Uniate Churches (Protestant)

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Closing remarks of the Baden Union Charter, July 26, 1821

The term Uniate Church denotes the churches that have emerged from the union (union) of various Protestant denominations .

Church window in the Wiesloch town church with Martin Luther (l.) And Johannes Calvin (r.) In memory of the Badische Union from 1821.

History in Germany

The Lutheran and the Reformed or Calvinist branches of the Reformation emerged independently of one another in the first half of the 16th century. Attempts to unite the two branches failed in particular because of different theological views on the Lord's Supper (cf. for example the Marburg Religious Discussion in 1529 between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli ) and on Christology .

In the following two centuries, individual theologians of both church families occasionally advocated a rapprochement or even unification of the two directions of the Reformation, which was strictly rejected by the dominant currents of Calvinist and Lutheran orthodoxy . So was z. For example, in Saxony, in 1601, the former Chancellor Nikolaus Krell was executed as an accused of crypto- calvinism at the instigation of the Saxon electress-widow Sophie von Sachsen . His goal was a European union of all Protestants and the end of the fratricidal war between the two church families of the Reformation, the Lutheran and the Reformed churches.

In the course of the 18th century, due to alternative philosophical approaches in the Age of Enlightenment , these theological differences flattened.

The economic difficulties caused by the Napoleonic wars pushed the theological differences further into the background and the possible synergy effects of a union into the foreground. At the beginning of the 19th century, church unions came about in some areas of Germany in which the two Protestant denominations had previously existed in parallel.

Union movement in the 19th century

Union from above

In some cases the initiative came from the state authorities - according to the state church law of the time, the sovereign had the role of head of the church over his Protestant regional church because the function of bishop had been lost with the Reformation .

In Prussia, for example, Lutheran and Reformed congregations merged into the Evangelical Church in Prussia in 1817, later the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union . Against this by King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The Union decreed by Prussia turned the Lutheran denominational congregations - later called Old Lutherans - with their pastors in a dispute on the agenda .

Unification from below

In other cases, the churches were also united from below. In some cases, Union efforts began in Germany at the time of the Enlightenment ; in the areas on the left bank of the Rhine they became popular at the time of the French Revolution .

So there was B. already in the year 1801/02 union efforts in Simmern / Hunsrück , Meisenheim (Glan) and Saarbrücken as well as in the Donnersberg department . However, the state authorities in these French-occupied territories at the time refused to accept the requests of the pastors and parishes because they did not want to interfere with the existing church conditions. It was not until 1817, after the greater part of what is now Saarland had fallen to Prussia , that the Saarbrücken Lutheran and Reformed pastors dared a new approach, which was approved by the Berlin authorities. This resulted in the " Saarbrücker Union ", even before the Union resolution of the Prussian government for the other Prussian areas was decreed "from above". In the French-occupied city of Mainz , where Protestants have not yet been able to found any parishes, the first United Parish was founded in 1802. In 1803 a corresponding foundation followed in Koblenz .

The Hanau Union is one of the unions “from below” . Here in 1818 at a synod for the area of ​​the former County of Hanau-Münzenberg , at that time part of the Electorate of Hesse , 59 Reformed and 22 Lutheran pastors as well as numerous church elders united their congregations into one uniate church. This union is also known as the “bookbinding union” because - for economic reasons - the Reformed Heidelberg Catechism and Luther's Catechism were simply bound together in one book and it was left to the faithful to choose what they used.

In some other German states the Lutheran and Reformed churches also merged to form united churches, for example in Baden (Union document from 1821), Anhalt , Rheinhessen and the Palatinate (in Kaiserslautern 1818).

Church struggle and "Confessing Church"

The doctrinal differences of the 16th century lost their importance in Germany after the First World War. In the time of the Third Reich, other doctrinal differences gained importance: the communities and currents of the Lutheran and Reformed denominations united in the Confessing Church defended themselves against the German Christians who were loyal to Hitler and infiltrating the Evangelical Church, not only in terms of organization, but also in terms of content.

After the collapse of the Third Reich, the standpoints in connection with the Confessing Church continued to converge, and the awareness of being together with Lutheran and Reformed roots as the “Evangelical Church” was strengthened. This “union” resulting in content was and is reflected in the great importance of the Barmen Theological Declaration of 1934. In retrospect, it can be seen as a uniate confessional document.

