Evangelische Kirche Augsburgischen und Helvetischen Bekenntnisses A. u. H. B.
Protestant Church, Augsburg and Helvetic Confession: Joseph II's Edict of Tolerance and all following imperial decrees for the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs of the Protestants ("non-Catholics") in Austria were directed at Lutheran and Reformed groups. The church constitution of 1861 provided for a supreme church council as the sovereign church authority. The internal organisation was divided by confession. It was through unionist tendencies promoted by liberalism, that it became possible for parishes of the Augsburg and Helvetic confessions to be open to members of either confession; this made it possible to overcome the situation of Diaspora in its most extreme form and to achieve the otherwise impossible union of these two churches. This idea of unionism was realised in the draft Church Constitution of 1931, which provided for a unified organisation while some Reformed Church characteristics (separate superintendents) were preserved.
The Church Constitution of 1949 pursued a different objective, providing for a large measure of administrative, financial and doctrinal independence of the Augsburg and Helvetic churches, while the union of the two confessions to form one "church" was also regarded as a theological fact. This united church represents the faithful to the outside world, it is responsible for religious instruction and holds the power of ecclesiastical legislation through the general synod. The Constitution is based on the presbyterian-synodal principle, where the parish is the fundamental element of organisation, and it is within the parish that the rectorate is determined.
Under the Protestant law of 1961 the state recognises the Church of the Augsburg and Helvetic confessions side by side with the two individual Churches of the Augsburg Confession and the Helvetic Confession as corporations under public law. By 1940 the Protestant Church had started to open the door to women who wished to hold ecclesiastical offices and in 1980 full equality of female and male office-holders was achieved.
Various incorporated Church Services ("Werke der Kirche"') are closely connected with the Church, mainly the "Internal Mission" ("Diakonie"), services for certain groups of members (young people, women), the maintenance of schools and specific tasks in the field of evangelisation etc.
Literature: D. Knall (ed.), Auf den Spuren einer Kirche, 1987.
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