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Germany, Lutheran Free Churches in.

1. Before the monarchy in Ger. was abolished 1918, the state ch. was controlled by the govt. One result was much interference by the state in the ch. Confessionalism was destroyed in many chs. by rationalism* and unionism.* In the 19th c. some Luths. organized free chs. for the sake of confessionalism and to avoid state control. The oldest of these chs. is the Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch. (also called Breslau Syn.), which originated 1830 in Prussia when Frederick* William III ordered enforcement of the union decreed 1817 and use of a unified Agende (see also Prussian Union). In Breslau, J. G. Scheibel* refused to conform. Many ch. mems. and some pastors in Silesia joined him. Among those that joined were G. P. E. Huschke* and H. Steffens.* For more than 10 yrs. the Old Luths. were persecuted by the state. Many went overseas (see Australia, B–C; Buffalo Synod, 1). In 1845 they were granted toleration by the “Generalkonzession” (see Frederick William IV).

2. The movement spread steadily. By 1860 it numbered over 50,000, by 1918 over 60,000, with ca. 80 ministers serving ca. 180 congs. Its inner buildup was guided by Huschke. He created a const. according to which directire power is in the hands of the gen. ch. council, responsible to the gen. syn., the highest ecclesiastical authority. Cong. regulations are concerned with ev. ch.-discipline alongside doctrinal discipline. Elders are to aid pastors in spiritual care. A theol. sem. (1883–1945), a deaconess motherhouse, and support of the Leipzig* Ev. Luth. Miss. gave witness of active spiritual life.

3. Due to controversy about ch. polity, a number of individuals withdrew 1861–62 and formed the Immanuel Syn. 1864; reunion was achieved 1904. Soon after the end of WW II half of the congs. were dissolved, mainly the old original parishes in E Ger. provinces. The Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch. in 1968 numbered ca. 37,000 mems. Since the Luth. territorial chs. of Ger. joined the EKD (see Germany, C 5; Union Movements, 8–9) after WW II, the Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch. broke off ch. relations with them and allied more closely with other Free Churches. Church fellowship was est. January 1948 with the Ev.-Luth. Free Ch. and the Mo. Syn. In place of the abandoned Breslau Sem. a new theol. school was est.; it was dedicated at Oberursel June 13, 1948; it is operated by the Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch. and the Ev.-Luth. Free Ch.

4. The Ev.-Luth. Free Ch. has a double root. F. A. Brunn* left the Nassau Ch. 1846 with 26 families and in nearby Steeden founded a Free Luth. Ch. that was severely persecuted by the govt. But the 1848 revolution brought toleration. More Luth. congs. formed in Nassau. They joined the Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch. of Prussia, but after the withdrawal that led to formation of the Immanuel Syn. (see par. 3 above), they also withdrew. Brunn had est. contact with C. F. W. Walther* in the 1850s. After Walther's 1860 visit in Ger., Brunn founded a “Proseminar” in Steeden which sent 235 candidates to the Mo. Syn.

5. In Saxony 2 Luth. laymen est. “Lutheranervereine” (Luth. socs.) in Dresden, Planitz, and Zwickau. These socs. strengthened their mems. spiritually by studying the Luth. Confessions and writings of Walther, Brunn, et al. When the state ch. abolished the old confessional subscription of the clergy 1871, the socs. lost all hope of improving ch. circumstances. They withdrew from the state ch., united with Free Luth. congs., and called F. C. T. Ruhland,* of the Mo. Syn., to be their pastor. Soon other pastors were found in Ger., including H. Z. Stallmann,* O. H. T. Willkomm,* and K. G. Stöckhardt.* The Syn. of the Ev.-Luth. Free Ch. in Saxony was formed 1876; the words “and Other States” were added to the name when congs. at Steeden, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Ansbach joined 1877.

6. Ruhland was the 1st pres. of this syn. According to its const., all spiritual power lay in the parish, but with syn., advisory, not legislative, exercising spiritual influence in overseeing doctrine and life. A conflict about predestination, beginning ca. 1880, and a 1906 conflict about justifying faith led to painful separations from the syn. In syn. convs. and pastoral confs., doctrinal discussions are of prime importance.

7. Free Luth. parishes in Hanover, E. Prussia, Den., and S Ger. joined. In 1968 the Ev. Luth Free Ch. numbered ca. 15,000 mems. Like the Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch., the Ev.-Luth. Free Ch. suffers under the division of Ger. The ch. press in the E was suppressed. Importing ch. leaflets from the W was prohibited. The parish school system had been abolished under the Nazis. But unity of faith and confession remained. The theol. sem. at Leipzig became the educational center for students of the E part of the ch.

8. The Indep. Ev. Luth. Ch. has its parishes in W. Ger. It came into being 1947–50 and is an alliance of 5 Luth. Free Chs., formerly indep., that exist as dioceses in the new church. 1968 membership ca. 21,000.

