A quick explanation of the name of this site, because it has already confused several English speakers:
In German, “Freikirche” (free churches) refers to (mostly protestant) churches and denominations outside the “established” Lutheran and Reformed churches. The term has a two-fold connotation: these churches are “free” in relationship to the state, and membership is entirely voluntary (German “freiwillig”) unlike the established churches which baptize infants and then consider them members of the Church without a personal and conscious decision to join the Church.
In other words, “Freikirche” is not a name but a generic, descriptive term; “Evangelikale Freikirche” again is not a name, but a more specifically descriptive term (because there are non-evangelical free churches as well).
To complete the German lesson, “Freikirchen” is simply the plural of “Freikirche”.
In Austria, this name refers to Baptists, Methodists, Mennonites, Pentecostals, as well as other evangelical and charismatic congregations, whether they are united in a convention or association or whether they are completely independent.
This website’s main feature is the Gemeindeatlas (Church Atlas), a fairly comprehensive directory of Evangelical churches in Austria outside the united Lutheran/Reformed “Evangelische Kirche”. it also provides listings of churches with English-language and other non-German-language services. Finally, for the sake of completeness, it provides links to listings of parishes of the Roman Catholic, Lutheran/Reformed, Old Catholic, Orthodox, and Oriental churches.
In addition to the Gemeindeatlas this site 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.
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