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The Congregationalism is a form of Christian community condition in which the autonomy of the individual congregations is extremely important. The Anabaptist movement , the Pentecostal movement , the Baptist congregations and the actual congregationalist churches are organized according to this system . Congregational parish constitutions have to be distinguished from Presbyterianism , in which the congregation is led by elders under the supervision of a mostly national board meeting ( synod ), and from episcopalism , where this is done through a hierarchical system of bishops .


Congregationalism originally emerged within the Anglican Church through influences from the Reformed tradition of Johannes Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli . Within the Puritan movement in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, parish and church constitution became central points of contention, and so the various groups of the Puritan spectrum were named according to their organizational principle.

At the right end of the Puritan spectrum stood Prelaticals, although recognized, but the Anglican episcopate a "Entkatholisierung" Liturgy and stricter discipline demanded while the Presbyterians replaced the episcopal hierarchy through a system of ecclesiastical instances that still one in its entirety national church represent should. The decisions of the highest authority should be binding for all communities. Despite their demand for the autonomy of the congregations, the congregationalists still saw themselves as part of the Church of England and wanted to reform it from within according to their model. On the left edge of the Puritan spectrum, the "separatists" were (Separatists), who believed that the principle of local autonomy is not a whatsoever state church agreed to, and completely broke with the Church of England.

Separatists and other congregationalists saw themselves exposed to the worst persecution, since with their demand for community autonomy they became a threat to the state church and thus indirectly to the English king's claim to power. Many of them went into exile in the Netherlands or immigrated to North America , while smaller groups stayed in Great Britain .

Theological foundations

The Puritans rejected the episcopate because they did not find this concept of mediation of salvation handed down in the Bible and so rejected the sola scriptura in accordance with Luther's doctrine . Instead they transferred the federal theological considerations to the question of the community constitution and made the idea of ​​the covenant of God the basis of their organizational principle; in this way they believed they could conform to the constitution of the early church .

A congregational community came into being through the voluntary founding act of the believers, understood as a covenant between the believers and with Christ. They commit themselves in a mutually binding agreement to regulate the fate of the congregation in a godly manner through active participation. The immediate head of every church is therefore Christ. Church membership for the congregationalists was therefore not comprehensive, but limited to one congregation; In the end, every congregation represented its own church, even the Puritans of New England believed they could do without synods at first.

Since the late 19th century, however, there were larger associations of Congregationalist congregations that made common commitments such as the Kansas City Statement of Faith .

Congregational churches

Some associations of congregational congregations united with other Protestant churches in the 20th century , but in which the individual congregations still enjoy a great deal of autonomy:

The Union of Welsh Independents (Undeb Annibynwyr Cymru) in Wales with around 35,000 members is also an independent church .

In the USA there is the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC), to which around 400 parishes and 66,000 members belong. The NACCC is based in Oak Creek, Wisconsin , a suburb of Milwaukee .

In 2000, counted Association of Religious Data Archives in the US also 250 congregations with 50,000 members, for as evangelical classified Conservative Congregational Christian Conference included, and 104 independent congregational churches with 18,000 members not belonging to any national association, they to Mainline Churches calculates.

The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC), founded in 1948 and based in Lake Elmo , Washington County (Minnesota), is part of the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship founded in 1986 in Sussex, England . Around 1400 parishes worldwide belong to the WECF. Also a member of the WECF is the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, founded in 1967 , to which 125 parishes in Great Britain belong.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Association of Religious Data Archives ( Memento of the original from March 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. WECF website ( Memento from April 16, 2013 in the web archive ) (accessed on: February 16, 2012)