9. The oldest of the 5 chs. in the Indep. Ev. Luth. Ch. is the Ev. Luth. Free Ch. of Baden, where Karl Eichhorn (b. 1810 at Kernbach, Baden; educ. Halle; pastor Bolshelm; left Baden Est. Ch. and joined Luth. Free Ch. 1850; active in lhringen and Waldeck) led the struggle for the awakening of the Luth. Ch. Despite yrs. of persecution by the state, he succeeded in gathering a number of congs. The diocese of Baden has ca. 5,500 mems.

10. Two Luth. Free Chs. developed in Hesse against a complicated hist. background as Hessian and Lower Hessian dioceses. They contended for freedom of the ch. from the state and defended themselves against the unionistic ch. policy of the state ch. In 1873–75 they were separated from the state ch. and founded an indep., free ch. 1877. The Hessian Diocese has ca. 3,800 mems., the Lower Hessian Diocese ca. 1,600 mems.

11. The roots of the Hanover and the Hermannsburg-Hamburg-dioceses lie in the awakening movement connected with G. L. D. T. Harms.* His followers watched rationalistic and unionistic influences in the Luth. state ch. of the province of Hannover with growing anxiety, esp. after the land was annexed by Prussia in 1866. When a new marriage rite was introd. 1875, several pastors, including T. Harms,* refused to adopt it; among them was T. Harms,* brother and follower of G. L. D. T. Harms. They were dismissed from office and forsook the state ch., taking a large segment of their congs, with them. Unfortunately questions about ch. organization soon divided this Free Ch. The split became deeper when the Hermannsburg* Miss.; resumed closer relations with the state ch. 1890. The Hermannsburg-Hamburg Free Ch. continued to support the Hermannsburg Miss.; the Hanover Free Ch. est. its own miss. 1892 with headquarters in Bleckmar (see also Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Churches). The Hanover Diocese has ca. 5,400 mems., the Hermannsburg-Hamburg Diocese ca. 4,600 mems.

12. The Indep. Ev. Luth. Ch. is headed by the gen. supt. and the supts. of dioceses, assisted by an advisory council. All decisions of the leadership are subject to diocesan approval.

13. The Ev. Luth. Confessional Ch. (Ev.-luth. Bekenntnis-Kirche in der Diaspora) began 1946 as Ev. Luth. Refugee Miss. Ch. (Ev.-luth. Flüchtlingsmissions-Kirche) and changed to its present name 1951. It consists of mems. of the former Ev. Luth. Free Ch. of Poland, founded 1924 in Lodz; made contact with the Wisconsin* Ev. Luth. Syn.; has ca. 3,400 mems.

14. The Luth. Free Chs. of Ger. are in pulpit and altar fellowship with each other. The Ev. Luth. (Old Luth.) Ch., the Ev. Luth. Free Ch., and the Indep. Ev. Luth. Ch. united 1958 to form the Work Union of Free Ev. Luth. Chs. in Ger. (Arbeitsgemeinschaft freier ev.-luth. Kitchen in Deutschland). These 3 chs. merged 1972/73 to form the Indep. Ev. Luth. Ch. (Selbstäindige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche); the Ev. Luth. Confessional Ch. (13) did not enter the merger.

E. Bingmann, Geschichte der hannoverschen evang-luth. Freikirche (Celle, 1924); F. Brunn, Mitteilungen aus meinem Leben (Zwickau, n. d.); G. Froböss, Drei Lutheraner an der Universität Breslau (Breslau, 1911) and Die Evangelischlutherischen Freikirehen in Deutschland, 2d ed. (Leipzig, 1913); G. Herrmann, “Vorgeschichte und Anfänge der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Freikirche in Sachsen und anderen Staaten,” Lutherischer Rundblick, VIII (1960), 12–31; A. Lückhoff, Die lutherischen Freikirchenverfassungen in Deutschland (Lüchow, 1960); G. Malschner-Maliszewski, “Die evangelisch-lutherische Bekenntniskirche in der Diaspora,” Viele Glieder—Ein Leib, ed. U. Kunz (Stuttgart, 1953), pp. 40–43; A. Mie, Die lutherischen Freikirchen in Deutschland (Molzen, n. d.); K. Müller, Die selbständige evangelischlutherische Kirche in den hessischen Landen (Elberfeld, 1906); G. J. S. Nagel, Unsere Heimatkirche, 2d ed. (Breslau, 1924); J. Nagel, Die evangelischlutherische Kirche in Preussen und der Staat (Stuttgart, 1869) and Die Errettung der evang-luth. Kirche in Preussen (Erlangen, 1869); J. G. Scheibel, Actenmässige Geschichte der neuesten Unternehmung einer Union zwischen der reformirten und lutherischen Kirche, vorzüglich durch gemeinschaftliche Agende in Deutschland, und besonders in dem preussischen Staate, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1834); K. Wicke, Die hessische Renitenz (Kassel, 1930); Eine kleine Kraft, ed. M. Willkomm (Zwickau, 1921); W. Wöhling, Geschichte der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Freikirche in Sachsen u. a. St.. (Zwickau, 1925); Continuing in His Word (Milwaukee, 1951), pp. 251–260. GR (tr. EH)

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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