Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia

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Map of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia
Basic data
Area : 12,000 km²
Last senior clergyman: Regional Bishop
Christoph Kähler
Memberships: VELKD , LWB , EKD
Supervisory districts: 3
Superintendent : 18th
Parishes : 1,308
Parishioners: 440,629 (December 31, 2006)
Share of the
total population:
approx. 27.0%
former address: Dr.-Moritz-Mitzenheim-Str. 2a.
99817 Eisenach
Official Website: www.ekmd.de

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia (abbreviated ELKTh) was one of 23 member churches (regional churches ) of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) until 2008 . The church, located in Eisenach in 2006 was about 441,000 church members in 1,308 congregations . The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia was a member of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) and the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe .

On January 1, 2009, the Thuringian Regional Church and the Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony merged to form the Evangelical Church in Central Germany .


The area of ​​the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia comprised large parts of today's state of Thuringia as well as small corners of Saxony-Anhalt area around Allstedt and Molau and corresponded in its boundaries to the state of Thuringia founded in 1920 (1920-1952) with its territorial status until 1945, up to the Superintendentur Ostheim vor der Rhön , which was incorporated into the regional church of Bavaria in 1972 . The remaining Prussian parts of Thuringia, which were added in 1945 or later from 1815 to 1945, belonged to the Evangelical Church of the ecclesiastical province of Saxony until 2008 , the area around Schmalkalden that was formerly part of Hessen-Nassau and is still part of the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck today .


Weimar period

The "Thuringian Evangelical Church" (the original name of the church until 1948) was established in 1918. After the abolition of the monarchy, on November 15, 1918, leading churchmen of the former duchies and principalities decided on a uniform organization of the church. A first synod met on December 5, 1919 and decided to merge seven independent regional churches into a single regional church. This happened before the state of Thuringia was founded (1920). The seven regional churches were:

Former seat of the regional church in Eisenach

The Thuringian Evangelical Church was formally established on February 13, 1920. The state of Thuringia was formally founded three months later on May 1, 1920. A regional church office was set up for the new regional church in Eisenach, and in 1924 the new church was given a constitution. On April 1, 1921, the regional church council of the Evangelical Church in Thuringia moved into the palace-like villa of the industrial family Eichel-Streiber on the Pflugensberg . In 1934 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the former Principality of Reuss joined the older line as the eighth regional church of the Thuringian Evangelical Church, which thus reached its present size. Most of the officials in the Thuringian Evangelical Church were shaped by Christian anti-Judaism and by monarchist, nationalist and ethnic beliefs. They experienced the November Revolution as a loss of previous state church privileges and rejected the Weimar Constitution because it declared the era of the state church in principle to be over. They viewed the Weimar Republic as “godless”, “Jewish” and “ contaminated with Marxism ”.

Advertisement in the Apoldaer Tageblatt of June 19, 1920

Representatives of this way of thinking were among others Friedrich von Eichel-Streiber , from 1926 to 1933 President of the Landeskirchentag and DNVP top candidate in the elections to the Thuringian state parliament . He described Thuringia and the Thuringian Church at that time as acutely endangered by a majority of the Social Democrats and an alleged "predominance" of the Jews . Another representative was the director of the Leipzig Mission , Pastor von Harling. He gave a lecture at a mission conference in Hildburghausen in 1924 on the " Jewish question " and in 1930 was active in the mission to the Jews . The “People's Service”, a church training department for the political orientation of church members, dealt with the “national question” around 1925 in Neudietendorf . At the mission festival of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Association Gotha in 1926, the missionary Pastor Reichardt publicly defended his racist theses that only Christianity could save the "inferior race" of the Indians.

In the church elections of 1926 for the 2nd Landeskirchentag, a “German Church” stood for the first time, whose supporters represented a decidedly racial anti-Semitism . The candidates she proposed comprised five to eight percent of all nominees, but made up the largest group on the state lists with 30% of the candidates. In 1928, the chief pastor Johannes Dobencker, who was responsible for statistics , reported two transfers of Jews to the Thuringian regional church; no Christians had converted to Judaism. This is due to the fact that Jews are drawn to the "decisive power", while Christians only become Jews through marrying out of "pure money issues". Like the President of the Landeskirchentag von Eichel-Streiber, Dobecker later belonged to the Lutheran Confessional Community and was temporarily suspended from office. In 1929 the mostly conservative-folk regional church assembly called in its resolution “Against moralizing” to “counteract the degeneration and decomposition of our people [...] by spreading good German literature and generally by maintaining the valuable German cultural assets and refining the German people's culture. “With this, the regional church helped to prepare for the incitement of Nazi propaganda against German writers and artists, for example in exhibitions on“ degenerate art ”. Compared to anti-Semitic attacks by the Tannenbergbund under Erich Ludendorff , the churches were sailing in the wake of Judaism from which they emerged, the People's Service of the Thuringian Church distanced itself apologetically from Judaism in 1931 with a leaflet from the Apologetic Center Spandau : “Is Christianity really Judaism?” Pastor Before 1933 Otto Henneberger often gave lectures to pastors on topics such as “Völkische Religiosität or Gospel” or “German Christianity and German Church”.

