Verband deutscher Mennonitengemeinden (Federation of Mennonite Churches)

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1955 Article

The Badisch-Würrtembergisch-Bayerischer Gemeindeverband was the union of eight Mennonite congregations of Baden, five of Württemberg, two of the Palatinate, and four of Bavaria. Originally it probably embraced all the congregations in the former territory of the Palatinate on the right bank of the Rhine, the margravure of Baden-Durlach and the Kraichgau listed by Ernst Müller (Berner Täufer, 209-211) as of 1731: Dühren, Hasselbach, Meckesheim, and Wössingen, besides Bockschaft (today Sinsheim), Büchelhof (today Hasselbach), Helmstadt (today Hasselbach), Haschhof (extinct), Hohenhardterhof-Baiertal (extinct) near Wiesloch, Immelhausen (today Sinsheim), Rohrhof (extinct) near Heidelberg, Streichenberg (extinct) near Eppingen, and Zimmerhof (extinct). In the 19th century the Verband was extended to include the churches formed in Württemberg and Bavaria by immigration from Baden. The absence of records makes it impossible to determine the date of its origin. Records of these meetings of the elders, preachers, and deacons were always kept; but most of them have been lost. The oldest record extant, dated 17 December 1840, is a report of the meeting of elders in Hoffenheim at the home of Peter Neff; there are also records of 1841 and 1842, in manuscript form, of meetings of elders. Regular reports on hand begin with 1876. The Gemeindeblatt recorded none of the proceedings (Gbl. 1896, 93). Important decisions were presented orally to the congregations.

The Verband supervised the affairs of the congregations through the council of elders (Aeltestenrat). The elders, preachers, and deacons met four times annually for consultation concerning the welfare of the churches, and agreed on matters and methods of church discipline. Theological training was not required for ministers by the churches of the Verband. Preachers were chosen from the congregation, and elders were chosen from the preachers. Every member could vote. Elders, preachers, and deacons performed their duties without salary. Running expenses, such as rent, repairs, heat, traveling expenses, conference expenses, meetings of elders, publications for nurture of congregational life, etc., were defrayed from a special fund, the Umlagekasse, established in 1845, toward which each member paid an assessed amount (Ph. Hege, Rechenschaftsbericht der Umlagekasse des Verbandes der Menn.-Gem. in Baden, Wurttemberg, und Bayern aus den Jahren 1874 bis inkl. 1899, Sinsheim, 1900). An additional alms fund (Almosenkasse), made up by contributions at regular services, cared for the needs of the poor (see Almosenpfleger). In the interests of isolated families, the Verband decided in 1871 to establish the visiting preaching service (Reisepredigt) ; after 1883 there were two (or one) traveling preachers (Reiseprediger), whose salary was met by voluntary contributions. In 1905 the Verband opened deaconess work; by 1915 five nurses had been in service, who received their training in the deaconess home in Karlsruhe. The headquarters for the nursing service by the mid-20th century was the Thomashof near Durlach. The organ of the Verband was the Gemeindeblatt der Mennoniten, founded in 1870.

In the Verband churches, the communion service was preceded by a preparatory service, which served to keep the church pure and to reveal and remove hidden faults. In 1907, the questioning of each member before communion in an anteroom ceased. (Menn. Bl., 1908, 3).

The following congregations belonged to the Verband in 1951 (membership figures marked * included unbaptized children): Adelsheim (Baden), 37; Augsburg (Bavaria), 60*; Branchweilerhof (Palatinate), 54; Bretten, 27; Durlach (Baden), 110; Deutschhof (Palatinate), 80; Hasselbach (Baden), 85; Heidelberg (Baden), 41; Heilbronn (Württemberg), 95*; Ingolstadt (Oberbayern), 135*; Möckmühl (Württemberg), 21; Nesselbach (Württemberg), 31; Reutlingen (Württemberg), 130*; Sinsheim (Baden), 95; Stuttgart, 170*; Trappstadt, 55; Wössingen (Baden), 64*; Würzburg-Giebelstadt (Unterfranken), 104.*

The total membership of the Verband was about 1,410 baptized (1,550 souls) in 1951, against about 1,000 in 1900. There were 12 elders and 25 preachers serving the 15 congregations, besides 7 deacons, in 1915; but in 1951, 29 elders, 26 preachers, and 12 deacons served 18 congregations. Most of the increase in members was due to the addition of postwar refugees from West Prussia and Russia. -- Christian Hege, Harold S. Bender

1959 Article

The Verband badisch-württembergisch-bayrischer Mennonitengemeinden e.V. was the new name given to the Badisch-württembergisch-bayerischer Gemeindeverband at the time of its reorganization on 24 March 1949, with legal office at Heilbronn, Württemberg. Christian Landes, Lautenbach, was the chairman and treasurer after 1949, but the office of chairman was only for legal purposes and had no ecclesiastical significance. The executive officer in 1958 was Ulrich Hege, Reihen, whose title was secretary. In 1958 the Verband consisted of 21 congregations with 1,585 baptized members, distributed as follows by provinces: Palatinate 2 congregations, 130 members; Baden 7, 486; Württemberg 6, 627, and Bavaria 6, 342. The increase over 1951 was due largely to the inclusion of the refugee congregation at Backnang, Württemberg, with 292 members, chiefly of Galician origin. Eichstock, Bavaria, formerly independent, and Nürnberg, Bavaria, were also taken in. -- Harold S. Bender

