United Evangelical Church, an ecclesiastical denomination in Germany, which arose in 1817 out of a union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches. Attempts at uniting these two churches were made as early as 1529, when leading theologians of both schools held a conference at Marburg. These attempts were often renewed, and other religious conferences between theologians of the two denominations were held at Leipsic in 1631, and at Cassel in 1661. In 1703 Frederick I. of Prussia convened several Lutheran and Reformed theologians at Berlin, to discuss the practicability of a union. He erected union churches at Berlin and Charlottenburg, and had the orphans of the two denominations brought up in the same establishments; but the Lutheran clergy successfully resisted the progress of these schemes. A "Plan of Union " proposed by Klemm and Pfaff, theologians of Tubingen (1710-1722), met with little favor. Frederick William I. issued several decrees designed to promote a union. The rise of rationalism, toward the close of the 18th century, disposed the theologians generally in favor of a union of the two churches, whose distinctive tenets, it was generally admitted, had but few believers among the clergy of either.

Schleiermacher proposed to establish at first only an external church unity, and to leave the controversies of scientific theology open to discussion. The tercentenary of the reformation in 1817 led at length to the practical establishment of the union, which, however, in the opinion of many of its advocates, was to consist at first only in the establishment of a common church government and the common celebration of the Lord's supper. The leadership in this movement was assumed and has ever since been maintained by the government of Prussia. The clergy of Berlin issued a declaration in favor of the union, and a circular of the minister of the interior confirmed it, and decreed that the united church should bear henceforth the name Evangelical Christian church. It was thought that the union would be gradually and peaceably consummated by an agreement respecting a constitution, church property, and ordinary usages. It was also decided that the Lord's supper should be celebrated by a mere breaking of the bread and a faithful recitation of the words used in the original institution.

For several years this work appeared to be in process of accomplishment in the several ecclesiastical corporations, sometimes by public enactments and sometimes as the government directed, by a practical acceptance of the breaking of the bread and an acknowledgment of the authorities of the united church; but it was considerably disturbed by the introduction of a new liturgical book, the Agenda. A theological commission, appointed to compose such an instrument, accomplished nothing. The king then published an Agenda, which had been introduced by his cabinet (1822) into the court church, gave orders that it should be introduced into the garrison churches of his kingdom, and recommended it to all the congregations of the realm, instead of the conflicting and arbitrary forms which had previously been used in the different provinces. Many objections were raised against the Agenda, especially by the strict Lutherans; and when in 1834 a royal decree was issued ordering its introduction into all non-united as well as united congregations of the kingdom, a number of strict Lutherans seceded from the national church. For several years the government endeavored by the suspension of ministers to coerce them back into the national church; but in 1845 Frederick William IV. conceded liberty of worship.

They then organized an independent Lutheran church, which numbered in 1871 about 20,000 members. All the rest of the former Lutheran and Reformed churches of Prussia nominally connected themselves with the United Evangelical church. But there was great difference of opinion as to the nature and extent of the union by which the United Evangelical church had been called into existence. One party, generally called the confederalists, under the leadership of Prof. Hengstenberg and Dr. Stahl, maintained that the union consisted in a mere external confederation and subjection to the same general church government; that the individual churches remained Lutheran, Reformed, or (if they have expressly adopted the union) United; and that if the right of adhering to the old standards of the Lutheran confession should be curtailed, it would become the duty of the party to secede. A second party, commonly called the consensus party, took for its doctrinal basis the Bible and the common dogmas of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions. It controlled the theological faculties of most of the universities, not only in Prussia, but in the other German states.

Among its leading men were Nitzsch, Twesten, Hoffmann, Niedner, Tholuck, Julius Müller, Jacqbi, Dorner, Lange, Liebner, Stier, Ullmann, Umbreit, Ebrard, Herzog, and Rothe. A third party, frequently designated as the union party, rejected the authoritative.character of the old symbolical books of both the Lutheran and Reformed denominations, and based themselves on the Bible simply, claiming at the same time the right of subjecting the authenticity of the Old and New Testaments to critical examination. This party embraced many of the disciples of Schleiermacher, the school of Tubingen, and liberal divines of different shades of opinion. The second and third parties agreed in asking for the introduction of a presbyterian church constitution, embracing district, provincial, and general synods; but their exertions were vigorously resisted by the confederalists. Frederick "William IV., who repeatedly declared his wish to restore full self-government to the national church, convoked in 1846 a general synod, in order to complete her organization. The work was interrupted by the revolution of 1848, but resumed in 1856 by another general conference.