time of the nationalsocialism

The Thuringian church leadership welcomed the seizure of power by the Nazi regime:

The Church thus happily welcomes the fact that the state is now taking measures to purify and renew our popular life and to maintain reverence for that which our people must remain holy. "

In March 1933, the Thuringian Evangelical Church welcomed the transfer of power to Hitler in a " word on the time ". In April 1933, the regional church council lifted the ban on pastors' political activity, which was issued during the Weimar period. This was in fact an invitation to work in the NSDAP , since all other parties were banned until July 1933. In May 1933 the Landeskirchentag, which was still freely elected in January 1933, passed several laws to bring the church into line with the Nazi regime by granting the regional council of churches the right to enact church laws and forbidding any Marxist activity in the church.

Form of proof of parentage for use by the pastor

Since May 1933, the Thuringian evangelical pastors and church officials were involved in the system of exclusion of Germans of Jewish origin, in that they had to issue so-called Aryan certificates on request . In this way they participated in the negative process of exclusion in the decision on social advancement or descent in professional life, because the “Reich Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” and parallel provisions excluded people of Jewish origin from certain professions. Soon the pastors were also urged to “encourage the creation of ancestral and clan boards” in order to support “ racial hygiene ”. On May 5, 1933, the church ordinance was amended in Paragraph 6 in such a way that a denial of the church wedding was possible: The Thuringian Church refused the marriage of Christians to Jews if, due to the great difference in the race of the married couple, the prerequisites for a moral one There is a lack of superior marital union. This first racist and anti-Jewish law of a Protestant regional church gave the actual or alleged ethnic affiliation of a church member priority over the validity of the biblical and ethical sacraments and thus broke the Lutheran confessions . On the other hand, the Pastors' Emergency League was formed in November 1933 and then the Confessing Church in May 1934 .

The state church elections of July 1933 resulted in a state church convention occupied almost exclusively by German Christians (DC). On September 12, 1933, he took over the state “Aryan paragraph” for the church with the “Law on the Position of Church Officials in Relation to the Nation”. According to this, "non-Aryan" or "non-Aryan" women married theologians were not allowed to become officials in the Thuringian regional church. Pastors of Jewish origin could be retired or dismissed; only those who took part in the war or who were affected by the war were initially excluded. Z. B. Pastor Werner Sylten .

The regional bishop Wilhelm Reichardt , appointed by the DC, proudly reported in 1934 that the Thuringian regional church was "one of the first of the Protestant regional churches to include questions of racial hygiene in the pastors' official work". She financed the DC training courses for German Christianity and had state officials there give lectures on “ racial studies ” and “genetic health theory” .

After the Nuremberg Race Laws were enacted in September 1935 , the Thuringian church leadership urged its pastors to adhere to their racist church regulations and made it clear that a " mixed marriage" was not a marriage of different denominations, but one "between an Aryan and a non-Aryan woman or vice versa ". Thuringian church newspapers supported the state race laws. In December 1935 the “Heimatklänge”, a forerunner of faith and home , printed relevant words of the anti-Semitic court preacher Adolf Stöckers on a whole page .

The Thuringian pastors reacted to the November pogroms of 1938 with a resolution of November 17, 1938: "Christ fought the Jewish spirit in every form in the sharpest possible way." On November 24, Regional Bishop Martin Sasse published a sixteen-page pamphlet " Martin Luther on the Jews : Away with them! ”Millions of copies were distributed beyond the regional church.

On February 10, 1939, the regional church passed the "Law on the Church Status of Protestant Jews". It stipulated that Jews could not become members of the church, that official acts were forbidden for them and that church taxes could no longer be levied on them. In this way, not only Jewish pastors, but also Christian parishioners, who, according to Hans Globke's definition, were Jews or “Jewish tribes”, were exposed to state persecution. In May 1939, the regional church council published principles for religious instruction, which was then denounced by party and government agencies and often handicapped , which ensured that the teaching content was adapted to the Nazi ideology. Religious instruction should “convey the knowledge that there is an irreconcilable religious opposition between Christianity and Judaism, and accordingly the popular cleansing of the German nature of any Jewish influence must bring with it a corresponding cleansing of the Christian proclamation of all Jewish forms and fetters and falsifications. “To this end, several DC-governed regional churches, including the Thuringian one in charge, founded the“ Institute for Research and Elimination of the Jewish Influence on German Church Life ”in 1939 at the Wartburg near Eisenach .

