*** DEBUG END ***

German churches face closure as membership falls

26 May 2023


A view of Würzburg in Bavaria

A view of Würzburg in Bavaria

DWINDLING membership will compel Churches in Germany to give up one third of their properties, a new report has found. Many face demolition unless converted to other uses.

“Although Christian Churches are aware of their shared responsibility to preserve their great cultural heritage, their common stock of buildings far exceeds future pastoral needs,” the report in the academic journal Kirche & Recht said. “This will remain the case given the continuing decline in Church membership, clerical staff and available financial resources.”

The report, by Adalbert Schmidt and Karl Schmiemann, legal experts from the Evangelical and Roman Catholic Churches, said that about 40,000 rectories, community centres, and places of worship would have to be abandoned by 2060.

It urged monument protection officials to devise nationwide procedures for negotiating alternative uses for the sites with Germany’s 20 regional Evangelical Churches and 20 Roman Catholic dioceses. “Church-state co-operation varies greatly and is sometimes problematic,” the report said.

“Large sections of society and politicians also claim a public interest and right of participation because churches naturally affect the local atmosphere. . . Future-proof protection can only succeed if State and Church are given equal and joint responsibility.”

Churches in Germany have merged and reorganised parishes and sold off assets over the past two decades, in the wake of declining membership and revenues. The Evangelical Church of Hesse and Nassau has confirmed plans this week to withdraw funding from almost half its 900 community centres, and close up to ten percent of its 1200 churches.

The Roman Catholic dioceses of Wurzburg and Eichstatt also became the latest to announce drastic real-estate reductions: the former plans to sell four of its ten schools.

In their report, Schmidt and Schmiemann said that 80 per cent of the 42,500 Evangelical and Catholic churches in Germany were officially listed. They said, however, that at least 1200 had been boarded up in recent years, and warned that many others would face demolition unless rapidly converted into cultural and residential centres.

In March, the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD) said that its overall membership had fallen during 2022 by 2.9 per cent, bringing the total to 19.15 million, or 22.2 percent of the population.

Revenue from its annual Kirchensteuer, or “church tax”, currently about €6 billion, is forecast to halve in coming years — a trend paralleled in the German Roman Catholic Church.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)