United Protestant Church of France
(Eglise protestante unie de France)
The creation of the United Protestant Church of France was completed when the Reformed Church of France and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France celebrated their merger at a joint national synod meeting from 8 to 12 May 2013 in Lyon, France. The synod adopted revised texts for the constitution and rules of the new church. The revisions reflect input from parishes gathered in 2011. Public education and a communication campaign have accompanied the merger process.
History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France:
In the 16th century the region of Montbéliard, which at that time was part of the Duchy of Württemberg, accepted the Lutheran Reformation. The church order of 1560 introduced compulsory education and urged that book learning be based on genuine piety. Developments in Montbéliard generally paralleled those in Strasburg and Alsace. In 1802 the district of Montbéliard came under the Higher Consistory of Strasburg. In Paris on the other hand, there was an important Lutheran influence in the years 1520-30, but the first Lutheran congregation was the one at the Swedish Embassy (1626). The first more conventional parish was established in 1809. From 1853 to 1870 the district of Paris was part of the church in Alsace and was supported mainly by the Higher Consistory of Strasburg. When Alsace and Lorraine became part of Germany in 1871, the contact between the Lutherans in these two territories and in the rest of France was broken, and it became necessary to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France (in 1872).
History of the Reformed Church of France:
Established since 1520, the church affirmed itself in 1559 around the Confession of La Rochelle, adopted a discipline and a very sober form of worship (with sung psalms and centred on the sermon), following the model of the Church of Geneva led by Jean Calvin who inspired the Reformation in France. The Reformed churches met with strong opposition from the royal power faithful to Roman Catholicism. In 1598 the Edict of Nantes gave the Protestant minority political rights but deprived it of any possibility of religious expansion. During the 17th century the Protestants were under strong pressure to become Catholics. The Edict was revoked by the king in 1685. To remain faithful to their beliefs, almost a quarter of the 900,000 Protestants left the country. The 18th century was a time of severe persecution; a handful of faithful kept the flame of Protestantism burning. French Protestantism recovered its freedom in 1787. At the beginning of the 19th century Napoleon reorganized the Reformed and Lutheran churches. Reawakened by the preaching of the gospel, inspired, in part, by the Methodist revival, the Reformed churches developed many institutions, in particular for foreign mission and social work. But opposition between those who remained strictly faithful to the Reformers (the "orthodox") and those who were more open to modernity (the "liberals") divided the churches. The separation of church and state in 1905 led French Protestantism, divided into several unions, to organize itself into the French Protestant Federation. The ecumenical movement was one of the factors that inspired the majority of the reformed families to unite in 1938, on the basis of a common confession of faith, constituting the Reformed Church of France on the presbyterian-synodal model.