Czech Bible Society
Czech Evangelical Alliance
Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic
THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF CZECH BRETHREN
The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) has existed continually since 1781. In that year, when the Toleration Act was issued, the remaining Evangelicals, members of the Utraquist Church, and Czech Brethren, emerged from illegality, in which for 160 years of counter-reformation they had preserved their faith, and registered in one of two permitted confessions – either Helvetian (reformed) or Augsburg (Lutheran). Although since the Jan Hus times the Evangelicals had followed by their origin the Czech reformation, which in 1575 united its two streams under Czech confession and later even under the common consistory, they were not allowed to express it in the name of the church. This became possible only in 1918 after the fusion of both branches of evangelical churches in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. The present name of this church denotes that in its program the church follows the first (domestic) as well as the second (world) reformation, and at the same time it expresses that it considers the gospel of Jesus Christ – as it is testified in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments – its rule of faith and life.
The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren strives to preserve the faithfulness to the Lord of the Church and the world and endeavours to follow Christ even amidst the postmodernist world. The Synodal Council (the church´s central administrative body) establishes consultative sections (theological, liturgical, church music, pastors´ education, legal and organisational, ecumenical, social and international affairs, historical studies and archives, children´s education, evangelisation, Christian service, building and economy), in which pastors and lays work on a voluntary basis with members of the Synodal Council and the Secretaries of the Central Office. Similarly, seniorates have their consultative sections. All these consultative sections, both of the Synodal Council and the seniorates, noticeably take part in the tasks and the life of the church, take care of the ongoing education of the church members, prepare and organise meetings, courses, camps and the voluntary work groups. Some activities are transferred to independent church purpose-established organisations, like Jeronymova jednota (Jerom´s Unity), collecting money for the maintenance of congregational buildings; or recently established Evangelical Academy, which co-ordinates the activity of seven schools for the education of social workers, catechists, musicians and others; or Diaconia, which has developed social care service in 28 individual centres for seniors, young people as well as adults with afflictions of different kind and level.
The economy of the ECCB is based on voluntary self-sacrifice, and source of its income is primarily the receipts from collections in congregations, gifts and members´ tithes. This money ensures the church activity. The salaries of pastors are still dependent on state grants. Establishing the system of economic self-sufficiency is one of pressing problems. For the transfer to the system of self-financing with the indirect state endowment (for ten years the ECCB has been striving for this system by negotiations with the state administration), the 28th Synod decided to establish a “personnel fund“ (PF). Every occupied parish congregation contributes to it with an annual amount of money, which ought to increase gradually, until it creates a substantial part of the annual income of the pastor. A solidarity collection also takes place to help the congregations which at the moment are unable to contribute to the PF with the full amount of money.
Preachers of the ECCB are predominantly pastors. They are trained at the Evangelical Theological Faculty (ETF), which was founded in 1919. Since 1990 it has been incorporated in the Charles University (CU). The great part of the Faculty teachers are members of the ECCB. Students are admitted according the rules set by the Faculty and are members of different churches (or even nondenominational). Those who count on being pastors of the ECCB may be put on the “list of divinity students“ (on recommendation of their congregation, the Seniorate Committee and after an interview with the Synodal Council). Twice during their study the church makes possible for these students to take practice in congregations and besides they get church scholarship. After their graduation at the ETF CU future pastors have to go through a year-long vicariate. Under the supervision of a mentor – an experienced pastor – they get acquainted with the work in a congregation. The vicariate is complemented by four seminars, each of them dealing with one main topic (catechetic, homiletic and pastoral). The vicariate is completed by a thesis and an interview before the commission. Only then does a successful candidate obtain a decree giving him the permission for being elected a pastor.
The ECCB has commissioned a few of its pastors for special ministry in mass media (Czech Radio and Czech Television), in detention centres and in the army.
Since 1875 the ECCB is a member of the World Association of Reformed Churches (WARC), World Council of Churches (WWC – since 1948), the Conference of European Churches (CEC – since 1957) and the Leuenberg Church Fellowship (the Association of the Leuenberg Concordia).
In the Czech Republic the ECCB is one of founding churches of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic and it strives for closer co-operation of Evangelical churches.
With Slovak and Silesian Evangelicals and with the Czechoslovak Hussite Church it concluded an agreement on the mutuality in the ministry, and it signed the document with the Roman Catholic Church on the mutual recognition of baptism. Even in the times of totality the ECCB was not left forsaken by sisterly Evangelical churches in Europe. Contacts have been re-established with Czech Evangelical churches in Rumania, Yugoslavia and Zelow (Poland), the church has entered into relationship with the congregation Bohemka in the Ukraine.
The ECCB is administered according to the Presbyterian-synodal principles, as most Evangelical churches in the world. The basic unit is a local parish church, often with even several extensions. The congregations call their own pastors by election, and from among the members of the congregation they elect trustworthy brothers and sister as presbyters, who together with the pastor administer the congregation as the elders. 258 congregations are divided into 13 seniorates, which are administered by seniorate committees (consisting of four or six members), elected at the meeting of the seniorate (convent) by representatives of all congregations of the seniorate. The deputies elected by the seniorate convents (equally from among pastors and presbyters), seniors and seniorate curators, members of the Synodal Council and representatives of the Evangelical Theological Faculty constitute the highest legislative and administrative body – the Synod. By its resolutions the Synod makes decisions on church issues (in principal issues a two third quorum is necessary) and elects even the highest, six-member administrative body – the Synodal Council – with its seat in Prague. For fulfilling its tasks the Synodal Council establishes the central church office, which is led by the General Secretary, who is sanctioned by the Synod.
All the administration bodies are elected for a six-year period and in all of them (with the exception of the elders of a parish congregation) there is equal representation of pastors and presbyters. The representatives on all three levels are always one theologian and one lay person: in the congregation it is a pastor and a curator (a presbyter), in the seniorate the senior (the seat of the seniorate is always in the congregation in which the elected senior is a pastor); for the whole church it is the Synodal Senior and the Synodal Curator. The office of a presbyter is honorary, without entitlement to emoluments. The offices in seniority committees or in the Synodal Council are held by pastors, who do that work in addition to their work load in congregations. Only the Synodal Senior and ministry secretaries of the office (as well as its lay workers) are employed full-time in the church ministry, the synodal curator and his/her deputies are employed part-time.
The ECCB issues the evangelical journal Český bratr (Czech Brother), which is a three-weekly, the Collection of Sermons for Read Worship, a magazine for youth Bratrstvo (Brotherhood), Catechetic Aid and other reference books mostly of educational character.
According to the census in 1991 the ECCB had 202,000 members. The church files, however, show the number which is by about 60 thousand lower.
The church has 258 congregations with 217 pastors (as on January 1st, 1999), about one fourth of them being ordained women pastors (the ECU decided for the ordination of women in 1953). Despite the continuing decrease in the number of the church members, the participation in worship is stable, in some congregations it has even an increasing tendency.
phone: 02-24 99 92 11
Evangelical Theological Faculty
Evangelická teologická fakulta
phone: 02/21 98 82 16