While the government of Frederick William IV. had strongly favored the first of these three parties, his successor William I. showed an outspoken sympathy with the second. The supreme ecclesiastical council tried to check the manifestations of the Lutheran clergymen and societies who endeavored to maintain the strictly denominational character of the formerly Lutheran section of the church. The annexation to Prussia of Schleswig-Holstein and Hanover, both of which countries had a Lutheran state church that had never accepted the union, created new difficulties in the way of carrying it through. A radical change in the constitution of the church began in 1874, when the ' state government, in accordance with the laws passed in 1873, substituted the principle of ecclesiastical self-government for that of the consistorial administration heretofore exercised by the state. Church councils were elected in all congregations, and circuit synods, consisting of delegates of the congregations, were convoked.

In January and February, 1875, provincial synods, composed of delegates of the circuit synods, met in all the eight old provinces of Prussia (those belonging to Prussia before the annexations of 1866), and in November and December an extraordinary general synod, formed of delegations of the eight provincial synods and members appointed by the king, met in Berlin to make all necessary preparations for a transfer of the government of the church to a regular general synod. The Prussian government makes the utmost exertions to render it possible for the discordant ecclesiastical parties to live peaceably side by side in the national church, but large numbers, especially of the adherents of strict Lutheran principles, may ultimately prefer secession to a continuance of their church communion with parties which they consider heretical. - The example of the king of Prussia in consolidating the Lutheran and Reformed churches into a United Evangelical church was followed in other German states. Thus the union was introduced, either by resolution of synods or by a general vote, in Nassau (1817), the Bavarian Palatinate (1818), Baden (1821), and even in Würtemberg (1827), where the Reformed church had hardly an existence.

The union may be considered permanently established in the Bavarian Palatinate and in Baden, in both of which the church has a presbyterian constitution, inclusive of a general synod, which in both churches is unanimous in maintaining the union. Saxony, the bulk of Bavaria proper, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, and several other states were too exclusively Lutheran, Switzerland too exclusively Reformed, to fall in with the movement. In many of the small states the views of the people on the subject of union could not be ascertained, as the church was without a synodal constitution and entirely controlled by the government. The introduction of the synodal constitution, which in 1875 had been completed in the large majority of the Protestant state churches, United Evangelical as well as Lutheran, will ere long define the position of every church in regard to the union. In Austria and France a fusion of the Lutheran and Reformed churches has also many friends, but nothing has been done in the way of practical execution. - See Hering, Geschichte der kirchlichen Unionsversuche (2 vols., Leipsic, 1836'8); Nitzsch, Urkundenouch der evangelischen Union (Bonn, 1853); Julius Müller, Die evangelische Union (Leipsic, 1854); Stahl, Die lutherische Kirche und die Union (Berlin, 1858). - A branch of the United Evangelical church in the United States was established at St. Louis in 1840, when six German ministers organized an ecclesiastical body called Bvangelischer Kirchenverein des Western (Evangelical Church Union of the West). In 1856 this body was divided into three districts, in 1866 it changed its name into "German Evangelical Synod of the West," and in 1870 it reported at the "General Assembly," held in Louisville, 162 ministers, 300 congregations, 12,000 voting members, about 20,000 communicants, and a total population of about 50,000. Independent of this organization, another branch of the United Evangelical church was constituted in 1848 under the name of "Evangelical Synod of North America." In May, 1859, it split into two independent bodies, one of which assumed the name "United Evangelical Synod of the Northwest," and the other " United Evangelical Synod of the East." Both of them united in 1872 with the " German Evangelical Synod of the West," constituting henceforth the fourth and fifth districts of this body.

In 1874 the church was redistricted by the general conference held in Indianapolis into seven particular synods; it numbered at this time about 300 ministers and 40,000 communicants. The church has a theological seminary in Warren co., Mo., and another educational institution at Elmhurst, I11. In 1876 the German language was still exclusively used in all the congregations of this church. It publishes three denominational papers.