[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Evangelisch

Jerry Frank FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca
Thu Feb 5 19:05:42 PST 2009

Some of our readers may consider this issue to be non-relevant to the 
purpose of our list but I think it is very important to an understanding 
of historical roots and the records which we need to research so I am 
allowing the discussion to continue.  Just delete if you are not interested.

It is important to understand two things.  One is the difference between 
words used to describe a church and words used to name a church.  The 
second is the usage of terms in the 19th century versus how they are 
used today.

The term "protestant" describes all non-Catholic Christian churches.  It 
is  never applied as the name of a church (at least not for major 
denominations).  Similarly, based on the root meaning of the word, the 
term "evangelical" can apply generically to all protestant churches.  In 
modern North American context, it usually describes those protestant 
churches that have a particular fervor for outreach mission, sometimes 
with negative implications.  In descriptive context, regardless of what 
Wikipedia states, evangelisch is indeed the same as evangelical. 
Similarly, reformed can be a generic protestant church reference as 
well, with reference to Reformation origins.

Even the term "Lutheran" can have a generic context, at least as used in 
English and of course in a much narrower framework.  English texts in 
many situations will refer to German Lutherans.  In historical context, 
this is a reference to those Germans who follow Luther's teachings 
rather than Germans who are members of a church that carries "Lutheran" 
in its name.

In 19th century or earlier context, I have never seen a church book that 
is titled, "Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche".  It is always either 
Evangelisch or Evangelisch Augsburgische.  The earlier churches that 
based their theology on Luther's teachings did not include his name in 
the name of the church.  Similarly for Reformed churches, the title will 
be Evangelish Reformierte, not Evanglisch by itself nor Reformierte by 

Quoting from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09458a.htm (which is 
perhaps somewhat more reliable than Wikipedia):

"Lutheranism:  The religious belief held by the oldest and in Europe the 
most numerous of the Protestant sects, founded by the Wittenberg 
reformer, Martin Luther.  The term 'Lutheran' was first used by his 
opponents during the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, and afterwards became 
universally prevalent.  Luther preferred the designation "Evangelical", 
and TODAY [empahsis mine] the usual title of the sect is "Evangelical 
Lutheran Church". In Germany,where the Lutherans and the Reformed have 
united (since 1817), the name Lutheran has been abandoned, and the state 
Church is styled the Evangelical or the Evangelical United."

The rest of the article includes a brief, interesting history of 
Lutheranism in German territories and Poland.

Jerry Frank
Calgary, AB

Kerstin Petersen wrote:
> The "Evangelische Kirche" is a term for the Lutheran and reformed church. You can also call it the Protestant church. "Protestantische Kirche". In the northern part of germany there are mostly protestants and the south germany katholics.
> The "Evangelische Kirche" is a christian church in the tradtition of the reformation.
> You cannot translate "evangelisch" to evangelical. (from Wikepedia).
> Regards
> Kerstin Petersen
> Denmark
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