Evangelical-Lutheran State Church of Hanover

The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover (German: Evangelisch-lutherische Landeskirche Hannovers) is a Lutheran church body (Landeskirche) in the German state of Lower Saxony and the city of Bremerhaven covering the territory of the former Kingdom of Hanover. It's the most important Protestant denomination in this area. The seat of the Landesbischof (bishop) is the Lower Saxon state capital Hanover. The Marktkirche is the church of the bishop.

It is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and is based on the teachings brought forward by Martin Luther during the Reformation. It also belongs to the Confederation of Protestant Churches in Lower Saxony.[1]

After Margot Käßmann's resignation as Landesbischöfin in February 2010, Hans-Hermann Jantzen (German) served as Bischofsvikar (acting bishop) until Ralf Meister's investiture as her successor on 26 March 2011.[2]

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover is a member church of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, and of the Lutheran World Federation.


The Lutheran church was the state church (German: Landeskirche) of the Kingdom of Hanover with the king being summus episcopus (Supreme Governor of the Lutheran Church). In 1848 the Lutheran parishes were democratised by the introduction of presbyteries (German: Kirchenvorstand/Kirchenvorstände, sg./pl.; lit. in English: church board), elected by all major male parishioners and chairing each congregation in co-operation with the pastor, formerly being the sole chairman. This introduction of presbyteries was somewhat revolutionary in the rather hierarchically structured Lutheran church. In 1864 Carl Lichtenberg (German), Hanoveran minister of education, cultural and religious affairs (1862–1865), persuaded the Ständeversammlung (the Hanoveran parliament) to pass a new law as to the constitution of the Lutheran church. The constitution provided a state synod (parishioners' parliament, German: Landessynode, President: Jürgen Schneider). But its first session only materialised in 1869, when after the Prussian annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover (1866) the Hanoveran Lutherans desired a representative body separate from Prussian rule, though it was restricted to Lutheran matters only.

After the Prussian conquest in 1866, on 19 September 1866, the day before the official Prussian annexation took place and with the last king, George V of Hanover, in exile, the Kingdom's six consistories joined to form today's still existing church body. An all-Hanoveran consistory, the Landeskonsistorium (state consistory), was formed with representatives from the regional consistories. The regional consistories were in Aurich, a simultaneously Lutheran and Calvinist consistory dominated by Lutherans (for East Frisia) and the Lutheran consistories in Hanover (for the former Electorate of Brunswick and Lunenburg proper), in Ilfeld (for the County of Hohenstein, a Hanoveran exclave in the Eastern Harz mountains), in Osnabrück (for the former Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück), in Otterndorf (existed 1535-1885 for the Land of Hadeln) as well as in Stade (existed 1650-1903, until 1885 for the former Bremen-Verden proper without Hadeln, then including the complete Stade Region).

Until 1903 all regional consistories except for the one in Aurich were dissolved, their functions taken over by the state consistory.[3] The Lutheran state church became a stronghold of Hanoveran separatism and therefore somewhat politicised. It opposed the Prussian Union, comprising the Protestant parishes in the Prussian territory prior the 1866 annexations, not only for its being a stronghold of Prussian patriotism, but for being a united church of Lutheran and Calvinist congregations, with a preponderance of Calvinism because the Calvinist Hohenzollern dynasty wielded its influence in the unification of Lutherans and Calvinists in then Prussia in 1817. The Hanoveran Lutherans managed to maintain their independence, with the Prussian government refraining from imposing the Prussian Union onto them. The reconciliation of the Lutheran majority of the citizens in annexed Hanover with their new Prussian citizenship was not to be further complicated by religious quarrels.

The Weimar Constitution of 1919 provided for the separation of state and religion. After the system of state churches had disappeared with the monarchies in the German states, the question arose why the Protestant church bodies within Germany did not merge. Besides the smaller Protestant denominations of the Mennonites, Baptists or Methodists, which were organised across state borders along denominational lines, there were 29 (later 28) church bodies organised along territorial borders of German states or Prussian provinces.[4] All those, covering the territory of former monarchies with a ruling Protestant dynasty, had been state churches until 1918 - except of the Protestant church bodies in territories, like that of Hanover, annexed by Prussia in 1866. Others had been no less territorially defined Protestant minority church bodies within states of Catholic monarchs, where - before 1918 - the Roman Catholic Church played the role of state church.