During the Second World War, the Thuringian regional church justified the donation of bells for weapons production demanded by Hermann Göring : "... this time our bells will not disappear unused in deposits for Jewish slide gate profits ." The Thuringian church leadership took part with conviction, the community of Jesus Christ to make "Jew-free" down to the last ramification. In November 1943 she warned her pastors and church officials by circular that remarriage with an “Aryan” person who was previously married to a “non-Aryan” person was inadmissible. On December 28, 1941, it passed a “Church Law on the Exclusion of Racial Jewish Christians from the Church”: “Jews ... and their descendants are excluded from any ecclesiastical community in the Thuringian Evangelical Church.” In July 1944, it sharpened the validity again the Thuringian church order, according to which only the approval of “positive Christianity” entitles the right to church care, regardless of church membership; "Full Jews remain excluded from church supplies ... in any case."

Since 1945

In 1945 the last DC regional bishop was arrested by the US military authorities and then a new beginning was set in the church and organization with representatives of the Lutheran Confessional Community , the Religious Socialists and the Wittenberg Federation .

In 1948 the regional church received a new constitution. After that she called herself the "Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia". The church joined the EKD and was a founding member of the VELKD. Since July 1, 2004, the Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia have formed the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Central Germany (EKM), which merged on January 1, 2009.


Until 1918, the bishops of the individual churches were the respective princes or dukes as " Summus episcopus ". After the unified regional church was formed in 1920, a regional pastor took over the management of the church. He has held the title of regional bishop since 1933 (1943–1945 church president). He was elected for life by the regional synod and was chairman of the regional church council (church leadership), the regional synod and the superintendent convention.

Regional pastor, regional bishops and church presidents since 1920

As a “parliament”, the regional church had a regional synod. Its members, the synodals, were elected or appointed for six years; almost half of them were elected by the district synods. The task of the synod was similar to that of political parliaments. It usually met twice a year. The regional bishop was the chairman of the regional synod. From the middle of the synod, the president of the regional synod was elected as the representative of the regional bishop. He couldn't be a theologian. The deputies of the president were also elected from the middle of the regional synod. Together they formed the Presidium of the Regional Synod, which conducted the business of the Regional Synod.

The Georgenkirche zu Eisenach was the church belonging to the regional bishop, which was tied to his place in the work of preaching.

Regional church office and administrative hierarchy

As the highest administrative authority of the regional church there was a regional church office in Eisenach. The regional church council, the governing body of the regional church, had its seat here. This represented the regional church externally and carried out the resolutions of the regional synod.

The regional church council included the regional bishop as chairman as well as other theological and two legal members. They were all elected by the regional synod of which they were also members. In addition, three of the members of the regional church council were visitors to one of the three supervisory districts of the regional church.

In the administrative hierarchy, the regional church was structured as follows from bottom to top:

At the base stood the parishes as corporations under public law with elected parish councils. The members of these bodies were called church elders.

Several parishes together formed a superintendent, headed by a superintendent . The superintendent had the district synod as a body with a presidium of the district synod. The members of the district synod were elected by the respective parish councils.

Several superintendentures together formed a supervisory district, which was headed by a senior church councilor as a visitor. In each supervisory district there was a district church office.

The three supervisory districts together formed the regional church.

Supervisory districts and superintendent's offices

See also: Structure of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia used to be divided into 40 superintendent's offices:

Altenburg , Apolda , Arnstadt, Bad Frankenhausen, Bad Salzungen, Buttstädt, Camburg, Dermbach , Ebeleben, Eisenach, Eisenberg, Eisfeld, Friedrichroda, Gera, Gerstungen, Gotha, Greiz (since 1934, previously an independent regional church), Hildburghausen, Ilmenau, Jena, Kahla, Königsee, Lobenstein, Meiningen, Meuselwitz, Neustadt / Orla, Ohrdruf, Pößneck, Rudolstadt, Saalfeld, Schleiz, Schmölln, Sondershausen, Sonneberg, Sonneborn , Stadtroda , Vacha, Vieselbach, Weida and Weimar .

By drawing the inner German border, Schmalkalden also belonged to the Thuringian regional church as the 41st superintendent until 1991. However, this area previously belonged to the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck (seat in Kassel) as an exclave, to which it was reconnected after the fall of the Wall.

As part of a structural reform, the number of superintendents was reduced to 18. These were in 1369 parishes divided.

