Federation of Free Protestant Congregations in Germany

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Federation of Free Protestant Congregations
in Germany
FeG Germany Logo.png
Basic data
Ansgar Hörsting
Membership: IFFEC , VEF ,
ACK (guest membership)
Federal districts: 24
Municipalities : 482 parishes
Parishioners: 41,787 (as of December 31, 2017)
Founding year: 1874
Address: Goltenkamp 4
58452 Witten
Internet presence: www.feg.de

The Federation of Free Protestant Congregations in Germany (BFeG) is a Protestant free church . The federal government is organized in a congregational fashion . As an association of independent local congregations (FeG), it sees itself as a “spiritual life and service community”.

The federal government is a corporation under public law with its seat in Witten ( Ennepe-Ruhr district ).

Origin and history

Hermann Heinrich Grafe at a young age
Witten: In front of the parish hall, in the back the parliament building
Free Protestant community Holstenwall (Hamburg) with the emblem of the community association; since 2014 "CityChurch Hamburg"

The first Free Evangelical Congregation in German-speaking countries was founded on November 22nd, 1854 by the merchant Hermann Heinrich Grafe together with five other men in Elberfeld , today a district of Wuppertal . Grafe developed his central theological concept of “free grace” against the background of experiences he was able to gather in the Église évangélique in Lyon, which was founded by Adolphe Monod . The Christian community should be built on "the terrain of the free grace of God in Christ Jesus," for it is the foundation on which all of God's children gather. It also establishes the “unity of the children of God”, for which the Count stood in the spirit of the Evangelical Alliance established in London in 1846 . The idea of ​​unity corresponded with Grafe with the principle of "separation from the world", by which he meant the distinction and separation of believers and non-believers with regard to parish membership, which he did not consider to be given in the national and regional churches. His conception of the unity of the community of believers and professors who represent the body of Christ is reflected in his most famous song:

A united people of brothers, / these are the Lord's people,
ramified in its limbs but one in its core;
born from above, / soaked in the holy spirit,
chosen by God himself / who thinks to be loving.

The center of the unity guaranteed by Christ is the Lord's Supper , which unites the many children of God in the one communion of the body of Christ. Grafe believed that, according to the Bible , the Lord's Supper is reserved exclusively for those who personally believe in Jesus Christ and know about the forgiveness of their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ . He resisted the practice of the Protestant Church of distributing the Lord's Supper to every person who attended the service without notice or inquiry. It was important to him to make it clear to the worshipers that deliverance from sin is brought about not through ritual, but through personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When Grafe found that he fell on deaf ears with his view in the church, he saw the establishment of an alternative New Testament congregation as the only consequence and as an “act of conscience” after a union with the Baptists had proven to be unfeasible A role model in which all believers - regardless of other doctrinal opinions - can be members.

Count and his colleagues justified their departure from the regional church with a fundamental decision. They criticized the fact that in a people's church it is not primarily a free and conscious decision of faith that decides who belongs to the church. Initially formed Supper Communities, the communion would be understood as a community of believers and thus against a common Lord's Supper by believers and non-believers were. “Where the Lord's Supper is celebrated regularly, there is also a congregation,” Grafe noted in his diary. Twenty years after the establishment of the first Free Evangelical Congregation, 22 congregations (communion communities) came together and in 1874 founded the Association of Free Evangelical Churches and Communion in the Last Supper . The current name Bund Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany was adopted in 1928.

The further development of the community association was strongly influenced by Friedrich Fries (1856-1926) and the Free Evangelical Community of Witten. As a result of his initiatives, the free Protestant Diakoniewerk Bethanien (1896), which initially had its seat in Wetter (Ruhr) , as well as the Federal Publishing House (1887) were created in addition to some new congregations .

In 1904 the Inland Mission of the Federation of Free Protestant Congregations came into being . In 1912 a preacher's school was founded under Otto Schopf in Vohwinkel , now a district of Wuppertal .

The connection of the Hamburger Holstenwallgemeinde ( Free Evangelical Congregation Foundation in Northern Germany ) with 3000 members was of great importance for the growth of the Federation of Free Evangelical Churches . This was formed in 1934 when the Hamburg Community Association left the Protestant regional church there . This association, which also had numerous branch congregations in the area around Hamburg, also brought its own diaconal work, the motherhouse Elim , into the Free Evangelical Congregation Association.

