German Protestant and Catholic churches keep losing members

The EKD reports that it lost 390,000 members in 2017, more than the Catholic church, which lost around 268,000. Both blame the decrease on Germany’s demographics.

Evangelical Focus

Idea · HANNOVER · 30 JULY 2018 · 15:15 CET

EKD building. / EKD,
EKD building. / EKD

Acording to statistics published on July 20 by the state Protestant Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, EKD) and the Catholic German Bishops' Conference, last year Germany's historic Protestant and Catholic churches lost 660,228 members.

The EKD reported that its membership dropped by 390,000, to 21.5 million in 2017, which is a decrease of 1.8%.

At the end of 2007, the Protestant church still had 3.3 million more members than in the previous year, namely 24.8 million.

Meanwhile, Catholics lost around 268,000 in 2017, a decline of 1.1% compared to 2016. With 23.3 million members, they remain the largest denomination.

In total, 54.4% of the 82.5 million inhabitants in Germany are members of one of the two major churches, which is down significantly from 62% in 2005.



Among the 20 state churches, the EKD report shows that the Evangelical Church of Anhalt, the Evangelical Church in Central Germany and the Bremen Evangelical Church have suffered the largest percentage of lost membership in the past ten years.

The church in Anhalt now has about 33.1% less members compared to 2007.

The church in central Germany, created in 2009 from the merger of the Evangelical Church of the Province of Saxony and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia, had 910,527 members in 2007, and now it has 712,000 (minus 21.8%).


EKD logo. / EKD.

The Bremen church lost 18.2% of its membership, and it has 193,100 members now.

The least lost in the past decade took place in the Evangelical Reformed Church, which only lost 6.5%, 173,000 people belonged to the church last year.



Although both Protestant and Catholic churches have a stable numbers of baptisms (180,000) and new members (25,000), it was not enough to cover the number of church members who either died or withdrew their membership.

In Germany, church members are supposed to register their membership with local authorities, and pay a mandatory tax that goes to fund their elected denomination.

The number of official church departures increased slightly in both denominations, with around 200,000 Protestants and 167,000 Catholics deciding to deregister.

One of the reasons of the drop is the demographic decline in Germany, where last year alone, 350,000 members of the Protestant Church passed away.

However, although new members partly made up for that shortfall, fewer children are being brought into congregations by their parents.

According to a survey conducted in 2017 by the website Kirchenaustritt (church exit), 45% of members who officially left the church did so to avoid paying the church tax, which also applies to members of Jewish congregations.

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