Part 1 : An overview of the history
of the Evangelical Free Church
Church was born in the first century (Acts 11:31) and its
members transmitted the teaching of Jesus, emphasizing his
death and resurrection. In the beginning, there was very
little structure, but little by little, rules were put in
place and the men, of which it was made up, sought
privileges, distorted the initial teaching and that of free
salvation. The idea that man must deserve his salvation
developed more and more: when he sinned, man must do penance
in order to be forgiven by God; otherwise, after his death,
he must spend some time in a place called Purgatory, before
being admitted to Paradise.
From the first centuries appeared the "Indulgences", which
allowed the believer, after acts of charity, to shorten his
stay in Purgatory after his death, by a few days, months,
This practice of Indulgences developed more and more until
the sixteenth century, when it reached its climax. The
Church (we aren’t yet speaking of the Catholic Church) made
a real trade by selling Indulgences for money.
On 31 October 1517, the German monk Martin Luther - shocked
by the words of another monk, Tetzel (As soon as you drop a
coin in the box, a soul in
pergatory will be released ) –
put a poster on the door of the Church of Wittemberg
: his famous "95 theses" which condemned in particular the
Indulgences. This date of 31 October 1517 is often
considered as the beginning of the Reformation (and the
foundation of Protestantism). There were other "Reformers"
who defended ideas similar to those of Martin Luther:
Huldrych Zwingli, then John Calvin in Switzerland (also
Calvin for France), John Knox in Scotland, and so on.
It is at this time that the 5 solae were formulated, which
are the foundation of Protestantism and separate it from
Sola scriptura (Scripture alone)
Sola fides (faith alone)
Sola Gratia (grace alone)
Solus Christus (Christ alone),
Soli Deo gloria (to God alone glory)
Until the end of the 16th century, Catholicism and
Protestantism struggled to coexist (8 wars of religion,
massacre of St. Bartholomew, etc.)
The 16th century ended on a note apparently favourable to
the Protestants: in 1598, Henry IV signed the Edict of
Nantes, which tolerated Protestantism. In fact, it was a
"soft" anti-protestant policy that was applied by the
successors of Henri IV. In 1685 the Revocation of the Edict
of Nantes took place, it was the Edict of Fontainebleau,
signed by Louis XIV, which forbade Protestantism.
It was then the period of the "Church under the Cross", a
century (1685-1787) during which clandestine cults sometimes
took place in the Desert (allusion to the wandering of the
people of Israel in Sinai),
that is to say, often in the wilderness in caves,
clearings or isolated valleys).
In 1789 the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the
Citizen" granted to everyone the freedom to choose his
religion. After a few difficult years during the French
Revolution, as early as 1802 and throughout the nineteenth
century, Protestantism developed.
Let us now go back a few centuries, at the time of the
Not all the reformers had exactly the same ideas (for
example Luther and Zwingli did not have the same
interpretation of the sacrament: actual presence or a
Some also felt that things didn’t change fast enough. In
their eyes, baptism was of paramount importance and they
wanted everyone to be baptized as an adult, even though he
had already been baptized as a child. They were called
rebaptizers or anabaptists.
These Anabaptists mainly settled in the Rhine valley, not
hesitating to use force. Some of them were nonviolent,
including Menno Simmons, who founded the Mennonite
Then in 1609,
the English pastor John Smith began to preach. Three years
later, the first Evangelical Baptist Church was founded.
In the following century, the Anglican pastor John Wesley,
being forbidden to preach in the Anglican Church, preached
in the open air to crowds of several thousand people. After
his death, the Methodist Evangelical Church was founded.
The French Revolution had
consequences for the churches. In 1802 Bonaparte promulgated
the Organic Articles which defined the status of worship.
The Protestant pastors becoming wage-earners of the
State, had to swear an oath of
fidelity to the government. The churches were grouped
together and (headed by a consistory where the most
important citizens sat). The consistory called - therefore
named - the pastors.
Liberalism was raging and there was a religious and moral
collapse of Protestantism. In the institute of theology of
Geneva (which was then French), some students had a Revival
and opposed doctrinal liberalism, returning to a church of
professants. From this Spiritual Revival at the beginning of
the XIXth century (1820-1870), several Evangelical Churches
Birth of the UEEL
In 1849, the Union of the Evangelical Churches of France was
created, bringing together former pastors of the Reformed
Church and the Independent churches. The term "free" had not
yet been added, but it was implied that pastors were no
longer paid by the State, or under state influence, but that
the Union was free. But the word "Free" was going to evolve
The meaning of "Free"
As all the Evangelical Churches themselves pay their pastors
(Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc), the addition of
the word "Free" can no longer designate the financial side
only. Today, it expresses our freedom on secondary matters
in order to better edify us on what is essential, recalling
the motto of the Union of Free Evangelical Churches: "In
essential things, fidelity; in secondary things, liberty; in
all things charity. "
France, there are several
groups or unions of Evangelical Churches. They regroup, have
an internal structure and organization, a confession of
faith. The churches thus united are not totally independent
(the full meaning of the word free); they are subject to
commonly established rules, which may change over time, as
has been the case since the Synod of this spring, when
several articles of the Rules of Procedure have been
modified and now make place for the development centre :
revitalize churches and plant new ones.