Free Christian Church - Pentecostal Church in Austria
The Federation of Free Christian and Pentecostal Churches in Austria, as it exists today, was founded in 1946. From 1998 the FCGÖ was the legal personality as a denominational community . Through the merger with four other congregational federations ( Baptists , Evangelicals , Elaia Christian congregations , Mennonites ), the Free Church Free Churches in Austria was created in 2013 as a legally recognized church (religious society) .
The FCGÖ represents around 100 local Christian communities, with a little over 10,000 members (as of 2018). The community federation is organized in a congregational manner and is divided into six sub-associations: Free Christian Congregations , African sub-association, charismatic sub-association, international sub-association, LIFE Church and Romanian sub-association . The organization is based in Bürmoos .
At the beginning of the 1920s, through the service of Swedish missionaries, sent by the Filadelfiaförsamlingen in Stockholm , a Pentecostal church was founded in Vienna. In some cases there were two churches in Vienna: The Free Christian Congregation “Philadelphia” and the Free Christian Congregation “Salem” , but they reunited. In those years the church had up to 200 members. In the surrounding towns there was a lot of missionary work and house assemblies were held.
During the Schuschnigg dictatorship in 1936, assembly was banned , so that public services could no longer be held. The community restaurants were officially sealed. Foreign missionaries had to leave the country. The church work was now taken on by volunteer elders. Following the biblical example, people tried to cultivate their faith and fellowship with one another by “going back and forth in the houses”.
Another missionary activity developed in the Salzkammergut towards the end of the 1920s . Despite some restrictions and general public rejection, people found their way to the Pentecostal Church. Prayer circles were set up in St. Wolfgang and Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut. The 1936 ban on assembly also had an impact in these communities. It is reported that the Fuschler believers, armed with hurricane lanterns, went into the nearby woods to gather.
Association founded in 1946 and after the war
After the end of the war there were around 30 people in Vienna who belonged to the community. During this time, many small churches and house assemblies tried to reorient themselves. There were Pentecostal believers in the Vienna area, in Burgenland , in the Salzkammergut, in Frankenburg in the Hausruckviertel and in the Salzburger Land . Their desire for common ground led to the formation of the community association of Free Christian Congregations in 1946 .
After the Second World War, many Yugoslav-German supporters of the Pentecostal movement came to Austria, who enlivened church work in the Vienna area, in Burgenland and in the Salzburg region. On December 14th, 146 the “Free Christian Congregations of Austria” was founded in Sattledt and Austria was divided into five working districts as a mission area. This date is considered to be the beginning of the Pentecostal movement in Austria.
A major contribution came from displaced persons who already had community experience from their homeland and who helped to build up the young movement. During these years, Upper Austria quickly developed into a focal point due to the large number of refugees being looked after here (some of them already believers, others who have come to believe here). Churches sprang up in many places.
In the early 1950s, many members emigrated. The number of 1,800 members counted around 1948 decreased suddenly. Entire communities emigrated, including to Canada, the USA, Australia, but also to Germany. The remaining displaced persons integrated and were soon no longer viewed by the population as strangers or “foreigners”. Other communities emerged from house meetings, and the first community houses were built. But until the 1960s the work developed only slowly. Contacts with the German congregations create a good relationship with the Beröa Bible School in Erzhausen .
Internationalization from the 1970s
The 1970s also ushered in the aid of missionaries from abroad who to this day come from Scandinavia, the USA, Holland and Great Britain. Through their commitment, new communities emerged. Now communities could be found in all nine federal states. The image of the community changed, nationwide youth meetings and children's camps took place.
The possibility of training was also increasingly promoted, joint seminars were held and a short Bible school was set up, followed by a program for self-study of the Bible by ICI - Internationales Korrespondenz Institut . The teen challenge work by David Wilkerson from New York reached Austria and tea rooms were launched. In the course of time this work has changed; Today the focus of Teen-Challenge is on the care of prisoners and released prisoners.
The opening of the eastern borders with the fall of the Iron Curtain led to a large wave of refugees and emigrants. This is how Pentecostal believers came to Austria from Romania . They very soon began looking for ways to hold services in their own language. In 1993, through contacts with the Austrian congregations, a Romanian branch of the Free Christian Churches in Austria was formed.
Towards the end of 1999 the result was the following: 1650 members (the Free Church is committed to major baptism , i.e. children up to the age of 12 to 14 are not included here); 33 congregations and meeting places (not including house groups); a Romanian branch with 6 parishes and approx. 300 members.
Confessional community from 1998
The organization acquired legal personality as a registered denominational community with effect from July 11, 1998 . For this purpose, the name of the umbrella organization was defined as the Free Christian Community - Pentecostal Church FCGÖ as an Austria-wide organization.
In 2005, after five years of talks, 16 new congregations were accepted into the Free Christian Church - Pentecostal Church in Austria. As a charismatic branch association and vision for Austria, they form their own branch associations. In 2006 another 9 congregations were accepted as an international branch .
According to the 2001 census, 7186 people claimed to be part of the Free Christian Community - Pentecostal Church (5061 of them with Austrian citizenship and 2125 with other citizenship).
In 2012 it was decided to organize the congregations with an African migration background in an African branch .
Legal recognition from 2013
After the full state recognition of the free church congregations caused problems, the main obstacle was the legally required number of members of 2 per thousand of the total population (around 16,000), the FCGÖ joined four other congregational federations , the Federation of Baptist Congregations , the Federation of Evangelical Congregations , the Elaia Christian communities and the Mennonite Free Church together, and on August 26, 2013 the common umbrella organization Free Churches in Austria became a legally recognized church (religious society ) by ordinance of the Minister of Education ( Federal Law Gazette II No. 250/2013 ).
