Gemeinde (word)

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Gemeinde is a complex German word meaning: community, congregation, municipality, even parishioners. It is occasionally found in English texts, often in social sciences where it has the meaning of a community which holds a profound degree of social cohesion and political or spiritual views, visions or purposes in common. The closely related term, Gemeinschaft meaning community is more commonly used in sociology and often in a dichotomous relationship with the German word Gesellschaft meaning society.

Through the centuries of persecution Anabaptists and their descendents have formed these types of communities, Gemeinden, often scattered but united with a defined set of rules, Ordnungen, for church and social activities. The term has the sense of a theological congregation or community with most beliefs, daily living and personal ties being shared, held in common, and in communal practice. With some Mennonite Gemeinden there is a sense that salvation is not only personal but also communal. The most clear examples of Anabaptist Gemeinden are the ways of life and faith exhibited in Amish and Hutterian communities. There is no English equivalent word for Gemeinde.

For these reasons many Mennonite denominations have used the term Gemeinde in the German language name rather than the parallel word Kirche, for meaning "Church." For example the Mennonite Brethren Church's name in German is Mennoniten Brüder Gemeinde. This can be contrasted with the Evangelical Church in Germany which names itself as Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland.


Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published 1 Nov 2018

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Wiebe, Victor G. "Gemeinde (word)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1 Nov 2018. Web. 13 Aug 2022.

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Wiebe, Victor G. (1 Nov 2018). Gemeinde (word). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 August 2022, from

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