During the National Socialist era , the ideological aspects of National Socialism were largely rejected, but at the same time obedience to political power was demanded and practiced on the basis of a one-sided understanding of Romans 13 : 1-7  LUT ( doctrine of two kingdoms ).

After the Second World War , some new diaconal institutions were established. In 1946 the seminary (later: Ewersbach Theological Seminary ) moved to Ewersbach under its rector Walter Quiring . In the meantime, the institution has the status of a technical college and bears the name Theological University Ewersbach .

On September 16, 1950, at the instigation of Pastor Walter Böhme, the Association of Free Protestant Congregations in the GDR was established . This union existed until 1990.


Free evangelical congregations derive their self-image from the New Testament . According to this, only those who have made a personal decision to follow Jesus belong to the church of Jesus . Free evangelical Christians understand themselves to be fraternal with all people who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord. The exact theological positions of the independent (local) congregations can vary in details. In the constitution of the Federation of Free Evangelical Congregations, the Apostles' Creed has been recorded as a common creed since 1974 . Action and belief should be based on the Bible, which was and is used by God to reveal itself to people. According to Ephesians 2.8f  EU , faith is not the result of an achievement by believers, but God's gift and work of the Holy Spirit . God himself is the community by passing through his mind people regardless of their origin, sex, education, etc. chosen , converted , calls and puts together the community. Since man cannot determine God's actions, he cannot force another to believe either. That is why Free Evangelical Communities see themselves as voluntary communities that stand up for freedom of conscience internally and externally as well as for the separation of church and state with full freedom of religion and belief in an ideologically neutral and democratic state.

With regard to baptism , the Free Evangelical Congregations set a different accent than the Baptist congregations otherwise associated with them . Although they teach like this that a baptism can only take place after a person's personal decision to believe, they respect when someone who has believed in Jesus Christ subsequently regards their infant baptism as valid. The baptism of believers is therefore not a prerequisite for membership in the Free Evangelical Churches. At baptism the person to be baptized is submerged with the whole body; this can also be done in a natural body of water. The "old person" dies symbolically and the believer has a share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ . The congregation takes responsibility for ensuring that the baptized person continues to be accompanied on the path of faith. The real agent is God, who brings people together into one body. In most congregations there is a child blessing that is not intended to replace a baptism, but rather reminds of the actions of Jesus, as reported in Mark 10: 13-16  LUT .

On September 18, 2010, the Federal Parliament of the FeG decided that the assembly of representatives of all congregations and pastors in Dietzhölztal-Ewersbach, with a majority of 76.3 percent, would allow the local congregations to appoint and employ women as pastors . The vote had already taken place in 2008, but the necessary two-thirds majority was just missed. The rejecting minority criticized the fact that the Bible had given men ultimate responsibility for leadership and teaching.

The Free Evangelical Churches see the Bible as an authentic testimony to the words and actions of God in history. They understand God's word as the basis and point of reference for all talk and action in personal life, in church and society.

FeG pronouncements

The FeG federal management and other areas of the federal FeG issue pronouncements on spiritual issues and social trends at irregular intervals, which have the character of pioneering recommendations for the community leaders and members in the independent local congregations. Some examples of these pronouncements are:

  • WORD OF GOD IN THE WORD OF MAN - basic text of the FeG Federal Administration on the Understanding of Scripture in Free Evangelical Congregations (April 2018)
  • PROTECT AND SUPPORT - Initiative to protect against violence and abuse (November 2018)
  • DEALING WITH TENSION - On Homosexuality in Free Evangelical Congregations. Orientation aid from the Federal Executive Committee (December 2018)

Criticism and reply

After the federal management of the FeG published an 11-page brochure with the title “Dealing with Tensions - On Homosexuality in Free Evangelical Congregations” in December 2018, the pronouncement and its statements about practiced homosexuality were increasingly criticized. The brochure serves as the impetus for the ban on the therapy of homosexuality announced by Health Minister Jens Spahn for the summer of 2019 . Spahn justifies the advance with the fact that homosexuality is neither an illness nor in need of therapy.

The brochure describes homosexuals as affected and practiced homosexuality based on the Bible passage Romans 1: 18-32 as “the most important example of the sin of man who rebels against his Creator”. The limits of church pastoral care can be reached if the sexual identity is experienced as insecure or conflictual. A clarification process should be accompanied professionally in this case, since the homosexual orientation is profoundly connected with the formation of identity and therapeutic change efforts are hardly accessible. She advises abstinence as an option that is the only ethically acceptable alternative for many life situations.

