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The Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (German: Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz, EKBO) is a United Protestant church body in the German states of Brandenburg, Berlin and a part of Saxony (historical region of Silesian Upper Lusatia).

The seat of the church is in Berlin. It is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (German: Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland - EKD), and is a church of the Prussian Union. The leader of the church is bishop Dr. Markus Dröge (2010). The EKBO is one of 20 Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches of the EKD and is itself a United church. The church has 890,654 members (December 2020[1]) in 1,770 parishes. The church is a member of the Union of Evangelical Churches (German: Union Evangelischer Kirchen - UEK) and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe. In Berlin and Görlitz the church runs two academies. St. Mary's Church, Berlin, is the church of the bishop of the EKBO with the Berlin Cathedral being under joint supervision of all the member churches of the UEK.

Some theological statements

The theology of the church goes back to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Since 1927 the ordination of women has been allowed, and the blessing of same-sex unions has been allowed by the synod but depends on the local presbytery (German: Gemeindekirchenrat).

History

After the Second World War the integrated Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union (under this name 1922–1953, then renamed into Evangelical Church of the Union) was transformed into an umbrella organization. In 1947 its ecclesiastical provinces (German: Kirchenprovinzen), as far as their territories were not annexed by Poland or the Soviet Union, became independent church bodies of their own.

Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg

The March of Brandenburg ecclesiastical province (including Berlin, but after 1945 without the territory east the Oder-Neiße line), which until 1933 was headed in rotation by the general superintendents of Kurmark, Neumark-Lower Lusatia, and Berlin, became the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg. After 1945, the church covered only the territory still in Germany.

From 1972 on this church body ran double administrative structures in West Berlin and East Berlin - also competent for Brandenburg - because the communist government of East Germany did not allow pastors and church functionaries to travel freely between East and West. The two church bodies reunited in 1991.

Evangelical Church of Silesia(n Upper Lusatia)

In 1946 the Silesian ecclesiastical province, presided over by Ernst Hornig, held its first post-war provincial synod in then already Polish Świdnica (formerly Schweidnitz). But on 4 December 1946 Poland deported Hornig from Wrocław (formerly Breslau) beyond the Lusatian Neiße, where he took his new seat in the German part of the now divided city of Görlitz of the former Prussian province of Lower Silesia. In 1947 the Polish government also expelled the remaining members of the Silesian consistory, which temporarily could continue to officiate in Wrocław. Görlitz became the seat of the tiny territorial rest of the Silesian ecclesiastical province, constituting on May 1, 1947 as the independent Evangelical Church of Silesia (German: Evangelische Kirche von Schlesien) - comprising the small parts of Silesia remaining with Germany after 1945.

All of the church property east of the Oder-Neiße Line, parochial and provincial alike, was expropriated without compensation, and the church buildings were mostly taken over by the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. A small number of Silesian churches are owned today by Protestant congregations of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland (see e.g. Churches of Peace).

On April 9, 1968 East Germany adopted its second constitution, accounting for the de facto transformation into a communist dictatorship. Thus the East German government deprived the church bodies of their status as statutory bodies (German: Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts) and abolished the church tax, by which parishioners' contributions had been automatically collected as a surcharge on the income tax. Now parishioners would have to fix the level of their contributions and to transfer them again and again on their own. This together with ongoing discrimination of church members, which resulted in many people leaving the church, effectively eroded the financial situation of the church bodies in the East.

In 1968, churches were reclassified as civic associations, and the East German government required the Evangelical Church of Silesia to remove the word "Silesia" from its name. The church body then chose the new name Evangelical Church of the Görlitz Ecclesiastical Region.

With the end of the East German dictatorship in 1989, the things changed decisively. In 1992 the Evangelical Church of the Görlitz Ecclesiastical Region dropped its unwanted name and chose the new name of Evangelical Church of Silesian Upper Lusatia.

Due to increasing irreligion, the low birth rates in Germany since the 1970s, and low numbers of Protestant immigrants, the Protestant church bodies in Germany are undergoing a severe shrinking of parishioners and thus of parishioners' contributions. So church bodies are forced to reorganise their efforts also with respect to the financial situation.

In 2004 the Evangelical Church of the Silesian Upper Lusatia merged with the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg to become the present church body. The Ordination of women were allowed. In June 2017, the church votes to allow same-sex marriages in its churches.[2]

Leading persons and bishops in history

Today the leading bishop is elected for ten years from the synod and can be reelected for a second term. Since 1817, when the Lutheran, Calvinist and newly founded united congregations formed a common administrative umbrella, later called Evangelical Church in Prussia's older Provinces, the area comprised by today's church body formed part of the two old-Prussian ecclesiastical provinces of Silesia (German: Kirchenprovinz Schlesien) and of the March of Brandenburg (German: Kirchenprovinz Mark Brandenburg). Until 1933/1934 the spiritual leaders of the Evangelical church were called general superintendents (German: Generalsuperintendent[en]) with regional competences. The adulteration of the church constitution by the Nazi-submissive German Christians was accompanied by new titles (provincial bishop, German: Provinzialbischof) with hierarchical supremacy over parishioners and church employees, and renamings (provosts German: Propst instead of general superintendents). After 1945 the offices of general superintendents as spiritual leaders were reconstituted. The two ecclesiastical provinces assumed independence as the Evangelical Church of Silesia (as of 1947) and the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg (as of 1948) when their respective provincial synods legislated new church constitutions. Both independent regional Protestant church bodies created its office of an elected chairperson called bishop, in Protestant tradition of course without hierarchical supremacy. After the merger of both churches in 2004 Wolfgang Huber has been elected the first bishop of the merged Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (German: Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz; EKBO.

