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German Baptists (BEFG)

Last modified: 2013-11-16 by rob raeside
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[German Baptists] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 27 October 2007

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Baptists in Germany


Baptists in Germany have neither hierarchy nor bishops. In the HQ in Elstal are a few employees, running the organization and teachers of the seminary, some kind of minor theological faculty, especially for training the Baptists preachers. After having finished their studies, the preachers are joining a list. The parishes are choosing out of that list and they are paying their preachers. It is/was important that preachers had been working in any other profession before beginning their studies. Baptist parishes are financing themselves only by gifts and membership subscriptions. They are giving parts of these subscriptions to the 12 regional associations and the federation ("Bund"). But Baptists are organized more or less as a mere confederation of nearly independent parishes, led by boards of volunteers.

Today the umbrella-organization is called Bund evangelisch-freikirchlicher Gemeinden in Deutschland K.d.ö.R. (lit: Federation of evangelical free parishes in Germany"), "K.d.ö.R." is the abbreviation for the non-commercial legal form of organization due to German federal laws.
The Baptists are organized in 845 parishes, having more then 85,000 members. More than 9,000 of these are brethrens, organized in 135 parishes, also belonging to the "Bund". Brethrens refuse having paid employees (except preachers) and they are celebrating the Holy Communion every Sunday.

The Baptist's roots can be found in the 19th century's awakenings movement. Johann Gerhard Oncken (born 1800 in Varel) left his home city as a 14-year old boy and afterwards lived and worked in Scotland and later in London. There he became agent of the "Continental Society for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge over the Continent".

He came back to Germany in 1823. I believe that he worked as a merchant, but he also became a missionary in Hamburg since then, fighting for the proclamation of God's word free from governmental control. This was considered to be illegal and so /Oncken/ faced many troubles and governmental obstructions. On 23 April 1834 the first parish in Hamburg was established (today Hamburg-Grindelallee) and Oncken was ordained as the first preacher of continental Baptists. He was baptized by Barnas Sears, a citizen of the USA, who was in Hamburg at that time.

The difference to other evangelical groups can be said in one sentence: "First faith, afterwards baptism!" So Baptists think that the baptism of babies, which is usual in most other churches, is invalid, because new born babies cannot develop faith. Oncken, once asked by British Baptists about mission, said: "We consider every member as a missionary!"

Generally Baptist are distant followers of Calvin, having some Lutheran and pietistic(Herrnhut Brethrens) elements.

During the following years baptism spread out all over continental Europe, well supported by Baptists from the USA and the UK.

In 1848 Julius Köbner published the "Manifest des freien Urchristentums an das Deutsche Volk". One year later the "Bund der Baptistengemeinden" was established. They had however to remove the appendix "Bund getaufter Christen"(Federation of Baptized Christians), which was considered to be an offence against other Christian denominations. When Oncken died in 1884, there existed already 165 parishes all over continental Europe having more than 30,000 members.

Working exclusively with a staff of volunteers (so called "elders") in the 1st generation baptism changed for organizational reasons and started employing preachers in the next generation. In 1930 the Baptists gained emancipation. During Hitler's rule Baptists played a neutral role, avoiding conflicts with the German government. In 1938 the Pentecostal Elim-Parishes joined the Baptists, in 1942 the Brüdergemeinen, being the German branch of the Plymouth Brethren, threatened in their existence, also joined the Baptists. From that point the current name was adopted.

After WWII many parishes of Brethren remained as members of the "Bund" but they kept in touch with others, establishing themselves as free Brethren-parishes apart from the "Bund".
In 1969 the Bund der evangelisch-freikirchlichen Gemeinden in der DDR was established. After German reunion this organization joined the (West-)German "Bund" in 1991.

Primary Source: Albert W. Wardin: "Baptists around the world, A comprehensive handbook" , Nashville 1955, p.198-204
German translation: Günter Balders
For further information click:

Description of flag:
The flags ratio is probably 5:2. I only know of the existence of a hanging flag. The flag is more or less a copy of the Baptist's logo with a stretched out vertical crossbar to match the usual flag ratios.
Description of logo:
In a brownish red field is a white fish at the bottom, having a pinkish s-shaped line at its upper part. A white cross, shifted to the left, is stuck upon the fishes back. The three upper parts of cross have equal length, two of them are touching the flags edges.
Colours: RGB (173/52/73), brightness:106 (basic colour); RGB (173/52/73), brightness:172 (s-shape colour) (all approximately)

"Die Gemeinde" , monthly journal of German Baptists, Nr.1 /27 May 2007, front page
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 27 Oct 2007