In a report by the NDR magazine Panorama from February 2019, the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) describes the conversion therapies described in the publication of the FeG as "homophobic and dangerous nonsense", which is in contrast to the positions of the German Medical Association and the World Medical Association. Even the evangelical news agency idea reported critically on the FeG's positions. The idea's article refers, among other things, to the former member of the Bundestag and lecturer at the Institute for Religious Studies at the Ruhr University Bochum, Volker Beck , who described the FeG's views as dishonest, merciless and a theological catastrophe. The FeG sees itself confronted with a lot of criticism for the assertion of the possibility of a therapeutic changeability of sexual orientations, whereby in an edited version of the announcement of March 7, 2019 it speaks of a “professionally supported clarification process” in the case of uncertain or conflict-prone sexual identity, which, as an integral part of personality, is hardly accessible to therapeutic change efforts. The World Medical Association has repeatedly rejected this changeability in statements and described it as ineffective and potentially harmful. According to a report by Tagesspiegel , the BFeG was not prepared to refer to specific types of therapy when asked by Volker Beck and emphasized that it was not responsible for the content of such offers. The FeG has already been criticized in the past for its statements on homosexuals, for example in 2004 after the publication of the brochure “Homosexuality in the area of ​​tension between society and the community” in the weekly newspaper Der Freitag . The brochure has now been removed from the FeG website.

In the WELT interview “We do not call homosexuality a disease”, FeG President Ansgar Hörsting commented on the criticism: “We do not recommend conversion therapy. In it we proclaim the biblical model of marriage between man and woman for life, which has been known for thousands of years. But we also make it clear that anyone who deviates from this ideal will be met with love and acceptance - even if we do not always succeed. We believe that we are in the good Jesus tradition: to have clear guiding principles and at the same time to be respectful with everyone. ”Hörsting advocates that in a free society, an open-ended and goal-oriented accompaniment for people who are looking for help , must be possible. Against the fundamental immutability of human sexuality speak u. a. that people who are attracted to minors (or even animals) may or should go to therapy.


As a corporation under public law, the Federation of Free Protestant Congregations could levy church tax. Due to the self-image as a free church, he does not make use of this; the Free Evangelical Churches are financed by donations.

The individual Free Evangelical Churches are theologically independent and not bound by instructions, but maintain a theological consensus. Federal bodies are the federal districts, the Standing Committee of the Bundestag, the Bundestag, the Extended and Executive Federal Management.

Seat and management of the federal government

The Federation of Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany has its seat in Witten . The business is managed by the 9-person (as of 2016) executive federal management, who also performs representative tasks. The President is at the head of the Federal Executive Committee . This office was held from 1991 to 2007 by Pastor Peter Strauch , who also headed the German Evangelical Alliance from 2000 to the beginning of 2007 and is known beyond the borders of the “Federation” as a composer of Christian songs. His predecessor was Karl Heinz Knöppel from 1973 to 1991 . On September 16, 2006, the Bundestag elected Ansgar Hörsting , until then head of the Allianz mission , as his successor. He took office in January 2008.

Regions and federal districts

The Federation of Free Protestant Congregations is divided into regions and districts . The five regions are each assigned to a “federal secretary” with regional responsibility. They are part of the federal management , represent the federal government and advise the federal districts and the municipalities.

The federal districts are the platform for communities that are close together. They are each headed by an honorary “district leader”. You send delegates to the regional council , which advises on common concerns and tasks of the region and prepares proposals for one member each for individual federal bodies.

Local communities, federal districts, federal works and the FeG pension fund send delegates to the Bundestag .

The Standing Committee elects the members of the Extended Federal Administration. The Bundestag elects the members of the federal executive management , the rector of the Ewersbach Theological University and the president as spiritual director.