1990 Update

In 1986 the following 22 congregations belonged to the "Verband": Augsburg, Backnang, Bad Königshofen, Deutschhof, Eichstock, Freiburg, Hasselbach, Heidelberg, Heidenheim, Heilbronn, Ingolstadt, Karlsruhe-Thomashof, Möckmühl, Neustadt-Branchweilerhof, Nürnberg, Regensburg (jointly with a membership of the Vereinigung der Deutschen Mennonitengemeinden), Reutlingen, Sinsheim, Stuttgart, Überlingen and Würzburg. The churches were mostly situated in cities of the Federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, and Rheinland-Pfalz. They numbered 1,632 baptized members. Nineteen elders, 42 preachers, 20 deacons, and many volunteers cared for duties and services. Although the Verband kept strictly to its principle of non-professional preachers, 7 preachers and one congregational assistant for the church work were employed on a halftime or full-time basis. They had been educated at universities, seminaries, or Bible schools.

Formerly, the Verband was meant to be a single congregation under common leadership of the elders (Aeltestenrat); in the 1980s each local congregation determined its own matters independently. Matters of more general concern were discussed and decided in the conference of the elders, preachers, and deacons, (Ältesten-, Prediger-, und Diakonenversammlung ÄPDV), which was composed of brothers and sisters selected by the churches. Meetings were held quarterly for the purpose of fellowship and discussions; voting wes avoided wherever possible. A member of the Verband's general board or an authorized deputy chaired these meetings.

The Verband's most important tasks were preaching the gospel in worship, pastoral care, evangelization, and missionary work. Mission was carried out together with the Deutsches Mennonitisches Missionskomitee. The Verband was engaged in relief work through the Mennonitische Hilfswerk Christenpflicht, in youth work together with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft süddeutscher Mennonitengemeinden, and in peace witness jointly with the Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee. The Verband arranged for meetings, retreats, and seminars to prepare its members for a living in faith and service. Its purpose was to foster discipleship; to promote faith, love and hope in the churches and in every individual person; and to challenge and prepare for a missionary and peacemaking service to neighbors.

All churches of the Verband also supported the Bibelheim der Mennoniten-Thomashof near Karlsruhe, which was founded in 1924 as a home for the aged, as headquarters for the Verband, and a place for retreats. The official organ of the Verband, Gemeindeblatt der Mennoniten, was replaced by Gemeinde Unterwegs from 1974-1985. After 1985 both the Verband and Vereinigung der deutschen Mennonitengemeinden were served by Brücke.

When founded in 1904, the task of the Diakonissenwerk of the Verband (deaconess program) was to care for the Verband's families and the Hospital Adelsheim. Later deaconesses served at the Bibelheim Thomashof. Lack of trainees, however, brought deaconess work to an end. The system of itinerant preachers (Reiseprediger) established in 1871 gradually shifted to a church building program. Twice a year, before the observance of communion, the preachers exchanged visits with the neighboring churches. Compared to former times, the congregations met more often for the Lord's Supper. In accordance with a resolution of the APDV, baptism by immersion as well as by pouring was being practiced.

All churches of the Verband were also members of the Mennonitische Hilfswerk Christenpflicht, founded in 1920 for the support of the needy, particularly of the Mennonite refugees from Russia. After 1945 their challenges were great. The Hilfswerk worked closely with the Internationale Mennonitische Organisation (IMO) and maintained a home for the elderly in Burgweinting near Regensburg.

The Verband maintained relationships with other German Mennonite conferences and to the Mennonite World Conference in particular. It was an associate member of the Vereinigung Evangelischer Freikirchen (Union of Protestant Free Churches). It also contributed in every respect to the realization of the purposes of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Mennonitengemeinden. All churches of the Verband were encouraged to extend fellowship toward other denominations at local levels.

The general board of the Verband was at the same time both leading and executive body of the ÄPDV. Chairmen of the Verband were Christian Landes of Lautenbach, Kurt Lichdi of Heilbronn (1962-1973), and Heinrich Funck of Ingolstadt (1974-1982). In 1983 Adolf Schnebele of Karlsruhe, became chairman of the Verband.

In 1966 the 12 churches located in Baden-Württemberg incorporated as Verband der Mennonitengemeinden in Baden-Württemberg, giving the Verband corporate legal status with the state, e.g., in issues pertaining to Mennonite conscientious objectors. -- Adolf Schnebele

See also Vereinigung der deutschen Mennonitengemeinden; Konferenz süddeutscher Mennonitengemeinden


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 109 f.

Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 293-294.

Lichdi, Diether Götz. Über Zurich und Witmarsum nach Addis Abeba: Die Mennoniten in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Maxdorf, 1983.

Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 116.

Mennonitisches Jahrbuch (1984): 99-100.

Author(s) Christian, Harold S. Bender Hege
Adolf Schnebele
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hege, Christian, Harold S. Bender and Adolf Schnebele. "Verband deutscher Mennonitengemeinden (Federation of Mennonite Churches)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 5 Aug 2021.

APA style

Hege, Christian, Harold S. Bender and Adolf Schnebele. (1990). Verband deutscher Mennonitengemeinden (Federation of Mennonite Churches). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 August 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 211; vol. 4, p. 809; vol. 5, pp. 909-910. All rights reserved.

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