitsstelle für gottesdienstliche Fragen der EKD, Hanover
  • Burckhardthaus, Evangelisches Institut für Jugend-, Kultur- und Sozialarbeit e.V.
  • Frauenstudien- und -bildungszentrum der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Gelnhausen
  • Aussiedlerseelsorge in der EKD, Hanover
  • Informations- und Dokumentationsstelle der EKD
  • Kirchlicher Dienst in der Arbeitswelt
  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Missionarische Dienste
  • Zirkus- und Schaustellerseelsorge, Hanover
  • Evangelisches Studienwerk e.V. Villigst

Note on the term Evangelical in German usage

The German term evangelisch 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 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada use the term in the same way as the German church. Literally, evangelisch means "of the Gospel", denoting a Reformation emphasis on sola scriptura, "scripture alone". The church described in this article is a federation of different, mostly mainstream Protestant churches, rather than one evangelical church.


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