In fact, a merger was permanently under discussion, but never materialised due to strong regional self-confidence and traditions as well as the denominational fragmentation into Lutheran, Calvinist and United and uniting churches. Following the Swiss example of 1920, the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover and 28 other territorially defined German Protestant church bodies founded the German Evangelical Church Confederation in 1922, which was no new merged church, but a loose federation of the existing independent church bodies. In 1922 the Church of Hanover counted 2,414,000 parishioners.[5]


Head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover is the bishop who is elected by the Synod. The bishop usually retires at the age of 65.


  • 1925-1947: August Marahrens (German)
  • 1947-1971: Johannes Lilje
  • 1971-1988: Eduard Lohse (German)
  • 1988-1999: Horst Hirschler (German)
  • 1999-2010: Margot Käßmann
  • 2010-2011: Hans-Hermann Jantzen (German)(Vicar)
  • since 26 March 2011: Ralf Meister


The Church of Hanover is divided into 6 districts (German: Sprengel) in which a regional bishop (State Superintendent, German: Landessuperintendent) presides:

  • district of Hanover (Sprengel Hannover (German) - regional bishop: Ingrid Spieckermann (German)
    • with City Church Association Hanover (Stadtkirchenverband Hannover (German)): (city Superintendent (German: Stadtsuperintendent): Hans-Martin Heinemann)
  • district of Hildesheim-Göttingen (Sprengel Hildesheim-Göttingen (German)- regional Bishop:Eckhard Gorka (German)
  • district of Lüneburg (Sprengel Lüneburg (German)) - regional bishop: Dieter Rathing (German)
  • district of Osnabrück (Sprengel Osnabrück (German)) - regional bishop: Burkhard Krause (German)
  • district of East Frisia/Emsland (Sprengel Ostfriesland (German)) - regional bishop: Detlef Klahr (German)
  • district of Stade (Sprengel Stade (German))- regional bishop: Hans Christian Brandy) (German)

The district church is in turn divided into smaller districts (Kirchenkreis, each of which is led by a superintendent. The 56 church districts are divided into 1320 parishes.

Bischofsrat (council of Bishops)

On all matters concerning the Church's life, the Bischofsrat consults at regular meetings. It consists of the Regional Bishop and the Bishop of the Church of Hannover. The Bischofsrat is in charge of recommending agendas, hymn books and catechisms. Another important body is the Kirchensenat.


The Synode is the parliament of the Church. The members of the Synode are elected every six years in constituencies. The Synode meets twice a year. Its duties are similar to those of political parliaments. In the time between meetings, the "Landessynodalausschuss" represents the Synode. President of the Synode is Jürgen Schneider.

Church Office

The Church Office (German: Landeskirchenamt Hannover (German)) is the administrative center of the Church of Hanover. It is presided by (since May 1, 2008: Burkhard Guntau (German)). The bishop also has his or her headquarters in Hanover. The Bishop is chairman of the College in the church office (or less the "government" of the Church), which includes, besides the bishop, the president of the Church Office, the Spiritual Vice President (since 2006: Arend de Vries (German)), the Legal Vice President and the theological and legal Higher Regional councils of churches (German: Oberlandeskirchenräte). There are currently (2008) 210 employees working in the Church Office.


  • 1924–1929:Viktor Lampe
  • 1930–1933: Max Schramm
  • 1933–1946: Friedrich Schnelle[6]
  • 1946–1952: Gustav Ahlhorn[7]
  • 1952–1970: Karl Wagenmann
  • 1970–1983:Johann Frank
  • 1984–2008:Eckhart von Vietinghoff
  • since 2008: Burkhard Guntau


The Evangelical-Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM), which was founded in 1977 as a common organisation for the Evangelical-Lutheran State Churches of Hanover, Brunswick and Schaumburg-Lippe, maintains relationships with the overseas partner churches of the Hanoverian State Church. Its history dates back to 1849 when Pastor Ludwig Harms began training the first missionaries. The headquarters of the ELM is in Hermannsburg in the Südheide. Since 2003 Pastor Martina Helmer-Pham Xuan has been the director of the mission.


The Diaconate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover is one of the largest charities in Lower Saxony, compared to Diaconal institutions of the country as a whole. Since 2008 the Director has been Christoph Künkel.

