Evangelical Church in Germany

The Evangelical Church in Germany (German: Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, abbreviated EKD) is a federation of twenty Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist) and United (e.g. Prussian Union) Protestant regional churches and denominations in Germany, which collectively encompasses the vast majority of Protestants in that country. In 2019, the EKD had a membership of 20,713,000 members, or 24.9% of the German population.[3] It constitutes one of the largest national Protestant bodies in the world. Church offices managing the federation are located in Hannover-Herrenhausen, Lower Saxony. Many of its members consider themselves Lutherans.

Evangelical Church in Germany
Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland
ClassificationProtestant
OrientationUnited (Prussian Union)
Lutheran
Reformed
PolityEpiscopal
Presbyterian
Congregationalist
AssociationsWorld Council of Churches
Community of Protestant
Churches in Europe
RegionGermany
Origin1948; 73 years ago (1948)[1]
Members2019 EKD data:
20.7 million
~49.7% United Protestant (Lutheran and Reformed)
~48.7% Lutheran
~1.5% Reformed[2][3][4]
Official websitewww.ekd.de

Historically, the first formal attempt to unify German Protestantism occurred during the Weimar Republic era in the form of the German Evangelical Church Confederation, which existed from 1922 until 1933. Earlier, there had been successful royal efforts at unity in various German states, beginning with Prussia and several minor German states (e.g. Duchy of Nassau) in 1817. These unions resulted in the first united and uniting churches, a new development within Protestantism which later spread to other parts of the world.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, his administration tried to reorganize the old confederation into a unified German Evangelical Church as Hitler wanted to use a single Protestant church to further his own ambitions. This utterly failed, with the Confessing Church and the German Christians-led Reichskirche opposing each other. Other Protestant churches aligned themselves with one of these groups, or stayed neutral in this church strife.

The postwar church council issued the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt on October 19, 1945, confessing guilt and declaring remorse for indifference and inaction of German Protestants in the face of atrocities committed by Hitler's regime as means to address the German collective guilt. In 1948, the Evangelical Church in Germany was organized in the aftermath of World War II to function as a new umbrella organization for German Protestant churches. As a result of tensions between West and East Germany, the regional churches in East Germany broke away from the EKD in 1969. In 1991, following German reunification, the East German churches rejoined the EKD.

The member churches (Gliedkirchen), while being independent and having their own theological and formal organisation, share full pulpit and altar fellowship, and are united in the EKD synod, but they act as individual members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). Boundaries of EKD churches within Germany partially resemble those of the states of the Holy Roman Empire and successor forms of German statehood (to the most part 1815 borders), due to the historically close relationship between individual German states and churches.

As for church governance, the Lutheran churches typically practise an episcopal polity, while the Reformed and the United ones a mixture of presbyterian and congregationalist polities. Most member churches are led by a (state) bishop. Only one member church, the Evangelical Reformed Church in Germany, is not restricted to a certain territory. In some ways, the other member churches resemble dioceses of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, from an organisational point of view.