Evangelical Church HB in Austria

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The Evangelical Church of the Helvetic Confession in Austria , mostly abbreviated as Evangelical Church H. B. in Austria , is the Reformed Church in Austria . The (second) Helvetic Confession of 1562 is an essential creed of the Reformed churches. The constitution and the naming go back to the tolerance patent of 1781.

At the end of 2019 the Evangelical Church HB in Austria had 12,332 members; this corresponds to around 0.1 percent of the total population (8,902,600 inhabitants).


Reformation and Counter Reformation

Ulrich Zwingli

The later Swiss church reformer Ulrich Zwingli studied for a few semesters in Vienna from 1498 . At that time the city was a center of humanism , where Conrad Celtis also taught. But the subsequent Reformation in Austria , when around 80 percent of the population became Protestant up to the Counter-Reformation , was - with the exception of Burgenland , which at that time only belonged to Austria to a very small extent - Lutheran . Georg Erasmus von Tschernembl (1567–1626) was one of the few noble Reformed people. During a stay in Geneva , where he would later die as a religious refugee, he became a Calvinist and also convinced his brother-in-law Gotthard Starhemberg of the change of faith. The Tschernembl and Starhemberg families later reconverted to Catholicism.

It was often well-off immigrants from Switzerland and Scotland who shaped the reformed life of Austria in the early days. For the first decades of the Reformation it is also difficult to make a strict distinction between Reformed and Lutherans. The situation was different in parts of western Hungary (and thus in Burgenland, which is now part of Austria), where there was an open break between the two Protestant denominations at the Synod of Csepreg in 1591 .

The reformed parish of Oberwart is the only one in Austria that has existed without interruption since the Reformation. In 1673 the church building was occupied by German mercenaries and converted into a Catholic church. However , in 1681 the Ödenburger Landtag decided to tolerate the Reformed community. In the years 1771–1773 the present church was built. The first Reformed church services in Vienna, not sanctioned by the state, took place in the Dutch legation chapel in German at the end of the 17th century . This was due to the extra-territoriality of the legation. The first legation preacher known by name was Philipp Otto Vietor from Hesse in 1671 , who later became superintendent of the diocese of Kassel .


The constitution of the Evangelical Church H. B. came about in 1781 through the tolerance patent of Emperor Joseph II. This allowed Reformed people like Lutherans and Orthodox to hold church services. However, the tolerance patent, the basis for religious freedom in Austria , was associated with many restrictions. The tolerance prayer houses were not allowed to be recognizable as churches from the outside ( church tower , bells ) and had no street-side entrance.

The designation H. B. (= Helvetic Confession; originally: H. C. = Helvetic Confession) for a Reformed regional church is an Austrian peculiarity. The Helvetic Confession stands on the one hand for the tradition of the Swiss Reformation (Zwingli, Calvin , Bullinger ) and on the other hand for the second Helvetic Confession , Heinrich Bullinger's pamphlet.

The first superintendent of the Evangelical Church H. B. since 1785 was Carl Wilhelm Hilchenbach , born in Frankfurt am Main . The opera librettist Johann Gottlieb Stephanie (1741–1800) was one of the better-known Austrian reformers of this time .

19th century and early 20th century

Henriette of Nassau-Weilburg

Two municipalities belonged to the Superintendent of Inner and Lower Austria H. B.: Vienna and Trieste with a total of 4,520 members in 1849. In what was then Austria there was also the Superintendent of H. B. Bohemia with over 51,000 members and the Superintendent of H. B. Moravia with almost 33,000 members. All five reformed superintendents of the 19th century came from Germany . At the Evangelical Theological Faculty of the University of Vienna , Emperor Franz I established a reformed chair that still exists today .

In the revolutionary year of 1848 , demands for the equality of all denominations were again loud from the Protestant side. In 1861 the Protestant patent was finally issued under Emperor Franz Joseph , which brought about a relative legal equality of the Reformed (and Lutheran) Church with the Roman Catholic. In addition to the Tolerance Patent of 1781 and the Protestant Law of 1961, the Protestant Patent was the most important document regulating the relationship between the state and Protestant churches in Austria.

