Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover
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The Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover (German: Evangelisch-lutherische Landeskirche Hannovers) is a Lutheran church body in the German state of Lower Saxony and the city of Bremerhaven covering the territory of the former Kingdom of Hanover. It's the most important Protestant denomination in this area. The seat of the bishop is the Lower Saxon state capital Hanover. The Marktkirche is the church of the bishop.
The state bishop of the church is Margot Käßmann (2006).
The Lutheran church was the state church of the Kingdom of Hanover with the king being summus episcopus (Supreme Governor of the Lutheran Church). In 1848 the Lutheran parishes were democratised by the introduction of presbyteries (German: Kirchenvorstand/Kirchenvorstände, sg./pl.; lit. in English: church board), elected by all major male parishioners and chairing each congregation in co-operation with the pastor, being before the sole chairman. This introduction of presbyteries was somewhat revolutionary in the rather hierarchically structured Lutheran church. In 1864 Carl Lichtenberg (German), Hanoveran minister of education, cultural and religious affairs (1862-1865), persuaded the Ständeversammlung (the Hanoveran parliament) to pass a new law as to the constitution of the Lutheran church. The constitution provided a state synod (parishioners' parliament, German: Landessynode). But its first session only materialised in 1869, when after the Prussian annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover (1866) the Hanoveran Lutherans desired a representative body separate from Prussian rule, though it was restricted to Lutheran matters only.
After the Prussian conquest in 1866, on 19 September 1866, the day before the official Prussian annexation took place and with the last king, George V of Hanover, in exile, the Kingdom's six consistories joined to form today's still existing church body. An all-Hanoveran consistory, the Landeskonsistorium (state consistory), was formed with representatives from the regional consistories. The regional consistories were in Aurich, a simultaneously Lutheran and Calvinist consistory dominated by Lutherans (for East Frisia) and the Lutheran consistories in Hanover (for the former Electorate of Brunswick and Lunenburg proper), in Ilfeld (for the County of Hohenstein, a Hanoveran exclave in the Eastern Harz mountains), in Osnabrück (for the former Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück), in Otterndorf (existed 1535-1885 for the Land of Hadeln) as well as in Stade (existed 1650-1903, until 1885 for the former Bremen-Verden proper without Hadeln, then including the complete Stade Region).
Until 1903 all regional consistories, except of the one in Aurich were dissolved, their functions taken over by the state consistory. The Lutheran state church became a stronghold of Hanoveran separatism and therefore somewhat politicised. It opposed the Prussian Union, comprising the Protestant parishes in the Prussian territory prior the 1866 annexations, not only for its being a stronghold of Prussian patriotism, but for being a united church of Lutheran and Calvinist congregations, with a preponderance of Calvinism due to the fact that the Calvinist Hohenzollern dynasty wielded its influence in the unification of Lutherans and Calvinists in then Prussia in 1817. The Hanoveran Lutherans managed to maintain their independence, with the Prussian government refraining from imposing the Prussian Union onto them. The reconciliation of the Lutheran majority of the citizens in annexed Hanover with their new Prussian citizenship was not to be further complicated by religious quarrels.
The Weimar Constitution of 1919 provided for the separation of state and religion. After the system of state churches had disappeared with the monarchies in the German states, the question arose, why the Protestant church bodies within Germany did not merge. Besides the smaller Protestant denominations of the Mennonites, Baptists or Methodists, which were organised crossing state borders along denominational lines, there were 29 (later 28) church bodies organised along territorial borders of German states or Prussian provinces. All those, covering the territory of former monarchies with a ruling Protestant dynasty, had been state churches until 1918 - except of the Protestant church bodies in territories, like that of Hanover, annexed by Prussia in 1866. Others had been no less territorially defined Protestant minority church bodies within states of Catholic monarchs, where - before 1918 - the Roman Catholic Church played the role of state church.
In fact, a merger was permanently under discussion, but never materialised due to strong regional self-confidence and traditions as well as the denominational fragmentation into Lutheran, Calvinist and United and uniting churches. Following the Swiss example (German) of 1920, the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover and 28 other territorially defined German Protestant church bodies founded the German Federation of Protestant Churches (German: Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund) in 1922, which was no new merged church, but a loose federation of the existing independent church bodies.
The Evangelical-Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM), which was founded in 1977 as a common organisation for the Evangelical-Lutheran State Churches of Hanover, Brunswick and Schaumburg-Lippe, looks after relationships with the overseas partner churches of the Hanoverian State Church. The headquarters of the ELM is in Hermannsburg in the Südheide. Since 2003 Pastor Martina Helmer-Pham Xuan has been the director of the mission.
- ^ Since 1882 the bidenominational consistory in Aurich simultaneously functioned as the central religious body of the newly established Evangelical Reformed Church of the Province of Hanover, comprising almost all the Calvinist congregations in the prevailingly Lutheran Province of Hanover. This anomaly ended, when this consistory became an exclusively Calvinist body in 1922, following the constitutional reorganisation of the church bodies after the Weimar Constitution had decreed the separation of church and state in 1919.
- ^ For a list of the 29 church bodies see Landeskirchen.
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