Emder Synode 1571

Eine ausführliche Einführung informiert über Vorgeschichte, Verlauf und Wirkungen dieser Zusammenkunft niederländischer Flüchtlingsgemeinden und benennt die wichtigsten dort angesprochenen Themen. Damals erwies sich die Hafenstadt Emden als günstig gelegener Versammlungsort. Die dort gefassten Beschlüsse waren eine Antwort auf die herausfordernde Frage, wie sich die Gemeinden organisieren und zur gegenseitigen Unterstützung miteinander in Verbindung stehen konnten. Das Prinzip der synodalen Verbundenheit, ohne dass eine Gemeinde über die andere herrscht, und die Ausbildung der Pastoren haben fortan weit über die Flüchtlingsgemeinden hinaus die evangelischen Kirchen geprägt. Wo immer es in der Moderne auch außerhalb der Kirchen um Partizipation und Subsidiarität ging, zeigt sich die Emder Synode als eine wichtige Impulsgeberin.

Das Buch richtet sich an Studierende, Lehrende, Pastores, Gemeinde- und Kirchenleitende, Mitglieder von Presbyterien und Synoden sowie an historisch und politisch Interessierte.

Von Matthias Freudenberg und Aleida Siller.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Synod of Emden, there’s a good bit of historical detail in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.

The relevant point at present is that

… the first general synod of the Dutch Reformed Church was held at Emden on Oct 4-13, 1571. The president was Gaspar van der Heyden, preacher at Frankenthal; the vice-president, Jean Tan, pastor of the Walloon congregation at Heidelberg; and the secretary, Joannes Polyander, pastor of the Walloon congregation at Emden. The attendance was twenty-nine, five of whom were elders. This synod laid the foundations of the Dutch Reformed Church. The delegates were fully aware that they had been called to prepare binding regulations, and that they were the authorized representatives of their church. Besides adopting three of the Wesel articles (the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first of the Emden articles), the synod utilized the French church order of 1559, the two often corresponding word for word. On the other hand, the Emden acts can not be considered a mere amplification of the French church order. The acts of this synod are distinctly Calvinistic, and the organization which they propose is presbyterial and synodal. The sole bond of union between churches is consensus in doctrine; fellowship is desired with the churches of other lands, provided they are Reformed in doctrine. The standards adopted were the Belgic Confession and the French; the Geneva Catechism was to be used in French congregations, and the Heidelberg Catechism in the Dutch, though churches employing any other corresponding catechism might retain it. The administration was to be conducted by consistories, classes, synods, and national synods. Of these, only the consistories were to be permanent, the members of the other bodies being chosen for each assembly. Each church or congregation was to have a consistory, consisting of preachers, elders, and deacons, and the consistory was to meet at least weekly. Every three or six months a classis ” of several neighboring churches ” was to meet; and synods were to be held annually of the congregations in Germany and East Frisia, of the English congregations, and of the Dutch congregations. About every two years a national synod ” of all the Belgic churches together ” was to be held. Each congregation, while independent, formed part of an organic whole, being subject successively to the classis, the synod, and the general synod, in each of which it was represented by delegates chosen either directly or indirectly. The synod arranged for classes in the various countries and prepared a number of regulations governing the internal administration of the Reformed congregations, as on the calling of pastors, the choice of elders and deacons, and the length of their terms, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, marriage, discipline, and the like.

Further information can be found in the extremely useful entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ‘Emden, Synod of’ by James Tracy

Historically, then, the Synod of Emden was a watershed moment in the Reformation in the Low Countries.  As such, its importance can’t be overstated.  The present volume edited by Freudenberg and Siller dives into the historical background of the Synod and offers readers a fresh translation of the Acts of the Synod. Also provided are beautiful full color plates of some of the original texts from Emden.

This is a wonderfully useful fully engaging very informative less than 100 page tome. If the history of the Reformation is one of your interests, and in particular the Reformation in the Netherlands, this is a book you should read.

I highly recommend it.