The Free Evangelical Congregations are divided into the following 24 districts:

2018 09 FeG Regions Kreise.jpg

North region

  • Weser-Ems district
  • Berlin-Brandenburg district
  • North German district

West region

  • Bergischer Kreis
  • Lower Rhine district
  • Rheinischer Kreis
  • Ruhr district
  • Sauerland district
  • Siegerland district
  • Westphalia-Mitte-Kreis

Middle-East region

  • Ostwestfalen-Lippe district
  • Anhalt-Saxony-Thuringia district
  • Hessen-Waldeck district
  • Lower Saxony-Süd-Kreis

Middle-West region

  • Biedenkopf-Wittgenstein district
  • Central Hesse district
  • Dill-Westerwald-Kreis
  • Rhein-Main district
  • Southwest German district

South region

  • Baden-Wuerttemberg North District
  • Baden-Württemberg-Südkreis
  • North Bavarian District
  • Bavarian Swabian District
  • Upper and Lower Bavaria district

Institutions and works (selection)

International connections

The Federation of Free Evangelical Churches in Germany is a member of the International Covenant Church ( International Federation of Free Evangelical Churches , IFFEC). There are close ties to the Free Evangelical Congregations in Switzerland .

Through the activity of foreign aid, there are community partnerships with communities on the Balkan Peninsula .


In accordance with their emphasis on personal faith, the Free Evangelical Churches invite all people who profess Christ to join in communion in the Lord's Supper and do not attach great importance to belonging to certain religious communities.

The Federation is a member of the Association of Evangelical Free Churches , a guest member of the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK) and a partner in Category III of the German Evangelical Alliance (whose chairman was Federal President Peter Strauch from 2000 to 2007 ). Some federal regions and districts are full members in the respective regional or local ACK (e.g. in the ACK in North Rhine-Westphalia).

Free Evangelical Congregations and the Federation of Evangelical Free Churches have been using a common hymnbook since 1978 . Until 2003 these were the church songs and since 2003 Celebrate & Praise. The church songs .

The congregations and their members get involved in local inter-church associations and projects at their own discretion.


As of December 31, 2017, the federal government had 482 municipalities with 41,787 members. There are also around 25,000 children and other regular worshipers. The regional distribution of the municipalities in Germany is uneven, especially in East Germany and also in the north of Schleswig-Holstein there are few or none, while in South Westphalia and Central Hesse there are relatively many municipalities (in 2010 about 20% of the members were in German FeGs).

Since it was founded in 1874, the Confederation has grown almost continuously, with one exception around 1970. The average number of members of a Free Evangelical Congregation has remained fairly stable at 85 over the decades. “Outliers” such as FeG Bonn, which has grown to 577 members and 700 worshipers since the 1980s despite the establishment of several subsidiary churches, are the exception.

year 1874 1900 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1989 1999 2005 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017
Communities 22nd 36 90 141 208 215 247 243 269 323 400 416 453 462 471 479 482
Members 1,275 3,687 8,200 12,088 18,041 20,224 21,492 21,032 22,948 26,644 32,070 36,109 38,537 39,535 40,373 41,203 41,787

Source: feg.de, Christsein heute 09/2014, Hartmut Weyel: Evangelical and free. History of the Federation of Free Protestant Congregations in Germany. (History and Theology of the Free Evangelical Congregations, Vol. 5.6). SCM Bundes-Verlag, Witten 2013, pp. 345–347.

See also


  • Wolfgang Dietrich (ed.), An Act of Conscience . Memories of Hermann Heinrich Grafe, History and Theology of the Free Evangelical Congregations, Volume 1, Witten 1988.
  • Wolfgang Dietrich (ed.), An Act of Conscience . Documents on the Early History of the Free Evangelical Congregations, History and Theology of the Free Evangelical Congregations, Volume 2, Witten 1988.
  • Wolfgang Heinrichs, Free Churches - a modern form of church , Gießen 1990².
  • Ansgar Hörsting, Arndt Schnepper: The FeG book. Profile and perspectives of the Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany. 3. Edition. SCM Bundes-Verlag, Witten 2010, ISBN 978-3-933660-42-8 .
  • August Jung: From the struggle of the fathers. Enthusiastic movements in the late 19th century. Documents from Free Evangelical Congregations and Church and Free Church Communities (= history and theology of the Free Evangelical Congregations. Volume 5.1). Bundes-Verlag, Witten 1995, ISBN 3-926417-27-7 .
  • August Jung: When the fathers were still friends. From the history of the free church movement (= Church History Monographs (KGM). Volume 5). R. Brockhaus-Verlag, Wuppertal 1999, ISBN 3-417-29435-5 (also: Bundes-Verlag, Witten 1999, ISBN 3-933660-09-2 ).
  • Hartmut Lenhard : Studies on the development of ecclesiology in the free evangelical congregations in Germany . Bundes-Verlag, Witten 1977 (partial publication under the title: The Unity of the Children of God. The way Hermann Heinrich Grafes (1818–1869) between the Brethren movement and Baptists. Wuppertal / Witten 1977).
  • Peter Strauch : Typically FeG. Free evangelical congregations on the way into the new millennium . Bundes-Verlag, Witten 1997, ISBN 3-926417-49-8 .
  • Hartmut Weyel: Evangelical and free. History of the Federation of Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany (= History and Theology of the Free Evangelical Congregations. Vol. 5.6). SCM Bundes-Verlag, Witten 2013, ISBN 978-3-86258-020-0 .
  • Hartmut Weyel: Claims need contradiction . The Free Evangelical Congregations before and in the "Third Reich" (= history and theology of the Free Evangelical Congregations. Vol. 5.7). SCM Bundes-Verlag, Witten 2016, ISBN 978-3-86258-053-8 .
  • Christianity today . Journal for Free Evangelical Congregations . SCM Bundes-Verlag, Witten (monthly organ of FeG, editor-in-chief: Artur Wiebe).

