This website provides the Freikirchen-Atlas, a comprehensive listing of Evangelical (including Pentecostal and Charismatic) congregations in Austria, outside the Lutheran/Reformed “established” Protestant denomination.
This is the significance of the German term “Freikirche” — free churches, at once free from the entanglements which being an established or national church brings with it, and also characterized, for the most part, by the voluntary (in German “freiwillig”) membership entered with believer’s baptism, as opposed to the automatic membership conferred by infant baptism in those churches which practice it.
“Freikirche” (“free church”) is thus first of all a descriptive term and not a denominational name or label. In a recent development however five groups of churches described thus have banded together under a common organizational structure in order to gain official recognition as a church by the Austrian government. This umbrella group is officially known as “Free Churches in Austria”, or in German, “Freikirchen in Österreich” or “FKÖ”.
At the bottom of this page we provide English translations of the menu items on the right; the listings themselves should be comprehensible to English speakers, even though they are in German.
In addition to the Freikirchen-Atlas, this site also provides other useful information for and about Evangelical Christians in Austria. Unfortunately most of the content is in German, so here we provide a short summary of the history and state of Evangelical Christianity in Austria.
Evangelical Christianity has had a long and varied history in Austria.
After the reformation, up to two-thirds of the population sympathized with the new ideas, but ruthless persecution on the part of the Habsburg rulers forced most of those to emigrate or revert to Catholicism.
Some of the groups of the “radical reformation”, specifically the “Hutterite” anabaptists, originated in Austria or spent some time here in their pilgrimage to a place where they could practice their faith in freedom.
While the main Protestant churches (Lutheran and Reformed) eventually won the right to practice their faith freely, the fact that they retained infant baptism and failed to stress personal conversion, together with the liberal theology which developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to a largely nominal church membership, similar to the situation in the Roman Catholic church — although there are and always have been Lutheran and Reformed believers who were “Evangelical” in the sense this word is used here.
During these centuries, small groups of Evangelical Christians formed and met throughout Austria, such as Baptists in the 19th century and Pentecostals in the early 20th century.
It was not until after World War II that concerted missionary efforts were begun by Evangelicals from America, Britain, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany, and today, while the country is still predominantly “nominally Catholic” (although increasingly secularized) many Evangelical groups have a growing presence here.
Until about 15 years ago Christian congregations outside the established churches had no way of organizing that provided legal status; in 1998 the Austrian parliament created the legal category of “registered confessional communities” and a number of groups of churches have taken advantage of this to obtain legal status. It is important to note, however, that it is still not possible for individual congregations not affiliated with some denomination to gain legal status.
However, until this year it seemed impossible for Evangelical congregations to gain government recognition on the same level as the Roman Catholic, Lutheran/Reformed Protestant, and most Eastern Orthodox churches; In a major break-through for Christian unity five groups of Evangelical churches came together to form an umbrella group which then, with the help of both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran/Reformed churches, was able to obtain official recognition by the Austrian government, which will bring with it several benefits.
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