Aeltestenrat (Germany)

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The Aeltestenrat, or Council of Elders, composed of the elders, ministers and deacons of the Mennonite churches of Baden (9) and Württemberg (5), five of the eight in Bavaria, and two in the Palatinate. In the 1950s it met four times annually to deliberate on questions concerning the individual churches and on questions concerning the conference, known as the Badisch-württembergisch-bayerischer Gemeindeverband (Union of the congregations of Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria). The churches are supervised by the Aeltestenrat jointly; therefore no one elder made important decisions without first hearing the advice of the others, and in a sense all the congregations operated as one united congregation. Actually the elders were chosen by the Aeltestenrat to serve the entire group, even though they had primary responsibility locally in one congregation.

In the sessions, which were always preceded by the discussion of a passage of Scripture, all the activities of the individual congregations, as well as the wishes of the members were considered, relations between the congregations regulated, decisions about church discipline made, communion dates set, and measures for the welfare of the congregations passed. The decisions of the Aeltestenrat on important issues were usually preceded by an inquiry of the church members. Minutes were kept of all proceedings, which afforded an interesting record of the development of the congregations, with primary reference to church discipline. But the record was complete only since 1876; most of the previous minutes have been lost. The Aeltestenrat had no permanent president, a different chairman being chosen for each meeting. However, usually one or more of the senior elders carried decisive weight in the deliberations of the group. For many years the meetings were held in Heilbronn.

There were similar councils of elders (Aeltesten-Convent) in Holland, West Prussia, Russia, and North America before the organization of the modern church conferences.

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1955

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MLA style

Hege, Christian. "Aeltestenrat (Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 30 Sep 2023.

APA style

Hege, Christian. (1955). Aeltestenrat (Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 September 2023, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 19. All rights reserved.

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