Chairmen of the March of Brandenburg ecclesiastical province

The general superintendents for the different areas were rotating in the spiritual leadership within the provincial consistory, seated in Berlin.

Ecclesiastical Chairmen of Berlin (City)

General superintendent of Berlin Suburbia

The general superintendency was called in German: Berlin-Land und Kölln-Land.

General superintendents of the Kurmark

General superintendent for the Governorate of Frankfurt upon Oder

The general superintendency of Frankfurt was merged with Lower Lusatia into New March-Lower Lusatia in 1836.

General superintendents of Lower Lusatia

The general superintendency was seated in Lübben. The general superintendency of Frankfurt was merged with Lower Lusatia into New Narch-Lower-Lusatia in 1836.

General superintendents of the New March-Lower Lusatia

The general superintendency was seated in Cottbus.

Bishopric of the March of Brandenburg

In 1933 the Prussian government imposed new leaders, who reshaped the structures. The evangelical church (then named Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union) underwent a schism into a schismatic streamlined Nazi-obedient branch and a steadfast, truly Protestant branch, clinging to the Confessing Church. The bishops were subordinate to the newly instituted State Bishop (German: Landesbischof) of the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union, Ludwig Müller. During Church Affair Minister Hanns Kerrl's attempt to force the Confessing Church and the officially recognised hierarchy to reunite, 1935–1937, many outspoken Nazi protagonists were furloughed. After the attempts to compromise the Confessing Church opposition turned out less successful than expected many functions remained simply vacant and the Church Affair Ministry and its favourites usurped direct influence by orders and ordinances.

Kurmark (1933–1945)

While the Nazi-streamlined provost was subordinate to the Bishopric of Berlin, the general superintendent ignored his illegitimate furlough and continued to serve, however, accepted only by the non-schismatic Confessing Church congregations.

New March-Lower Lusatia (1933–1945)

The Nazi-streamlined provost was subordinate to the Bishopric of Berlin.

General superintendents since 1945

In 1945 the pre-1933 structures were provisionally restituted. The provisionally leading advisory council (German: Beirat) reconfirmed Dibelius as general superintendent of the Kurmark (i.e. Electoral March). The Beirat also commissioned Dibelius to serve per pro the vacant general superintendencies of Berlin and the New March-Lower Lusatia. The Soviet occupational power agreed that Dibelius would use the title of Bishop, better recognisable for the Soviets as clerical title than the term general superintendent mostly unknown in Russian. In 1949 the Kurmark ceded deaneries to the New March-Upper Lusatia general superintendency which had lost almost all the New March, Polish annexed in March 1945, by the flight and expulsion of its parishioners living there. The New March-Upper Lusatia general superintendency was renamed into Cottbus after its seat. In 1963 the new Eberswalde general superintendency was partitioned from the Kurmark, which was renamed on that occasion to Neuruppin (and again into Potsdam in 2010). The Eberswalde general superintendency remerged in that of Neuruppin in 1996. In 2003, with the merger of the Evangelical Church in Silesian Upper Lusatia, its region became a subdivision of the EKBO.

Berlin

Berlin (reunited)

Kurmark (1945–1963)/Neuruppin (1963–2010)/Potsdam (since)

The general superintendency is seated in Potsdam. In 1963 the general superintendency of Eberswalde was partitioned from the Kurmark, renamed into Neuruppin on that occasion. In 1996 Eberswalde remerged in Neuruppin.

New March-Lower Lusatia (1945–1949)/Cottbus (1949–2010)

In 2010 the general superintendency was dissolved and its area partitioned between Potsdam and Görlitz.

Eberswalde (1963–1996)

In 1963 the Eberswalde district (Sprengel Eberswalde) was partitioned from the Kurmark.

Görlitz (since 2004)

In 2003 the Evangelical Church of Silesian Upper Lusatia merged with the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg, its region forms a unit within the merger called EKBO.

Bishops of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg

In 1948 the first post-war elected provincial synod of the March of Brandenburg ecclesiastical province of the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union constituted as an independent church body named Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg. The new constitution provided for a chairperson to bear the title bishop.

Reunited church body since 1991:

On January 1, 2004 the church body merged with the Evangelical Church of Silesian Upper Lusatia.

Silesian general superintendents and bishops

General superintendents (1829–1924)

Bishops (1935–2003)

Bishops of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia

Synod

The election of the synod (Landessynode) is for six years. The synod meets each year in Berlin. The leader of the synod is called "Präses" (English: praeses).

Books

References