Web links

Commons : Association of Free Protestant Congregations in Germany  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Ansgar Hörsting, Arndt Schnepper: The FeG book. Profile and perspectives of the Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany. 3. Edition. SCM Bundes-Verlag, Witten 2010, p. 27.
  2. ^ Hartmut Weyel: History of the Federation of Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany . In: Johannes Demandt (ed.): Free Evangelical Congregations (= Gury Schneider-Ludorff, Walter Fleischmann-Bisten [ed.]: The churches of the present . No. 4 ). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, ISBN 978-3-525-87242-0 , p. 14-35 .
  3. Erich Geldbach: Free Churches - Heritage, Shape and Effect. Bensheimer Hefte 70th 2nd edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, p. 227.
  4. ^ Karl Heinz Voigt: Free churches in Germany (19th and 20th centuries). Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-374-02230-8 , p. 215.
  5. President of the Federation. on: feg.de , accessed on: August 10, 2012.
  6. Johannes Demandt: Christian teaching in free evangelical congregations. A sketch . In: Johannes Demandt (Ed.): Free Evangelical Congregations . S. 36-53 .
  7. Free Protestant Congregations: Clear the Way for Pastors. Online article ( [1] ), originally from the Christian news portal Idea.de from September 18, 2010.
  8. FeG Federal Administration: GOD'S WORD IN THE WORD OF MAN. Retrieved March 5, 2019 .
  9. FeG initiative for protection against violence and abuse: PROTECT AND ACCOMPANY. Retrieved March 5, 2019 .
  10. FeG Federal Management : DEALING WITH TENSIONS. Retrieved March 5, 2019 .
  11. a b Die Welt : "We do not call homosexuality a disease". March 10, 2019, accessed April 3, 2019 .
  12. ^ ZEIT ONLINE: Federal Minister of Health: Jens Spahn wants to ban pseudotherapies against homosexuality . In: The time . April 10, 2019, ISSN  0044-2070 ( zeit.de [accessed on May 28, 2019]).
  13. Federal Government of the Federation of Free Evangelical Congregations in Germany: Dealing with Tensions - Homosexuality in Free Evangelical Congregations. In: www.feg.de. Federation of Free Protestant Congregations in Germany KdöR, March 7, 2019, accessed on April 4, 2019 .
  14. NDR: Freikirchenbund recommends gay healing. Retrieved February 14, 2019 .
  15. Controversy about free church guidance on homosexuality. Retrieved February 14, 2019 .
  16. Evangelical Free Church recommends "therapy" for homosexuals. Retrieved May 28, 2019 .
  17. Homosexuality - A good Christian doesn't have to be gay! Retrieved February 14, 2019 .
  18. WORLD: "We do not call homosexuality a disease". March 10, 2019, accessed April 3, 2019 .
  19. Federal Administration. Federation of Free Protestant Congregations, accessed on July 1, 2012 .
  20. ^ Federal districts. Federation of Free Protestant Congregations, accessed on July 1, 2012 .
  21. FeG facts on the website of the Federation of Free Protestant Congregations (accessed: April 26, 2019)
  22. Reinhard Henkel: The geographical distribution of free Evangelical communities . In: Johannes Demandt (Ed.): Free Evangelical Congregations . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, p. 54-69 .