Bonn Union Conferences

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Bonn Union Conferences were two interdenominational theological conference series in 1874 and 1875, which are considered to be the forerunners of the ecumenical movement of the 20th century. Ignaz von Döllinger was the initiator and chairman of the international and multilingual conferences .


The Roman Catholic church historian Ignaz von Döllinger (1799–1890) had already publicly advocated unification efforts between the separate Christian denominations since the 1860s. According to the dogmatic definition of infallibility and the primacy of jurisdiction of the Pope at the First Vatican Council in 1870, he was one of their most prominent opponents. Excommunicated in 1871 , he was one of the founding personalities of the Old Catholic Church . Contacts that have already grown before a. Representatives of the American Episcopal Church now encouraged him to take concrete steps towards rapprochement and reconciliation of those Christian denominations "which recognize that the ecclesiastical body to which they belong is not the Church as such, not the one and only, is a completely self-contained church, but only a partial church, which alone cannot boast of itself that it is that holy, catholic and apostolic church which professes the old symbol ”.

At the second Old Catholic Congress in Cologne in September 1872, a unity commission was formed under Döllinger's chairmanship. Contacts arose with Anglicans , Lutherans and Reformed , but also with representatives of Orthodoxy . There, however, the inclusive understanding of the church met traditional exclusivism with a model of union that Döllinger called "absorptive". Nevertheless, his invitation was accepted by Orthodox theologians in 1874. On the other hand, it met with some violent rejection from representatives of confessional Lutheranism.

Course and results

Döllinger's invitation to the conference from the beginning of August 1874, sent to interested theologians and published in several journals, read:

“On September 14th and the following days a conference will be held in Bonn by men who, belonging to different church communities, meet in the longing and hope for a great future union of believing Christians.
The confessional formulas of the first ecclesiastical centuries and those doctrines and institutions that were essential and indispensable in the general Church of the East and the West before the great divisions are to be regarded as the basis and yardstick for what is achievable and to be strived for.
The goal, which is initially striven for and is to be promoted by means of the conference, is not an absorptive union or complete amalgamation of the various church bodies, but the establishment of a church community based on the “ unitas in necessariis ”, with the preservation and retention of what is not the substance of the old church Confessions are peculiar to the individual churches. "

The conferences on April 14-16 September 1874 with 57 participants and on 10-16. August 1875 with 86 participants took place in the rooms of the University of Bonn , whose rector at the time, Franz Heinrich Reusch, was one of Döllinger's most important companions. Reusch took over the greeting and then suggested Döllinger as conference leader, which was accepted by acclamation. None of the bishops present were deliberately asked to take the chair in order to preserve the unofficial character of the talks.

Of the doctrinal and ecclesiastical subjects dealt with, apart from the question of the sacraments , the Filioque in the "Western" version of the Great Creed, rejected by Orthodoxy, came to the fore.

Both conferences adopted thesis-like consensus formulations. In 1874 they mainly contained delimitations from younger - post- ancient  - Roman Catholic teachings. In 1875 they referred to the Filioque and the Trinity Doctrine . The methodology for ecumenical doctrinal conversations, which was largely developed by Döllinger in Bonn, was trendsetting. The Bonn Agreement of 1931 between Anglicans and Old Catholics can be regarded as a concrete consequence .


  • Franz Heinrich Reusch : Report on the Union Conferences held on September 14th, 15th and 16th in Bonn, on behalf of the chairman Dr. from Döllinger . Bonn 1874 ( online )
  • Franz Heinrich Reusch: Report on the Union Conferences held in Bonn from August 10 to 16, 1875 on behalf of the chairman Dr. from Döllinger . Bonn 1875
  • Christian Oeyen: Döllinger and the Bonn Union Conferences 1874–1875 . In: International ecclesiastical journal : new series of the Revue internationale de théologie . 90/2000, pp. 176-185, doi : 10.5169 / seals-404918
  • Franz Heinrich Reusch (ed.): Report on the Union conferences held in Bonn in 1874 and 1875 . Alt-Katholischer Bistumsverlag, Bonn 2002, ISBN 3-934610-15-3

Individual evidence

  1. Oeyen p. 176f
  2. Ignaz von Döllinger: About the reunification of the Christian churches. Seven lectures given in Munich in 1872 . Nördlingen 1888, p. 127f .; quoted from Oeyen p. 179
  3. Oeyen p. 183
  4. Reprinted by Reusch (1874)
  5. ↑ List of participants 1874
  6. Oeyen p. 185
  7. Reusch (1874) p. 5f.
  8. Theses adopted in 1874
  9. Theses adopted in 1875
  10. Oeyen p. 184f.