Basic principles of the doctrine of the faith
- The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the sole basis for teaching and life ( Sola scriptura ; the Old Testament is understood to mean those 39 books that have been handed down from Judaism, i.e. without the so-called Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical scriptures)
- Confession to the doctrine of the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the one God according to the early church confessions.
- Doctrine of salvation ( soteriology ): Jesus Christ acquired salvation for all people. This must be acquired personally through belief in him and repentance from sins. Reformatory doctrine of justification ( sola fide , sola gratia - only faith, only grace)
- The Christian community ( ecclesiology ): Through faith in Jesus Christ and baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which one takes as a sign to the public that one wants to follow Jesus, one is integrated into the community . Baptism is understood as the baptism of believers (religious maturity), whereby age is secondary (Note: This does not deny Christianity to anyone who has a different understanding of the community or church and baptism) . The congregation is usually led by an ordained pastor together with a college of elders and is responsible for the organization of its congregational life (within the framework of the common interests of the Federation of Free Christian Congregations). The congregations are financially responsible, their expenses (worship houses, pastors' salaries, etc.) are covered by voluntary donations from their members.
- Divine service (liturgy): There is no prescribed course of divine service, but certain elements are characteristic of most divine service meetings: greeting the congregation; Praise to God (mostly with modern songs and instruments and a senior team of singers); free prayer: intercession for everyday needs, especially for the sick; Opportunity for the charisms of the Holy Spirit: speaking in tongues with interpretation, prophetic speech, etc. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12 and 14); Sermon; Last Supper mostly once a month, but in some places more often (reception in both forms: wine, often also grape juice, and bread); free collection.
- Social life: The communities themselves do not engage in political engagement and give their members the freedom to participate in public life according to their free conscience decision (e.g. freedom to do military service or community service; membership in political parties, etc.). Prayers are made for the respective government.
- The completion of the kingdom of God ( eschatology ): Confession to the visible return of Jesus Christ and the completion of the kingdom of God. Judgment of God over all wickedness and injustice of men.
The Free Christian Congregations - Pentecostal congregations are organized as a congregational organization in the free church sense, the FCG Austria is the joint representative.
It is the highest body of the movement and consists of the delegates of the congregations and the members of the pastoral council. If it is referred to as the “supreme body”, the full responsibility of the municipalities remains, as it only deals with areas that go beyond the framework of the municipalities. She approves the individual annual reports, confirms them and gives discharge. It carries out the election of the board of the movement.
It consists of members who have been confirmed by the annual conference. Any ordained pastor can be admitted to the pastoral council. The pastoral council is the actual working and management body of the movement and consists of people whom all congregations have given their trust. The pastoral council is responsible for the annual conference and thus places itself in the principle of mutual trust and responsibility. One of the tasks of the pastoral council is to support the foundation of churches based on the biblical model. He ordains candidates as full-time and part-time pastoral assistants and assesses their ordination work (note: the local congregation calls for the ministry of the pastor) . The pastoral council ensures that the congregations belonging to the association are led according to the word of God, supervises the doctrine and methods used among them and is empowered to bring those guilty to account for misconduct in doctrine, practice or conduct, but without independence to hurt the community.
The board of directors is the governing body of the pastoral council and is assigned its powers by it. Its task is to represent the movement internally and externally, to maintain contacts with the communities and to establish or maintain contacts with other movements and countries; he prepares the meetings of the PR; he mediates in the event of differences of opinion or in the event of grievances in or among communities, if he is called by one of the parties involved.
Sub-associations and member communities
The FCGÖ is organizationally divided into 6 sub-associations (formerly: branches or branch associations) (as of August 2018):
- Free Christian Community - core movement of free-church-oriented parishes (founded in 1946, 39 parishes)
- African sub-association - congregations with African roots (founded in 2013, 12 congregations)
- Charismatic sub-association - congregations of the charismatic movement (founded in 2005, 13 congregations)
- International sub-association - municipalities with cross-national concerns (founded in 2006, 3 municipalities)
- LIFE Church (founded in 2005 as a vision for Austria ; since 2012 LIFE Church ; 13 congregations)
- Romanian sub-association - municipalities with a Romanian migration background (founded in 1993, 20 municipalities)
The FCGÖ is a full member of the Austrian Bible Society and partner of the Austrian Evangelical Alliance . Internationally, the FCGÖ sees itself as part of the Pentecostal European Fellowship and thus the Pentecostal World Fellowship .
- A movement introduces itself. 50 years of Free Christian Congregations in Austria. Lebensbotschaft - self-published, Salzburg 1997.
- Klaus Winter: Free Christian Church-Pentecostal Church (FCGÖ). Self-expression . In: Johann Hirnsperger, Christian Wessely, Alexander Bernhard (Ed.): Ways to Salvation? Religious denominations in Austria. Self-expression and theological reflection . Styria, Graz a. a. 2001, pp. 69-85.
- Stories that life wrote. Memories and episodes by Nikolaus Betschel. Dynamis, Kreuzlingen 1993, ISBN 3-85645-096-3 .
- Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer : Free churches in Austria since 1846. On the sources and on questions of method. In: Yearbook for the history of Protestantism in Austria . No. 124/125 (2008/09), pp. 270-302.
- FCGÖ website: History (accessed: September 15, 2018)
- Daniel Grader: The Pentecostal movement reaches Austria. March 15, 2006, accessed September 15, 2018 .
- According to the Federal Law BGBL I, No. 19/1998, with the notification of assessment GZ 7836 / 18-9c / 98 of July 20, 1998.
- Austrian population statistics according to religious denomination , statistik.at (PDF file; 41 kB)
- "Free churches in Austria" now recognized church , press release of the free churches in Austria
- Life Church Austria (lifechurch.at)