Clarification on the Misnomer „State Church of Germany“

In Germany the separation of church and state began in 1849 and was completed in 1919. The term „State Church“ is a misnomer. Some theologians not so well versed in English still refer to the Landeskirche as „State Church“ ignoring the political connotation and the geographical reference implied in the name. The Term „Staatskirche“ is no longer in use. Compound words such as Staatskircherecht or Staatskirchenvertrag relate only to the juxtaposition of the two in their legal aspects.

The term Landeskirche is better translated „Regional Church“ or „Provincial Church“ since the boundaries of these independent entities traditionally follow regional or provincial borders. Whereas the English word „State“ can be used for both „Staat“ (State in the sense of an independent State or Nation) and „Land“ (State in the sense of „Bundesstaat“/Province/State in a federation of States), the usage of „Landeskirche“ refers only to the provincial aspect.

The Term  „Peoples Church“ („Volkskirche“) refers to the sum of all provincial/regional Churches including the roman catholic church, which was reduced to a regional church after the reformation and only recently is it present in most areas of the western German States, where it imitates the protestant regional structure as does the protestant the roman catholic in areas with traditional roman catholic rule.†

Granted, there are people – and even functionaries within the regional Churches of Germany – who think of their Church as a privileged „State Church“ and are keen to keep close ties with the government and political parties, but other denominations and religious communities such as the Jehova’s Witnesses have acheived the same „privileged status“ (v. The German Government is working hard on finding a coalition of Muslims, whom they could grant this same status to, but are having dificulties bringing enough Muslims together with a clear loyalty to the constitutional foundations of the state.

„Separation of Church and State“ is sometimes confused in the German context with the separatist movement within evangelical denominations, which reflects the view that only the „exclusive“ Church, which separates itself from the „world“ can be considered the true Church.  Examples of this separatist standpoint can be found in certain Baptist or congregationalist Churches, which don’t even recognize co-religionsts of other Denominations as truly born-again…

The Evangelical Alliance of Germany brings all evangelical elements of all the Churches with no such exclusive claims in a loose fellowship based on mutual respect together.

It is interesting to note that there are easily as many true followers of Christ in the evangelical Lutheran Church of Württemberg alone (just one of the some 20 regional Churches of Germany) as there are even nominal Baptists in all of Germany (ca. 82,000). The baptist Churches – as do all other denominations – have their fair share of members who do not actively follow Christ or even participate in Church activities.

The pietist movement within the „Peoples Church“ of Germany has traditionally taken the stand that we need to be salt and light within our own church and should not leave it until we are compelled to by excommunication. That is slowly changing, mostly due to the intransigence of the church leadership in matters relating to liberalization of doctrine (homosexuality, universal grace etc.) and modernization of the liturgy (the latter is often only a petty excuse for other dissatisfaction).

More people come to a living faith in Christ and a life in discipleship in Germany each year in the peoples‘ churches than in all „free churches“ put together – there is just in general an inherent unwillingness on the part of separatists to accept that fact.

The German Evangelical Alliance combines born again followers of Christ from all of the region churches and all other non-heretic protestant denominations in Germany. On this level there is no controversy as to which church a believer must attend.

Within the DEA/GEA the free denominations are keen to have the respectability and acceptance of members of the regional churches in leadership positions within the GEA.

† v. Wikipedia:

In Deutschland besteht kraft Verfassungsrecht (Art. 137 der Weimarer Reichsverfassung) keine Staatskirche. Nach dem Ende des Ersten Weltkrieges und des bisherigen Systems von Staatskirchen regelte die Weimarer Nationalversammlung 1919 in der Weimarer Reichsverfassung das Verhältnis von Kirchen und Staat neu… In Deutschland ist das Verhältnis von Kirchen bzw. Religionsgemeinschaften und Staat daher partnerschaftlich. Es gibt Konkordate und andere Staatskirchenverträge. Die weltanschauliche Neutralität des Staates, der sich mit keiner Religionsgemeinschaft identifizieren darf, lässt „gemeinsame Angelegenheiten“ (res mixtae) entstehen. So dürfen etwa die Gemeinschaften mit „KörperschaftsstatusKirchensteuer (im Falle der jüdischen Gemeinden abweichend Kultussteuer genannt) erheben. In der Praxis wird diese Steuer in den meisten Fällen von den staatlichen Finanzbehörden im Auftrag der Kirchen gegen Kostenersatz eingezogen sowie bei abhängig Beschäftigten als Quellensteuer durch die Arbeitgeber abgeführt. (Wikipedia contributors. „Trennung von Kirche und Staat“. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Juli 20, 2012.

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