In the year of the Protestant patent, a congregation was founded in Bregenz , making it the third oldest existing Reformed congregation in what is now Austria, after Vienna and Oberwart. In 1876 a preaching post was set up in the Vorarlberg Feldkirch after a church and a cemetery had already been built there in 1864 against resistance from the Roman Catholic Church. In 1893 a sermon position followed in Vienna-Favoriten , in 1901 another in Vienna-Ottakring . In 1908 the Feldkirch preaching station became an independent community.

Henriette von Nassau-Weilburg (1797–1829) is one of the most important Reformed personalities in Austria in the 19th century . In 1815 she married the Catholic Archduke Karl , who thus entered into the first confessional mixed marriage in the House of Habsburg . Henriette von Nassau-Weilburg is also the only non-Catholic who is buried in the Capuchin Crypt , the Habsburg burial place. The Austrian Trade and Finance Minister Karl Ludwig von Bruck (1798–1860) was also H. B. There were many Reformed people in the country's cultural life: the composer Alban Berg (1885–1935), the painter Fritz L'Allemand (1812–1866), the architect Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956) and the actors Carl von La Roche (1794–1884), Amalie Haizinger (1800–1884), Joseph Lewinsky (1835–1907) and Otto Tressler (1871–1965).

First republic

Zwinglikirche of the community Vienna West

Burgenland fell from Hungary to the Republic of Austria in 1920 . Since then, German-language services have also been held in the previously purely Hungarian-speaking community of Oberwart. In 1924 the congregations Vienna South and Vienna West were founded, which can be traced back to the Reformed preaching posts in Favoriten and Ottakring. In 1936 Bludenz joined Vorarlberg as a further preaching station. The Zwingli Church was opened in Vienna West in 1937 . During the time of Austrofascism (1934–1938) and its close ties to the Roman Catholic Church , there was a wave of migration from the illegalised Social Democrats to the Reformed.

Some Reformed pastors appreciated the interdenominational contacts in the Evangelical Alliance : for example Hans Jaquemar and Gustav Zwernemann, but also the theology professor Josef Bohatec , his wife and the writer Hermine Cloeter .

National Socialism

The Lutheran Church had the reputation of having a particularly large number of sympathizers of National Socialism among its members as a “German” church . The Reformed, on the other hand, with their liturgical peculiarities (e.g. ban on images ) exercised a special attraction on Jewish converts . The victims of National Socialism include many church members of Jewish origin and the Reformed pastor Zsigmond Varga, who was murdered in the Mauthausen concentration camp . In 1944, the population of German-speaking Reformed towns in Yugoslavia had to flee during the Second World War . Some of them settled in Linz , they formed the basis for the later founding of a Reformed church in Linz.

Since 1945

In 1950 German-speaking refugees from Yugoslavia founded a church in Linz. The church building was erected in 1953, a parish hall was added in 1993. In 1951 the preaching station in Dornbirn was raised to an independent congregation. The Hungarian popular uprising in 1956 and the ensuing wave of refugees to Austria strengthened the Hungarian element in the Evangelical Church H. B. Thus, Hungarian-language services are held in the parishes of Vienna Inner City, Linz and Oberwart to this day. Also since 1956, the Erlöserkirche in the basement of a newly built residential building has been home to the municipality of Vienna South.

The Federal Law on the External Legal Relationships of the Evangelical Church in Austria of 1961, or Protestant Law for short , brought about the legal equality of the Evangelical Churches with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1965 the ordination of women was formally introduced in the Austrian Protestant churches . In the same year the Feldkirch congregation built the Pauluskirche, and the Bludenz preaching office became the last of the nine congregations today to become independent. In 1967 the first ecumenical service took place with the Lutherans, in 1974 the first with the Roman Catholic Church.

The term of office of State Superintendent Peter Karner (1986–2004) has shaped the recent history of the Evangelical Church H. B. in Austria . Among other things, the blessing service for homosexual couples was introduced under the pastor of Vienna's Inner City. Thomas Hennefeld , the pastor in Vienna West, has been a Reformed regional superintendent since 2007 . Among the most well-known Austrian Reformers of recent times are the behavioral researcher and Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz (1903–1989), the architect Roland Rainer (1910–2004) and the actor and cabaret artist Maxi Böhm (1916–1982).