Current state

Without blurring the traditional borders, overcoming the mutual denominational upheavals between Reformed and Lutherans has always been a particular concern of the United Churches. This also includes a special interest in ecumenical dialogue. That is why they particularly promote the community of Protestant churches in Europe .

After the Second World War, the United Churches founded the Arnoldshain Conference and the Evangelical Church of the Union (EKU), which became part of the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK) on July 1, 2003 .

Types of association

In the unions described here, a distinction is made between an administrative union and a confessional union .

It is an administrative union if only the church administrations are united, but the individual parishes retain their different denominations (Lutheran, Reformed or United) - so the so-called Hanau example, but also the union in the then Prussian Rhine Province (today: Evangelical Church in the Rhineland ). In fact, the so-called state of confession of a congregation can be recognized by the agende (order of worship) and / or the catechism used (for Reformed congregations usually the Heidelberg catechism , otherwise mostly the so-called small catechism of Martin Luther ).

The Confessional Union, on the other hand, creates a new basis of confession for all congregations by resolving or simply excluding previously controversial theological questions through new confessional writings or catechisms. For the Evangelical Regional Church in Baden, for example, the union charter of 1821 settled the differences in the understanding of the sacrament between the Reformed and Lutherans in Baden. Usually a confessional union is also associated with the abolition of the previous catechisms and the introduction of a new, common catechism.

Uniate regional churches within the EKD

Administrative unions

The Pomeranian Evangelical Church in Greifswald also belonged to this group, which was incorporated into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany at Pentecost 2012 .

Confessional unions

Worldwide situation

There are also uniate churches outside of Germany. In addition to purely organizational administrative unions such as the Evangelical Church A. u. H. B. in Austria there are also real confessional unions, such as the United Church of Christ in the USA or the United Church of Canada .

There are four United Churches on the Indian subcontinent that belong to both the Anglican Communion and the World Council of Methodist Churches : the Church of South India , Church of Pakistan , Church of Bangladesh and the Church of North India . These four churches consist of Presbyterians , Methodists and Anglicans and united in the second half of the 20th century.

In ecumenical usage a distinction must be made between “united” and “uniting”. The “united” churches are already united, the “uniting” churches are usually still in the unification process (with the exception of the Uniting Church in Australia ).

Worldwide examples of United Churches

Confessional unions

Administrative unions

There are Reformed, Old Reformed, Lutheran and Protestant (United) congregations.

See also


  • John Webster Grant (Ed.): The United Churches. ( The churches of the world 10), Evangelisches Verlagswerk, Stuttgart 1973 (Repr. De Gruyter, Berlin).
  • The history of the Evangelical Church of the Union. A manual. Edited on behalf of the Evangelical Church of the Union by JF Gerhard Goeters and Joachim Rogge , Vol. 1–3, Leipzig 1992–1999.
  • Martin Friedrich : From Marburg to Leuenberg. The Lutheran-Reformed Contrast and Overcoming it , Waltrop 1999.
  • Michael Beyer, Ferdinand R. Gahbauer, Wolf Friedrich Schäufele a. a .: Art. Union, Church. In: Theological Real Encyclopedia. 34 (2002), pp. 311–331 (I. use of language and definition of terms; II. Unions of the Orthodox churches with the Roman Catholic Church; III. Unions of the Protestant churches with the Roman Catholic Church; IV. Inter-Protestant unions and unions between Protestant and Anglican churches, IV / 1. Germany; V / 2. Non-German).
  • Hermann-Peter Eberlein, Andreas Metzing, Andreas Mühling, Gerd Rosenbrock (eds.): Rhenish union catechisms. Düsseldorf 2010, ISBN 978-3-930250-50-9 .

Individual evidence

  1. L'Eglise protestante unie (French)
  2. ^ Austria-Lexikon: Evangelical Church A. u. H. B.
  3. ^ Verenigde Protestantse Kerk in België (Dutch)
  4. ^ Union des Églises protestantes d'Alsace et de Lorraine (French)
  5. Stefan Grelewski: wyznania protestanckie i sekty religijne w Polsce współczesnej . Lublin 1937, p. 341 (Polish, online ).