Friends of light

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The Friends of Light (Association of Protestant Friends) were a rationalist Protestant group with a focus on central Germany in the 19th century. They advocated a practical Christianity that was reasonable from their point of view, which in the long term led to a departure from the Protestant regional churches. The name "Friends of Light" was based on a derisive term used by the opponents, which however quickly prevailed and was sometimes adopted as a self-term.

As a result of the actions of the Evangelical Church in Prussia against the rationalist pastor Wilhelm Franz Sintenis in the Magdeburg iconoclasm , 16 pastors gathered in Gnadau on June 29, 1841 at the invitation of Pastor Leberecht Uhlich as an opposition group within the church and founded the Association of Protestant Friends .

Above all in the Prussian province of Saxony , but also beyond, various local associations of light friends came into being. Since 1842, general meetings have been held twice a year under the leadership of Uhlich in his hometown of Köthen . Köthen, located in the Duchy of Anhalt-Köthen , was also chosen to avoid countermeasures by Prussia. About 600 people appeared in Koethen for the Whitsun meeting in 1844; at events in 1845 there were several thousand people. As one of the mainsprings of the March Revolution of 1848, the Friends of Light had up to 150,000 members.

Initially, the Friends of Light represented the views of Enlightenment theology , as emerges from a creed published in 1842:

“We believe in God, our heavenly Father, we believe in the eternal task of man, that he lead a virtuous life and continually stride further in it; we believe in our continuation beyond the grave. We believe that these main truths of all religion have been presented to people in the most perfect way through Jesus 'teaching and have found the best communication in Jesus' person, that is, the best means of illustration for the mind, the best point of contact for the feeling [...]. "

Pastor Gustav Adolf Wislicenus from Halle exercised a biblical criticism that went beyond classical rationalism and took up ideas from David Friedrich Strauss and Ludwig Feuerbach . He was released from church service and documented this process in a publication. Then he built up a free evangelical community in Halle himself. The churches he founded and looked after in pastoral care were later continued by his brother Adolf Timotheus Wislicenus , who built up a church in Halberstadt as early as 1847 .

Pastor Uhlich was able to fight for a pastor's position in Magdeburg , but was subjected to severe state harassment himself when he defended his more aggressive colleague Gustav Wislicenus. His removal is said to have taken place at the behest of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV . He then built up the free community in Magdeburg.

Pastor Eduard Baltzer had a far-reaching life program - vegetarianism and Froebel kindergartens - which he sought to develop in his church plant in Nordhausen . He later also became the first president of the Federation of Free Religious Congregations . But also in distant areas of what was then Prussia, communities emerged, for example in Königsberg in 1846 , where Julius Rupp was one of the founding members. In Marburg , Karl Theodor Bayrhoffer founded his free church associated with the Friends of Light.

The free discussion of the people about their beliefs seemed questionable to the king and the church, and so in the fight for a constitution that also guaranteed religious freedom, prohibitions and permissions alternated. The meetings were banned in 1845, but on March 30, 1847, existing congregations were given a royal patent that guaranteed them free religious practice. However, the prerequisite was the registration of the municipalities with the state, which most municipalities refused.

In 1848 Baltzer and Wislicenus took part in the Frankfurt pre-parliament , Uhlich and Baltzer were elected to the Prussian National Assembly. At that time there were 40 parishes in Germany. After the brief upswing of the revolution of 1848/49, the repression took place all the more decisively in the era of reaction that followed. According to the national-liberal and thus Christian national-ecumenical concept of the Friends of Light, contact with the national-liberal Catholics was good from the very beginning. In 1859, the Free Congregations united with the German-Catholic to form the Federation of Free Religious Congregations.

In Austria the Friends of Light were banned in 1851 and their associations were dissolved on the grounds that they were pursuing political party efforts "under the guise of an allegedly religious creed".


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from Martin Friedrich : The Prussian Church in Vormärz . Waltrop 1994, p. 464.
  2. Ordinance of the Minister of the Interior of November 16, 1851, effective for all crown lands, regarding the prohibition of the so-called light friends, German Catholics, free Christians and similar associations.