Huguenot cross - a symbol of the Reformed

The Evangelical Church H. B. in Austria, like other Reformed churches, is based on the Reformation confessional documents Heidelberg Catechism (1563) and the second Helvetic Confession (1562). Traditionally there is a stronger focus on Zwingli and Bullinger than on Calvin. Another important confessional document is the Leuenberg Agreement (1973; basis for the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe ), which laid down the pulpit and communion fellowship between Reformed, Lutherans and Methodists. In contrast to the AB Church, the Reformed pastors are not sworn in on the confessional documents.

In the Evangelical Church H. B. the open communion is practiced: Members of other denominations and children are also invited to the communion . The decision to do so was taken by the synod in 1988, which was preceded by a corresponding long-term practice in the congregations. The General Assembly of the World Reformed Federation made a recommendation for the Open Supper as early as 1954 in Princeton (USA).

The Reformed Church is relatively uniformly shaped by liberal traditions. The Evangelical Church H. B. was the first church in Austria to introduce the blessing of same-sex couples in 1998 (see also homosexuality and religion ). In March 2019, the Church made it possible for same-sex couples to be married .

In 1996 the synod passed a declaration of principles in which it laid down the internal constitution of the church and its external conduct (including social policy , relationship to other religious communities) in 19 brief principles .



Parishes of the Evangelical Church HB in Austria

The Evangelical Church H. B. consists of nine parishes, four of which are in Vorarlberg, three in Vienna, one in Linz and one in Oberwart. The Vorarlberg congregations also (and even predominantly) have Lutheran members, but belong to the Reformed Church. Conversely, there are also mixed confessional congregations in the Evangelical Church AB (the Lutheran Church). Otherwise the mostly few Reformed people are also looked after in the Lutheran congregations.

Each community chooses one for a term of six years of Representatives . The pastors of the parishes belong to the parish council by virtue of their office as simple members. The tasks of the parish council include the election of the presbytery from among its members and the auditors as well as the approval of the budget and the accounts of the parish. The presbytery ( parish line ) is elected by the municipal council, the pastor automatically belongs to him. The task of the presbyters, with the exception of the areas that are assigned to the parish council or the pastor, is the administration of the parish: for example, drawing up the budget and holding elections. The presbytery also elects representatives to the universal church. The curator is in charge of the congregation (and not the pastor, who is mainly entrusted with the spiritual affairs of the congregation). He is elected by the presbytery and chairs there and in the parish council. The pastor is the spiritual leader of the community. Together with the curator, he represents the community externally. The members of the congregations choose their pastors themselves. The Vienna Inner City congregation has two pastors, all other congregations one each. The current pastor of Bludenz was the first woman in this office in the Evangelical Church of H. B.

local community state Church building founding year
Bludenz Vorarlberg Church of the Good Shepherd 1936
Bregenz Vorarlberg Kreuzkirche am Ölrain 1861
Dornbirn Vorarlberg Heilandskirche Dornbirn 1951
Feldkirch Vorarlberg Pauluskirche 1908
Linz Upper Austria Reformed Church Linz Leonding 1950
Oberwart Burgenland Reformed parish church Oberwart around 1600 around
Vienna Inner City Vienna (1.) Reformed city church 1781
Vienna south Vienna favorites (10.) Church of the Redeemer 1924
Vienna West Vienna-Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus (15.) Zwinglikirche 1924

Universal church

State Superintendent Thomas Hennefeld (2016)

The construction of the Evangelical Church H. B. is from the bottom up and according to presbyterial-synodal principles. Its central bodies or functionaries are the synod , the upper church council and the state superintendent . There is no episcopate.

