The Christian Community

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The Christian Community
Kristiyhteiso hki.jpg
Christian Community altar in Helsinki
Classification Esoteric Christian
Orientation Anthroposophy, Esotericism, Liberal Christianity
Founder Friedrich Rittelmeyer
Origin1922
Membersapproximately 100,000 worldwide

The Christian Community (German : Die Christengemeinschaft) is an esoteric Christian denomination. It was founded in 1922 in Switzerland by a group of ecumenically oriented, mainly Lutheran theologians and ministers led by liberal theologian Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who had been the most prominent representative of liberal Lutheranism in Germany during the First World War and whose early theological work had focused on the concept of a socially engaged "Christianity of deeds" (Tatchristentum). [1] [2] Rittelmeyer and the other founders were inspired by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and founder of anthroposophy. [3] The community has its historical roots partially in the broader liberal Christian tradition, and partially in the esoteric and gnostic tradition as well as German new humanism; while inspired by anthroposophy, Steiner emphasized that The Christian Community was a separate movement founded by Rittelmeyer, and most anthroposophists are not members of The Christian Community. Christian Community congregations exist as financially independent groups with regional and international administrative bodies overseeing their work. There are approximately 100,000 worldwide. The international headquarters are in Berlin, Germany. Its first priests included three women, and it was one of the first Christian denominations to practise the ordination of women. [4] Women such as Maria Darmstädter played a major role in the development of The Christian Community. [5]

Contents

The Christian Community is led by the "circle of priests," with leaders known as coordinators appointed within the circle. A first coordinator (Erzoberlenker) is consulted by two second coordinators (Oberlenkers). There are also third coordinators (Lenkers) on the regional level and a synod of priests.

The Christian Community is primarily a liturgical community, and practises freedom of teaching. It does not have an official theology or articles of belief, does not accept the concept of Christian dogmas, and does not engage in missionary work. The community also views other religions as equally valid as Christianity. Its rejection of Christian dogmas and its views of other religions have led some theologians of other denominations to question whether The Christian Community is truly Christian. [6] The Christian Community in Germany was banned by the Nazis in 1941 and its leader Emil Bock imprisoned due to the community's alleged "Jewish" and "Masonic" nature, but the community continued its activities in Switzerland and England, and was reestablished in West Germany after the war.

Practice

Maria Darmstadter, who had converted from Judaism to Lutheranism and then joined the Christian Community, was one of the community's first and most influential members, contributing significantly to its liturgy Maria Darmstadter.jpg
Maria Darmstädter, who had converted from Judaism to Lutheranism and then joined the Christian Community, was one of the community's first and most influential members, contributing significantly to its liturgy

The Christian Community does not require its members to conform to any specific teaching or behaviour. [2] [7] Seven sacraments are celebrated within the community: the Eucharist, generally called the Act of Consecration of Man, and six other sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, the Last Anointing, Sacramental Consultation (replacing Confession), and Ordination. There is also a special Sunday service for children of school age. [8]

Rituals and sacraments are the same wherever they are celebrated. Services are generally celebrated in the language of the country in which they celebrated. The Act of Consecration of Man lasts approximately one hour. Sunday services are longer than weekday services because they contain a sermon in addition to holy communion. For the sacramental wine used in communion non-fermented grape juice is used rather than alcoholic wine. Three Christmas services are celebrated, one on December 24 (at midnight) and two on December 25. There are also added prayers for different liturgical seasons of the year.

Some chapels have an organ, and occasionally the organ has quarter tones in addition to the conventional (equal temperament) tuning.

Tenets

The Christian Community practices a complete freedom of teaching. The Priests may exert this freedom of teaching, provided that they do not contradict the sacraments which they celebrate. There is no official theology, nor articles of belief. Whatever is taught or written is a personal view. [9]

Basic tenets of some priests of the Christian Community are 1) free will, 2) reincarnation and 3) focus on Christ. For example, Jesus of Nazareth is seen as a physical vessel that enabled the spiritual being called Christ to influence the world.

The ideology of some priests of the Christian Community could be summarized with the following points:

See also

Related Research Articles

Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to engage in spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. They also aim to present their ideas in a manner verifiable by rational discourse and in studying the spiritual world seek comparable precision and clarity to that obtained by scientists investigating the physical world.

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Friedrich Rittelmeyer was a Lutheran German minister, theologian and the principal founder and first leader of The Christian Community. Rittelmeyer came to prominence in the early 20th century as a leading academic liberal theologian and priest in Germany and wrote several books that advocated a socially engaged "Christianity of deeds" (Tatchristentum). During the First World War he eventually became one of the most high-profile clergymen in Germany to publicly oppose the war. From the 1910s his thinking was gradually influenced by the philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and in 1922 a group of mainly Lutheran priests and theology students led by Rittelmeyer founded The Christian Community as an ecumenically oriented Christian community inspired by Steiner's writings; The Christian Community is primarily a liturgical community with only a loose common basis of faith, and for that reason rejects Christian dogmas. Rittelmeyer saw it as a continuation of the liberal Christian tradition of which he was the foremost representative in Germany in the early 20th century.

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Emil Bock

Emil Bock was a German anthroposophist, author, theologian and one of the founders of The Christian Community.

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References

  1. Claudia Becker, Attempts of religious renewal in the modern trend by the example of the evangelic theologian Friedrich Rittelmeyer (1872–1938), Ph.D. dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin, 2000. Abstract (English) and text (German)
  2. 1 2 Johannes Hemleben, Rudolf Steiner: A documentary biography, Henry Goulden Ltd, 1975, ISBN   0-904822-02-8, pp. 134–138 (German edition: Rowohlt Verlag, 1990, ISBN   3-499-50079-5)
  3. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life, ISBN   0-7661-3654-X
  4. Gertrud Spörri, Die Frau im Priesterberuf, Stuttgart 1929
  5. Peter Selg, From Gurs to Auschwitz: The Inner Journey of Maria Krehbiel-Darmstädter, Great Barrington, 2013
  6. "Zur Frage der Christlichkeit der Christengemeinschaft – Beiträge zur Diskussion", Stuttgart, Evang. Oberkirchenrat (Evangelical Church in Germany), 2004
  7. Tom Ravetz: Free From Dogma. Theological Reflections in The Christian Community. Edinburgh 2009
  8. Evelyn Francis Capel and Tom Ravetz, Seven Sacraments in the Christian Community, Floris Books, 1999
  9. The Christian Community – An Introduction by Michael Tapp, retired priest in The Christian Community