United Evangelical Church
United Evangelical Church a denomination in Germany, formed in 1817 by a union of the .Lutheran and Reformed churches. Attempts at uniting these churches were made as early as 1529, when leading theologians of both schools held a conference at Marburg. Other conferences were held at Leipsic in 1631, and at Cassel in 1661. In 1703 Frederick I of Prussia convened several Lutheran and Reformed theologians at Berlin to discuss the practicability of a union, but was successfully opposed by the Lutheran clergymen. A "Plan of Union," proposed by Klemm and Pfaff, theologians of Tübingen (1710-22), met with little favor. About the beginning of the 19th century, however, a voluntary union of the two communities was established in some parts of South Prussia, which extended in 1805 to many congregations at Cologne, Würzburg, and Munich. In 1810, king Frederick William took up the subject warmly, and in 1814 drew up, chiefly with his own hands, a liturgy, which was adopted in the Royal Chapel, and authorized for use elsewhere. A royal proclamation followed, dated Sept. 27, 1817, in which the king requested the Lutherans and the Reformed throughout his dominions to unite in one community, and expressed his intention of taking part in a united celebration of the holy communion in the Royal Chapel at Potsdam, on Oct. 31, the occasion of the tercentenary of the Reformation. A synod assembled on Oct. 1 at Breslau, and another subsequently at Berlin; both of them readily adopting the proclamation, as did most of the ministers and laity throughout Prussia. A general assent was given to the movement on the day mentioned by the king, viz. Oct. 31, and not long after it was ordered that the distinctive names "Lutheran" and "Reformed" should be disused in all official documents, and the United Evangelical Church alone recognized as the national religion. It soon spread beyond the boundaries of Prussia, and was adopted in Nassau, Hanover, and Bavaria in 1818, in Hesse-Cassel in 1822, and in Würtemberg in 1827; but it did not extend either to Lutheran Austria, on the one hand, or to Calvinistic Switzerland, on the other. Even in Prussia the revised Service-book which the king set forth in 1821 was rejected by many congregations, and uniformity was far from being established even within the bounds of the united body. On June, 25, 1830, the king directed that the Service-book should be used in all churches; but a number of the Lutheran clergy refused to adopt it, and were suspended, some of them being treated with great severity, and even imprisoned.
Three parties arose in the Church. One, generally called the Confederalists, under the leadership of Prof. Hengstenberg and Dr. Stahl, maintained that the unions consisted in a mere external confederation and subjection to the same general Church government; and that the individual churches remained Lutheran, Reformed, or United. A second party, commonly called the Consensus party, took for its doctrinal basis the Bible and the common dogmas of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions. It controlled the theological faculties of most of the universities, and had among its leading men Nitzsch, Twesten, Hoffmann; Niedner, Tholuck, Julius Müller, Jacobi, Dormer, Lange, Stier, Herzog, and Rothe. The third, or Union, party rejected the authoritative character of the old symbolical books of both the Lutheran and the Reformed denomination, and based themselves on the Bible simply, claiming at the same time, the right of subjecting the authenticity of the Old and New Tests. to critical examination. This party included many of the disciples of Tübingen, and liberal divines of different shades of opinion.
The persecution of the "Old Lutherans" was kept up until the death of Frederick William. A milder policy was introduced by his son, who succeeded him in 1840; and in 1845 the Old Lutherans were allowed to organize into a separate community, but did not receive any share of the public funds. In 1873 laws were passed, substituting the principle of ecclesiastical self-government for that of the consistorial administration theretofore exercised by the State. In January and February, 1875, provincial synods met in all the eight old provinces of Prussia, and in November and December an extraordinary general synod met at Berlin, to make all' necessary preparations for a transfer of the government' of the Church to a regular general synod. United Evangelical churches were also formed in other German states; in Nassau, 1817; the Bavarian Palatinate, 1818; Baden, 1821; and in Würtemberg, 1827. In Austria and France a fusion of the Lutheran and Reformed churches has also many friends, but nothing practical has been as yet accomplished. In the United States a branch of the United Evangelical Church was established at St. Louis in 1840, when six German ministers organized an ecclesiastical body called Evangelischer Kirchenverein des Westens (Evangelical Church-Union of the West). This body, in 1856, was divided into three districts, and in 1866 changed its name to "German Evangelical Synod of the West." In 1890 it reported, at the General Assembly held in Louisville, as follows:
Another branch of the United Evangelical Church was constituted in 1848, under the name of "Evangelical Synod of North America." In May, 1859, it split into two independent bodies, one of which assumed the name "United Evangelical Synod of the North-west," and the other "United Evangelical Synod of the East." Both of them united in 1872 with the "German Evangelical Synod of the West," constituting the fourth and fifth districts of this body. In 1874 the Church was redistricted by the General Conference held in Indianapolis into seven particular synods. It then numbered about 300 ministers and 40,000 communicants. The Church has a theological seminary in Warren County, Mo.; another educational institution at Elmhurst, Ill.; and three denominational papers. See Bunsen, Signs of the Times; Hering, Geschichte der kirchlichen Unionsversuche (Leips. 1836-38. 2 vols.); Kahnis, Hist. Germ. Protestantism; Müller, Die evangelische Union (Leips. 1854); Nitzsch, Urkundenbuch der evangelischen Union (Bonn, .1853); Schaff, Germany, its Theology, etc. (Phil. 1857); Stahl, Die lutherische Kirche und die Union (Berlin, 1858).