Haus kirchlicher Dienste ( House of church Services)

The Haus kirchlicher Dienste[8] (since 2002) (House of church Services), founded in September 1937 as Amt für Gemeindedienst ( Office for community service) are the service-and Competence Center for the Church of Hanover and supported as a municipal facility the work of the Church of Hannover and the parishes. In the house are facilities and agencies for work areas in the Church of Hanover and the Confederation of Protestant churches in Lower Saxony combined and be managed centrally. The house of church services has currently (2011) 200 employees (Departments/administrative position), of these, approximately over 80 pastors and speakers. The House of Church Services also includes the Hanns-Lilje-House (Hanns-Lilje-Haus (German) and the Bursfelde Abbey.

The departments are:

  • The Department 1 includes the areas of library work, the deacons (German: Diakone), volunteers, Ephoralsekretäre, community consultation and organizational development, community management, sexton, media (Media Centre of the Church of Hanover) and parish secretaries.
  • The Department 2 oversees the Bursfelde Abbey, faith and Bible classes, home groups, church tourism, Church On The Move, spa and leisure ministry, missionary service, the missionary center Hanstedt I, open churches and pilgrimage and meditation paths.
  • The Department 3 comprises the work with older People, the church visitservices (German: Kirchliche Besuchsdienste), women's work (German: Frauenwerk), men's work, the sport and the World Day of Prayer.
  • The Department 4 is the evangelical youth ministry.(German: Landesjugendpfarrramt)
  • The Department 5 includes the areas of ecumenism, church in Europe, the relationship with Islam and Judaism, migrants, the topic ethnic and Eastern Churches, in addition, the Working Group assistance for Chernobyl children (German: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Hilfe für Tschernobylkinder), philosophical issues, art and culture, the Decade to Overcome Violence development-related education, peace building and support of community service and volunteer services.
  • The Department 6 includes the areas of work, business and social affairs (German: Kirchlicher Dienst in der Arbeitswelt (KDA)), the Church service for trade and commerce (KDHH) (German: Kirchlicher Dienst in Handwerk und Handel), rural areas and agriculture (Ecclesiastical service in the country of the Church of Hanover)(German: Kirchlicher Dienst in der Landwirtschaft) and ecology and environmental management.

in Cooperation with the Confederation of Protestant churches in Lower Saxony:

  • The Church service in the police and customs (German: Kirchlicher Dienst in Polizei und Zoll)
  • The Evangelical adult education in Lower Saxony (Evangelische Erwachsenenbildung Niedersachsen (German)
  • The Protestant village of Lower Saxony assistants work (Evangelisches Dorfhelferinnenwerk Niedersachsen (German)

religious associations:

  • The Evangelical Association of Family Education Center Hanover (German: Evangelische Familienbildungsstätte Hannover e.V)
  • Central Association meeting Christians and Jews e.V.
  • Evangelical Partners Help e.V.

Church Office Hanover:

  • Audit Office
  • staff Office
  • Fund of the Church (German: Landeskirchenkasse)

In addition, sections of the Evangelical Media Service Centre


  • (1937) 1941-1953: Oberkirchenrat Adolf Cillien (German)
  • 1953-1956: Regional Bishop (German: Landessuperintendent) Theodor Laasch (temporary Head)
  • 1956-1961: Former Superintendent Paul Kurth
  • 1965-1975: Former Superintendent Rudolph Herrfahrdt
  • 1975-1990: Professor Paul Gerhard Jahn
  • 1990-1999: PastorHans Joachim Schliep
  • 1999-2008: Pastorin Dine Fecht
  • Since 2008: Pastor Ralf Tyra

The Director is the Chairman of the Executive Committee(Former: Leadership Conference), which, in addition to the directors, the CEO, the head of the department and the Pedagogical Head of Ev. Lower adult education (ev. Erwachsenenbildung Niedersachsen) be a member of. From 1979 to 2002, the director of the Office of Community Service (since 2002: House of Church Services ) was the Commissioner for the Environment (German: Umweltbeauftragter) of the Confederation of Protestant Churches in Lower Saxony ( German: Konföderation evangelischer Kirchen in Niedersachsen).

Institutions of the Church

In Loccum, the church maintains a Protestant academy and a theological seminary, which is located in the Loccum Abbey. Other facilities are the Religion Pedagogical Institute, the Center for Health Ethics (German: Zentrum für Gesundheitsethik) and the Hanns-Lilje Foundation (Hanns-Lilje-Stiftung (German).

External links

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover
  • http://www.diakonie-hannovers.de/pages/index.html
  • http://www.kirchliche-dienste.de/
  • http://www.evlka.de/zfg_de_dyn/index.php
  • Evangelical Church in Germany


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