The United French Protestant Church – Lutheran and Reformed Communion

After failed attempts to establish a connection between Lutherans and Reformed at the time of the Reformation, the united Churches were created in Germany after 1717. In 1973, the Leuenberg Agreement provided an opportunity to other Churches in Europe to unite.

After the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) was created, the United Protestant Church of France (EPUdF), was founded in 2012, which meant that the French Reformed Church and the French Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELF). were united. It covered France except for the Alsace and Moselle regions.

  • Melanchthon (1497-1560)
  • Logo of the United Protestant Church of France

The Lutheran Reformation with Martin Luther and that of the Reformed with Zwingli and Calvin were different. Each had its Confession of Faith, namely the Confession of Augsburg and the Confession of La Rochelle. The differences concerned Christology, predestination but mainly the doctrine of the Last Supper. Ecclesial organisations were different too: the Lutherans kept an organisation similar to that of the Catholics with ecclesial inspectors who function more or less like bishops. The first attempt to link the Lutherans to the Reformed took place under Philippe Melanchthon (1497-1560), but it failed.

In 1817 Frédéric-Guillaume III, king of Prussia, a Calvinist and widower of a Lutheran wife, had a common liturgy established for Lutheran and Reformed Churches in his Kingdom. Moreover he announced the union of the Reformed parish of the court and of the garrison in Potsdam, with the Lutheran parish of the garrison. The example of this union was followed by other parishes in Germany.

After the Franco-Prusian war of 1870, several professors at the Faculty of Theology in Strasbourg belonging to the State University, refused to teach under German tutelage. In 1877 they created the Protestant Faculty of Theology in Paris to jointly train Lutheran and Reformed pastors.

After World War I, other United Churches  – at the level of Länder and parishes – were created in Germany.

The unions of Lutherans and Reformed in France until 1973

  • Emblem of the French Reformed Church

In 1960, during the assembly of the French Protestant Federation in Montbéliard, pastor Casalis launched the project for a united Evangelical Church.

A forum for dialogue – The Four offices – was created by the French Lutheran Evangelical Church (EELF), the French Reformed Church (ERF) and the two concordat Churches of Alsace and Moselle: The Church of the Augsbourg confession of Alsace and Lorraine (ECAAL) and the Reformed church of Alsace and Lorraine (ERAL). In 1968, the forum resulted in the Lyon theses on the status of the Scriptures, on baptism and on the Last Supper and an outline of the union of Evangelical Churches. The process failed.

A positive step remained as the Four Offices became the Luther-Reformed permanent Council (CPLR), a meeting organisation for Lutheran and Reformed Churches.

From the Concord of Leuenberg to the creation of the United Protestant Church of France

  • Logo de l'UEPAL
    Logo of UEPAL (Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine © Collection privée

In 1973, the Concord of Leuenberg (in Switzerland near Basel), established that the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of Europe agreed on the essentials of their faith and affirmed their full ecclesial communion: a Lutheran pastor can serve in a reformed church and reciprocally, and the faithful can take communion in both a Lutheran and a reformed Church.

In 1973, the CPLR organized a collaboration between the French Churches signatory to the Concord of Leuenberg on the formation of pastors, catechesis and ecumenism.

The creation of United Churches in Europe, made possible by the Concorde, took place in Belgium (1978) and the Netherlands (2004).

In 2001, the National Synod of the ERF and then, in 2003, the General Synod of the EELF called for a more visible communion between the two Churches.

In 2006, the two Churches of Alsace and Moselle, the ECAAL and the ERAL, came together to create the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) in which they shared central functions such as the management of the unified pastoral body, external representation and commissions. The two founding Churches survived, each of them adding the word « Protestant » to their name, to become the EPCAAL and the EPRAL.

In 2007, the CPLR adopted the name of Protestant Lutheran-Reformed Communion.

The same year, the national synods of the ERF and the general synod of the EELF met in Sochaux: they each voted to launch the process of union. A timetable was set.

This led to a long process of drafting the statutes. These were approved in 2012 by the Joint Synods of Belfort.

The local Churches adapted their statues, to confirm their membership in the new Church: the United Protestant Church of France-Lutheran and Reformed Communion (EPUdF); they add the phrase United Protestant Church to the beginning of their name.

The first national synod of the new Church was held in 2013 in Lyon, where the first synod of the ERF had met in 1938.

 

Organization of the United Protestant Church of France-Lutheran and Reformed Communion

  • Emmanuelle Seybold - 1ère femme élue Présidente du Conseil national de l’Église protestante unie de France
    Emmanuelle Seyboldt - 1st woman elected EPUdF president © Réforme

The EPUdF is governed under the Presbyterian-Synodal regime. It is structured in assemblies and councils elected at national, regional and local levels.

During the Synods, the delegates of the local Churches – ministers and laity – decide on the directions to be given to the Church.

The national level includes:

– the National Synod, annual,

– the National Council, composed of 20 members elected for four years, responsible for the government of the Church in the interval between the National Synods,

– the Ministry Commission, responsible for the admission of ministers and chaplains, who form a single body,

– the national leadership team, responsible for coordinating evangelization and formation, youth networks, communication and international relations.

At the regional level, the division of the former regions of EELF and ERF remains, with the exception of the Montbéliard Lutheran Region and the Eastern Region of ERF, which merged after the creation of EPUF.

At the local level, the parishes (local Churches) remain either Lutheran or Reformed.

Present in France, except Alsace and Moselle, the EPUdF has 500 pastors and 480 parishes with 1,100 places of worship and 400,000 members.

Bibliography

  • Sites
    • Site de l’Église protestante unie de France | Link
  • Books

    Associated notes