FREE CONGREGATIONS IN GERMANY.
The name "Free Congregations" (Germ. Freie
Gemeiyu3en) is given.in Germany to certain religious bodies which have separated from the State Church; s, yet are distinct from the so-called Free Churches of Germany (for which see Lutherans,
II). In the fifth decade of the nineteenth century
a movement arose in Prussian Saxony, the adher
ents of which were popularly named " Friends of Light " (Lichtfreunde), though they r The first styled themselves " Protestant Friends of Friends." The external provocation Light, or for this movement was the disciplining Protestant of Pastor W. F. Sinteris at Madgeburg, Friends. because he had characterized prayer to Christ as superstition. Certain circles, offended by this procedure on the part of the Magdeburg Consistory, found a leader
and organizer in Pastor Leberecht Uhlich in 1841. The movement underwent greater extension at the hands of Pastor Gustav Adolf Wislicenus in Halle, who on occasion of the seventh convention of those who favored it, at K6then, May 29, 1844, discussed the question whether Holy Scripture, or the living spirit indwelling within us, is to be regarded as norm of the Protestant type of religious consciou;ness. From ecclesiastical circles there ensued sharp and deprecatory expressions of opinion, and the Friends of Light soon came into conflict with the church authorities. The Breslau theological professor, David Schulz (q.v.), forfeited his position as consistorial councilor. But greater interest by far was aroused by the deposition of Pastor Wislicenus, on Apr. 23, 1846, " on account of gross injury to the liturgical and doctrinal ordinances in force in the Evangelical State Church." The publication of his book Die Bibel im Lichte der Bildung unserer Zeit (Magdeburg, 185.3), subjected him to the penalty of a two years' imprisonment,, adjudged by the court at Halle, though he escaped the same by flight to America. He returned to Europe in 1866. His later works, Die Bibel, Pr denkende Leser betraehtet (Leipsic, 1863; 2d ed., 1866), and Entweder-oder. Glaube oder Wissenschaft. Schrift oiler Geist (1868), show that he consistently adhered to his earlier radical views. He died Oct. 14, 1875. Even before Wislioenus was compelled to leave the State Church, the schismatic pastor, Julius Rupp, in Königsberg, had been deposed on Sept. 17, 1845, " on account of repeated violation of his official obligations by reason of gross negligence." Uhlich, after prolonged proceedings, voluntarily withdrew from the State Church. He died Mar. 23, 1872. Deacon W. E. Baltzer of Delitzsch resigned his ecclesiastical office on account of his non-confirmation as pastor at Nordhausen in 1847, and Pastor Adolf Timotheus Wislicenus, the "physical and intellectual brother" of the one mentioned above, accepted the consequences of his doctrinal standpoint and withdrew from the State Church.
These collisions with church authorities acquired a greater significance, in that they furnished the first incentive and became the means toward establishing congregations outside the State Church. At Königsberg such a congregation had come into existence as early as Dec. 16, 1845, and had organized itself, on Jan. 19, 1846; as a "Free Evangelical Congregation." Other free congregations arose at Neumarkt in Silesia; at Halle, Nordhausen,Halberstadt, Magdeburg, Hamburg,
2. The and Marburg. The attitude of the Formation various governments in relation to of Free Con- both the German Catholic (see German Catholicism), gregations. and the Free Protestant movement, down to the year 1848, was not quite uniform, though evincing the same general character. In so far as the movement was regarded as a product of the revolutionary spirit, the government looked upon it with great distrust, and sought to obviate its further encroachments by the application of statutory means. Finally, the outbreak of the Revolution in Mar., 1848, afforded the "Free" religious move-
the "South German" group, which perceives in Jesus an ethical prototype. Public worship holds only a very subordinate and accessory position. Established and generally valid forms of worship are altogether wanting; in this matter the separate congregations have their hands quite free. The Lord's Supper is still solemnized at a good many places. For baptism there had been substituted even as early as the sixties the so-called Kindesweihe (" infant consecration "). Since then, however, it would appear to have gone out of observance entirely. Confirmation takes place in all congregations; that is, Jugendweihe (" consecration of youth "), which terminates the religious instruction that begins for the most part in the ninth year of age. The movement was only transiently a momentous force in the church life of Germany; nor did it owe even this transient significance at any time to great performances, but essentially to the circumstance that people imputed great things to it, and hoped or feared them.
Bibliography: F. Kampe, Geschichte der religi6aen Bewegung der neueren Zeit, 4 vols., Leipsic, 1852-60; Drews, in Zeitschrift fair Theologie and Kirche, xi. 6 (1901), 484527; G. Teehirm, Zur BOjbhrigen Geschichte der freireligiosen Beuwung, Bamberg, 1904; F. Nippold, Handbuch der neuesten Kirchengeschichte, v. Â§ 18, Leipsic, 1906.
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