Sculpture by Ulle Hees in the pedestrian precinct in Wuppertal-Barmen as a memorial to the Barmen theological declaration. (photo:Frank Vincentz, CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Brief History of the EKiR
From the Congress of Vienna to today
The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) extends across
the area of the former Prussian Rhine Province.
The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland lies between
Emmerich and Saarbrücken. It includes areas in the four federal states of North
Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and the Saarland. The borders of
the Rhineland Church are a heritage from the past, when in 1815 the Congress of
Vienna granted the Rhine Province to the Prussian State.
It was the Prussian King Frederick William III who
prompted the creation of a church union between the Reformed and Lutheran
congregations in the Rhineland. Up to the beginning of the 19th
century Catholic, Reformed and Lutheran congregations had managed to co-exist with
some difficulty. There were 150 different territorial rulers who tried to offer
them protection, as laid down by the Peace of Augsburg and the Peace of
Westphalia after the 30-years war.
The local church
congregations in the Rhineland have a strong regional sense of identity. Great
importance is given to lay participation and self-government. This is still
reflected today in the Church constitution, which lays particular emphasis on
the responsibilities of the church councils and synods. The Evangelical Church
in the Rhineland has a “presbyterial-synodical” structure. This means that at
every level the leadership is made up of elected members and that on principle
decisions are made collectively.
We believe that every
person who responds to the message of the Bible can bring their own gifts,
experiences and ideas as a contribution towards helping people to live together
in hope and peace, and to preserve the basic principles of life. But we also
believe that it is only when many join together in consultation and
co-operation that viable and effective ways forward for all become evident.
was for this reason that during the struggle of the church against National
Socialism, many parishes in the Rhineland were able to maintain their
independence as congregations of the Confessing Church. It was not by chance that the Evangelical parish
church of Barmen-Gemarke in Wuppertal was chosen in 1934 as the location for
the first general meeting of the Confessing Church Synod, at which the
groundbreaking “Theological Declaration of Barmen” was adopted. And today we
still see ourselves as duty-bound to spread the good news of God’s grace “to
all people”, as was formulated in the Barmen Declaration in 1934.
also means that the church’s position needs to be brought into social and
political dialogue. Here the variety of
our traditions is our strong point. Lutheran, Reformed and United
congregations, rural areas and urban municipalities, all have different
perceptions of social reality.
debate is a typical feature of the Rhineland.
That was seen in the eighties when the main topic was peace, and it is
the same today with, for example, the debate about marriage and partnerships.
“Unity” cannot always be achieved – but at least there can be a readiness to
accept our differences and to test out new ways of doing things on a trial
Structure from the bottom up
the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland has 719 parishes in 38 church
districts. The leadership of the local congregation rests in the Church Council
(Presbyterium). This consists of: Elders
elected from among the church members, elected staff members, and the
District Synod (Kreissynode) is made up of representatives of the Church
Councils. The Superintendent and the
executive group of the District Synod are elected from among them. The District
Synods delegate their representatives to the Regional Synod (Landessynode). The members of the Regional Synod elect the President
and the Synod Executive (Praesidium), which forms the leadership of the Church.
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