German Evangelical Church Confederation

The German Evangelical Church Confederation (German: Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund, abbreviated DEK) was a formal federation of regional Protestant church bodies (Landeskirchen) of Lutheran, Reformed or united Protestant administration or confession. It existed during the Weimar Republic from 1922 until 1933.[1] It was a predecessor body to the Evangelical Church in Germany.


Besides the smaller Protestant denominations of the Mennonites, Baptists and Methodists, which were organised crossing state borders along denominational lines, there were 29 (later 28) church bodies organised according to the territorial borders of the German states or the Prussian provinces.[2] Those Protestant church bodies, covering the territory of former monarchies with a ruling Protestant dynasty, had been state churches until 1918, with the exception of the Protestant church bodies in territories annexed by Prussia in 1866. Others had been no less territorially defined Protestant minority church bodies within Catholic monarchies, where before 1918 the Roman Catholic Church played the role of state church. Starting in 1852 the German Evangelical Church Conference (aka Eisenach Conference; Deutsche Evangelische Kirchenkonferenz, or Eisenacher Konferenz) became a steady coordinating organisation, which more and more state churches joined. Its executive body was the German Evangelical Church Committee (Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenausschuss; DEKA).

Under the Weimar Constitution, there would be no state churches any longer, but the churches remained public corporations and retained their subsidies from government.[3] The theological faculties in the universities continued, as did religious instruction in the schools, however, allowing the parents to opt out for their children. The rights formerly held by the monarchs in the German Empire simply devolved to church councils instead, and the high-ranking church administrators —who had been civil servants in the Empire —simply became church officials instead. Chairpersons elected by synods were introduced into the governing structures of the churches.

After the system of state churches had ended with the abolition of the monarchies in the German states, the merger of the Protestant church bodies within Germany became a viable option. A merger of the Protestant regional churches was permanently under discussion, but never materialised due to strong regional self-confidence and traditions as well as the denominational fragmentation into Lutheran, Calvinist and united churches. The German Evangelical Church Confederation was prepared for with conferences in Cassel in 1919, in Dresden 1919 and Stuttgart in 1921.[4] The then 29 territorially defined German Protestant church bodies formed Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund following the model of Schweizerischer Evangelischer Kirchenbund established by the Swiss Landeskirchen in 1920. The German Evangelical Church Conference was then dissolved. Save for the organisational matters under the jurisdiction of the Confederation, the regional churches remained independent in all other matters, including especially theology, since they comprised churches of different confessional compositions. This federal system allowed for a great deal of regional autonomy in the governance of German Protestantism, as it allowed for a confederated church parliament that served as a forum for discussion and that endeavoured to resolve theological and organisational conflicts.

The Confederation was reorganised when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, in order to become the core of a future united Protestant church in Germany. However, when Nazi-submissive proponents of the German Christians usurped that project, the new united German Evangelical Church turned out to be a heretical, rather un-Protestant top-down hierarchical institution. Lacking any synodal and presbyterial democracy and with the new church's attitude to reserve baptism and thus church membership to so-called Aryans only, the German Christians betrayed the universality of the baptism, which is why many former supporters of a united Protestant church then refused their collaboration (see Confessing Church). After the end of the Nazi reign the surviving regional Protestant church bodies in Germany founded a new umbrella in August 1945, the Evangelical Church in Germany.


The Confederation was governed and administered by a 36-member Executive Committee (Kirchenausschuss), which was responsible for ongoing governance between the annual conventions of the Church General Assembly (Kirchentag). This assembly was composed of elected representatives of the various regional churches.

Member churches

The following independent regional Protestant church bodies were members in the German Evangelical Church Confederation:

Associated members


  1. Brethren in adversity: Bishop George Bell, the Church of England p7 George Kennedy Allen Bell, Andrew Chandler - 1997 "In May 1922 a new German Evangelical Church Confederation, the Deutsche Evangelische Kirchenbund, was established with a Kirchentag, or assembly, of 210 representatives, a Kirchenbundesrat, or Church Confederation Council, ..."
  2. The correlation between political state (German: Land) and church region in the Weimar period was not necessarily exact, because regional churches mostly did not comply to territorial changes in the 19th century.
  3. The government in effect collected church fees from those taxpayers enlisted as parishioners and distributed these funds to the churches.
  4. Siegfried Hermle Handbuch der Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchen 1918 bis 1949 p15 - 2010 "Die Gründung des Kirchenbundes wurde vorbereitet durch eine Vorkonferenz in Kassel 1919 und die Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchentage in Dresden 1919 und Stuttgart 1921."
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Sebastian Müller-Rolli in collaboration with Reiner Anselm, Evangelische Schulpolitik in Deutschland 1918–1958: Dokumente und Darstellung, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999, (=Eine Veröffentlichung des Comenius-Instituts Münster), p. 30. ISBN 3-525-61362-8.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Sebastian Müller-Rolli in collaboration with Reiner Anselm, Evangelische Schulpolitik in Deutschland 1918–1958: Dokumente und Darstellung, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999, (=Eine Veröffentlichung des Comenius-Instituts Münster), p. 29. ISBN 3-525-61362-8.
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