Evangelical Church Conference
Evangelical Church Conference the name of periodical meetings of delegates of the Protestant state churches of Germany. The object of these meetings is, to have a free exchange of opinion on important questions of ecclesiastical life, to furnish a bond of union for the several Protestant state churches of Germany, and: to advance their harmonious development. The impulse to meetings of this kind proceeded, in 1815, from king Wilhelm of Wirtemberg. Invitations to a conference were issued conjointly by Prussia and Wurtemberg to the governments of South Germany, and by Prussia. and Hanover to the governments of Northern Germany. At the first conference, which met at Berlin in 1846, the Church boards of all the German states except Austria, Bavaria, Oldenburg, and the FreeCities were represented. This meeting was secret, and the proceedings have never been officially published. It is known, however, that they concerned the periodical holding of conferences of this kind, confessions, liturgy, and Church constitution. The second meeting was to have been held at Stuttgardt in 1848, but did not take place, in consequence of the disturbances caused by the revolution. At the Church diets (q.v.) of Stuttgardt (1850) and Elberfeld (1851), ecclesiastical officers of several countries deliberated on the resumption of the official Church conferences, and suggested the establishment of a central organ, which was to contain the decrees of all the supreme Church boards of the German States. Accordingly, the conference met ,again at Eisenach in June 1852, and in the same year an official central organ of the German Church governments was established at Stuttgardt (Allgem. Kirchenblatt fur das evangel. Deutschland). Since then the conference has met always at Eisenach, in 1855, 1857, 1859, 1861, 1863, 1865, and 1868. One of the first results of the conferences was a compilation of 150 of the best German Protestant hymns (Kernlieder), which was recommended to the several states as a proper basis of, or appendix to, the hymn-books of the several churches. In 1855 some resolutions concerning the treatment of sects by the state churches were unanimously adopted. These resolutions declared against the principle of full religious liberty, but recommended that the members 'of sects be allowed to contract valid civil marriages. The same conference adopted resolutions in behalf of a better observance of Sunday; of giving to congregations the right of cooperation (votum
negativum) in the appointment of ecclesiastical officers, and of introducing special liturgical devotions during the week of Passion. The conference of 1857 held important discussions on the revival of Church discipline, on reforms in the legislation concerning divorces, and on Christian burial. Among the results of the later meetings of the conference were the following: The introduction of a prayer for the German fatherland, to be used every Sunday in every Protestant church; resolutions on Church patronage, on liturgical, matters, on the examinations of theological students, on catechization, on the revision of the Lutheran Bible, on the best' way of collecting the statistics of the German Lutheran Church, on the construction of evangelical churches, on the State-Church system, etc. An account of each meeting of the conference since 1855 is given in Matthes, Allgem. Kirchliche Chronik; see also Herzog, Real-Encykl. 4:273.