First steps towards ecumenism
Various Reformation movements lasted until the beginning of the
20th century. After the Concordat had been abrogated, the unofficial Reims synod in May 1905 decided to call up a general Assembly of the Reformed Churches, which never took place. To avoid a definite schism between the two main groups which seemed unavoidable at the Montpellier synod in 1906, a few pastors, including Wilfred Monod, called for an Assembly to define unifying strategies. The meeting took place at Jarnac in October 1906, and the outcome was a declaration prepared with the help of Charles Wagner and Wilfred Monod. However the Jarnac meeting failed because the outcome was yet another national Union of the Reformed Churches, the third one -generally called the « Union de Jarnac- and was formalised the following year at the Paris Synod.
Thus was French Protestantism constituted of 3 Church Unions :
- The Union of reformed Evangelical Churches : the most numerous, comprising 440 churches and 410 pastors.
- The Union of united Reformed Churches (former liberal churches), comprising 100 churches and 120 pastors.
- The National Union of Reformed Churches (called the Jarnac Union) comprising 80 churches and 100 pastors.
There were also about fifty so-called autonomous churches. The Jarnac and liberal trends merged in 1912 under the name Union of Reformed Churches.
The Fédération Protestante de France (FPF)
But the need to be united to confront the public authorities, the evolution of the doctrine, the influence of both pastors Wilfred Monod and Elie Gounelle among others, led to the creation of the Fédération Protestante de France comprising the Reformed (evangelical, liberal, independent), the Lutherans, the Methodists, at Nîmes in October 1905, to be joined by the Baptists in 1919.
- MONOD Wilfred, Pour l’Unité protestante, Paris, 1932
The French Concordat
The Concordat with the Organic Articles, ruled the organisation of Protestant as well as Catholic churches. It did not comprise any restrictive measures, and pastors were to be paid by the State for the first time. But the Concordat only applied to « consistorial » churches comprising 6,000 members, and not to « local » churches, better suited to the scattered Protestant community. But foremost it ignored the national synod, the traditional central authority of the Protestant church, the only body which could settle problems.
Separation of Church and State
The separation of Church and State (on the 9th of December 1905) was easy to accept for the Protestants. At last worship unions were authorised.
At the beginning of the 19th century Lutheran churches were organised according to the Organic Articles of 1802. Many Lutherans came and settled in France, especially after the 1870 war and the loss of the Alsace region ; a lot of them however joined the Reformed church.
Times of disagreement
During the second republic, the planned restitution of the synodal system was never accomplished. In 1852 Napoleon III reinstated local churches, but the lack of a central authority led to conflicts because of doctrinal dissensions between liberals and evangelists.
Protestantism in the XXth century
The law of 9th December 1905 separating the Churches from the State guaranteed the freedom of public worship for the Reformed Church and a legal framework. Hardly surprisingly, most Protestants welcomed this law.
It did not concern Alsace and the Moselle, which had become part of the German empire in 1871.