The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has recorded more people leaving the church than ever before. In 2022, around 380,000 members declared their withdrawal, the EKD announced on Tuesday. This is another strong increase, in 2021 the number of resignations was still 280,000, in 2005 there were just under 120,000. EKD Council Chair Annette Kurschus called the new figures "depressing". Not even in the years after reunification did the EKD record as many resignations as it does today.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen, based in Hanover.

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In addition to the many withdrawals, more than twice as many church members continue to die than are newly admitted to the Protestant church through baptism. The number of deaths in 2022 was around 365,000, the number of baptisms 165,000. The number of baptisms, which had fallen sharply in 2020 and 2021, rose again by 2022 percent in 37, returning to pre-pandemic levels. According to statistics expert Fabian Peters, however, it has not yet been clarified to what extent this is a catch-up effect or a return to the previous baptismal quotas.

Overall, the number of EKD members fell by 2.9 percent to 19.15 million last year. This development will also hit the Church hard financially in the coming years. The Freiburg study of 2019 still assumed that both large churches will lose about half of their members and income by 2060. This forecast is now considered by experts to be much too optimistic.

EKD Council Chair Kurschus says her church is now facing "particularly profound changes". It is about the "creation of tailor-made offers for all generations and phases of life". The EKD now wants to organise a nationwide baptismal day with low-threshold offers for the first time on 24 June. In addition, the value of formal church membership must be made clear, Kurschus said.

Sociologists of religion have also identified the debate on sexualised violence, especially in the Catholic Church, and the associated loss of trust as an important driver of leaving the Church. As a result, the Catholic Church in Germany recently recorded even more withdrawals than the EKD.