The synod determines the theological guidelines of the church and has to approve the budgets and accounts of the individual communities. She also elects the state superintendent. The synod consists of: all pastors of the nine parishes, the secular representatives elected by the presbyteries and one representative each appointed by the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Vienna and by the religious teachers. The Oberkirchenrat , based in Vienna, heads the church, is its highest administrative body and represents it externally. Members are the state superintendent as well as spiritual and secular representatives of the synod. The state superintendent (until 1949: superintendent ) is elected by the synod for a term of six years. He must be an academically trained pastor. He is responsible for the spiritual direction of the Evangelical Churches H. B. Since 2007 Thomas Hennefeld has been the state superintendent.

See also: List of Evangelical Superintendents in Austria

Evangelical Church in Austria

The Evangelical Church H. B., together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church (AB), is part of the Evangelical Church A. u. H. B. in Austria . As a church, the umbrella organization and the two particular churches are legally recognized , the Evangelical Church A. u. H. B. as a corporation under public law . Joint administrative matters are handled here. The two churches have a common constitution and manage religious instruction and church fees together.

Interdenominational and international cooperation

In addition, the church A. u. H. B. the two particular churches in the international World Council of Churches (World Council of Churches) .


The Reformed Church Gazette appears several times a year and is a joint journal of the Reformed congregations in Austria. It was first published in 1924. The first editor-in-chief (until 1946) was Johann Karl Egli . Some H. B. communities also publish their own community gazettes. There are also other publications, such as sermon collections.

The other media work (epdÖ - Protestant press service , SAAT - Evangelical newspaper for Austria , radio and television office for ORF broadcasts) is carried out by the Evangelical Church A. u. H. B.


  • Peter Karner (ed.): The evangelical community H. B. in Vienna. Franz Deuticke, Vienna 1986, ISBN 3-7005-4579-7 .
  • Rudolf Leeb et al. a .: History of Christianity in Austria. From antiquity to the present. Uebereuter, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-8000-3914-1 (standard work with 60 pages of literature).
  • Gerhard May : The Protestant Church in Austria. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen u. a. 1962.
  • Gustav Reingrabner : Evangelicals in Austria. (Exhibition catalog) Evangelical Press Association in Austria, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-85073-675-X .
  • Gustav Reingrabner: Protestants in Austria. History and documentation. Böhlau, Vienna a. a. 1981, ISBN 3-205-07140-9 .
  • Harald Zimmermann (arrangement): The Protestant Church A. and H. B. in Austria. Herder, Vienna 1968.

Web links

Commons : Evangelical Church H. B. in Austria  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Evangelical Church in Austria: Figures & Facts accessed on February 26, 2020
  2. Evangelical Church publishes statistics for 2019. kathpress, Catholic Press Agency Austria, accessed on February 26, 2020.
  3. Statistics Austria: Austria grows to almost 9 million inhabitants. meinviertel.at, accessed on February 26, 2020
  4. ^ Erwin Liebert: Zwingli in Vienna . Evangelical Oberkirchenrat H. B., Vienna 1984
  5. Peter Karner (Ed.): The evangelical community H. B. in Vienna . Franz Deuticke, Vienna 1986. p. 14 ff.
  6. These connections can be found in the sources preserved. See Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer (ed.): Evangelical Alliance in Vienna from the First Republic to the Nazi era (1920–1945). Edition of the meeting minutes and programs (studies on the history of Christian movements of the Reformation tradition in Austria; 2). VKW, Bonn 2010.
  7. ^ Kurier.at: Evangelical Reformed Church opens weddings for homosexuals , March 16, 2019
  8. ^ Declaration of principles ( memo of February 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), reformiertekirche.at
  9. Constitution of the Evangelical Church in Austria AuHB f, adopted by the General Synod on 17 May 2005, p. 21
  10. § 1. (1) and (2) I. Protestant Law 1961 , Stf. Federal Law Gazette No. 182/1961; Legally recognized churches within the meaning of Article 15 of the Basic State Law of December 21, 1867, RGBl. No. 142.
  11. List of Community of Protestant Churches in Europe , p. 2 ( Memento from June 22, 2014 in the web archive archive.today ), leuenberg.net
  12. ^ Member churches / Europe / Austria , World Council of Churches, oikoumene.org

Coordinates: 48 ° 12 '24.2 "  N , 16 ° 22' 7.3"  E