  • Supervisory district south with the district church office in Meiningen
    • Arnstadt-Ilmenau
    • Bad Salzungen-Dermbach
    • Hildburghausen ice field
    • Meiningen
    • Rudolstadt-Saalfeld
    • Sonneberg
  • Eastern supervisory district with the district church office in Gera
    • Altenburger Land
    • Eisenberg
    • Gera
    • Greiz
    • Jena
    • Schleiz
  • West supervisory district with the district church office in Gotha
    • Apolda-Buttstätt
    • Bad Frankenhausen-Sondershausen (the northern exclaves)
    • Eisenach-Gerstungen
    • Gotha
    • Waltershausen-Ohrdruf
    • Weimar

Hymn books

Before 1918, the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia sang from a large number of hymn books. Each regional church had its own, some even had several hymn books in use.

After the establishment of the unified regional church, a common hymn book was introduced in 1929. The parishioners in Thuringia have been singing from the following hymn books since 1930:

  • Thuringian Protestant hymn book , edited and published by the Thuringian Protestant Church, introduced in 1929
  • Evangelical Church Hymns - Edition for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia , introduced on the basis of the resolution of the Synod of Evangelical Luth. Church in Thuringia from May 5, 1950
  • Evangelical Church Hymns - Edition for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mecklenburg, Evangelical Luth. Regional Church of Saxony, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia , introduced in all Lutheran churches in the GDR in 1975
  • Evangelical hymn book - edition for the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Bavaria and Thuringia, introduced on the 1st of Advent 1994


  • Erich Stegmann: The church struggle in the Thuringian Protestant Church 1933-1945. A chapter in Thuringian church history. Berlin 1984
  • Evangelisches Pfarrhausarchiv Eisenach (Ed.): Against forgetting. The fate of Jewish Christian pastors in the period from 1933-1945. Supplement to the special exhibition in the Lutherhaus Eisenach, April 1988 to April 1989
  • Thomas A. Seidel (Ed.): Thuringian ridge walks. Contributions to the seventy-five year history of the Evangelical Church of Thuringia. In: Hostels of Christianity. Yearbook for German Church History , special volume 3, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 1998, ISBN 3-374-01699-5
  • Reiner Andreas Neuschäfer, Hanne Leewe (eds.): Time spaces for religion. Fifteen years of religious instruction in Thuringia. Jena 2006
  • Ralf Koerrenz , Anne Stiebritz (Ed.): Church - Education - Freedom. Open work as a model of a mature church. Paderborn 2013, ISBN 978-3-506-77616-7

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. LWF News - Total Membership of LWF Churches Increases to Just Under 66.7 Million ( Memento of September 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ "On the history of the archive", paragraph 2 "on the homepage of the Landeskirchenarchiv Eisenach
  3. Apoldaer Tageblatt June 19, 1920
  4. Thuringian Church Gazette 1924 B No. 9, p. 157
  5. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1930 B No. 2, p. 12; Thuringian Church Gazette 1930 B No. 16, p. 122
  6. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1925 B No. 1, p. 2
  7. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1925 B No. 9, p. 91
  8. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1926 B No. 21a, p. 270ff.
  9. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1928 B No. 18, p. 177
  10. Erich Stegmann: The church struggle in the Thuringian Evangelical Church 1933-1945. Berlin 1984, p. 90
  11. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1930 B No. 22, p. 22f.
  12. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1931 B No. 7, p. 97
  13. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1933 B No. 4, pp. 46 and 51
  14. ^ Thuringian Church Gazette 1933 B No. 6, p. 122
  15. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1933 B No. 6, p. 121f.
  16. ^ Thuringian Church Gazette 1933 A No. 6, p. 15
  17. Thuringian Church Gazette 1933 A No. 7, p. 17
  18. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1933 B No. 11, p. 164 and 1934 B 4, p. 23
  19. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1934 B No. 6, p. 38
  20. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1933 A No. 7, p. 18
  21. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1933 A of September 12, 1933
  22. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1934 B No. 6, p. 83
  23. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1934 B No. 6, p. 97
  24. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1935 B No. 17, p. 109
  25. Heimatklänge from the Weimar district, 12/1935
  26. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1938 B No. 22a, p. 165
  27. Home sounds from the Weimar district, 1/1939
  28. Thuringian Church Gazette 1939 A No. 2, p. 3
  29. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1939 B No. 9a, p. 69f.
  30. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1941 B No. 24, p. 149
  31. ^ Thuringian Church Gazette 1943 B No. 23, p. 90
  32. Thuringian Church Gazette 1942 A No. 1, p. 1
  33. Thüringer Kirchenblatt 1944 A No. 4, p. 45ff.