A History of Bible Training Institutions in
Austria, Part III
A brief review of Austrian religious history which
led to the formation of a private Christian university, "Campus
Danubia" in Vienna, October, 2018
For many centuries, the Roman Catholic Church was the only
recognized religion in Austria. That is how the the term, "Holy
Roman Empire" originated. The Hapsburg lineage ruled much of Europe
for six centuries. During those years, there were no printed Bibles,
mass was in Latin and access to God's Word was reserved for members
of the clergy. The only "gospel" that most people received was that
which was depicted in art forms such as music, paintings and graven
Martin Luther's "protestant" reformation was sparked by the posting
of his 95 thesis in 1517, but it was more of a proclamation than
protest. The translation of the New Testament into the language of
the common people in 1522 injected fresh life into the Christian
church in Germany and reformed teachings swept rapidly across
Europe. Within a few short years, a majority of Austrians had joined
the reformation. Many churches and even some monasteries became
The Council of Trent was called in 1545 to deal
with the reformation. After 25 sessions in 18 years under three
Popes, the Jesuit Order was formed to deal with these "heresies" and
the brutal "counter reformation" began in earnest. Austrians were
commanded to either return to the fold or leave their homeland.
Thousands refused to recant resulting in a mass exodus of Austrians
and the slaughter of thousands who refused to return to the Catholic
Church or leave their homeland. Not a few of these pilgrims sailed
to the "New World".
It was not until October 13, 1781 (six days before the American
Revolution ended), that Emperor Joseph II signed the "edict of
toleration" allowing protestants to live in Austria. Leaders in the
Habsburg regime and Catholic Church were shocked when over 76,000
citizens immediately declared themselves to be protestants. There
would have been many more, but anabaptist groups especially, feared
that the edict was a ploy to trick them into revealing themselves.
For many years non-Catholics continued to be suppressed. For
instance, Churches were not permitted within 50 meters of any
roadway or to have steeples until after 1850.
Following World War I and especially during the Allied Occupation
after WW II, several other religions received recognition as
churches by the Austrian government. Although few Jews were left in
the country, recognition of the Jewish religion was practically
mandated following the holocaust. The Mormons received recognition
through the influence of a high-ranking American General, and the
Methodists received state recognition after a wealthy member of the
church donated a valuable property in central Vienna to the Austrian
Socialist Party. Other churches such as the Baptists were free to
have houses of worship, but these were treated as private clubs.
After Austria joined the European Union in 1996, the matter of
limited religious freedom became an issue in the European
Parliament. Because there were no borders between member states,
citizens of member nations were demanding the same recognition and
treatment across the EU. In 2013, various religious groups began
negotiating with the Austrian government and some received limited
recognition. Baptists, for instance, formed a loose alliance with
other evangelical churches in order to meet membership requirements
set by the government.
One Baptist pastor jested at a conference, "Now we can visit our
members in jail." Prior to recognition, Pastors were often denied
permission to visit their own church members in hospitals outside of
normal visiting hours. Most public hospitals allowed it, but some
Catholic institutions still show resistance. When our children
attended public schools, they were listed as having no religion.
Baptists are still not permitted to baptize teens without parental
consent and they enjoy no tax benefits, but they can no longer be
"bullied," labeled as heretical sects in the secular press or denied
freedoms enjoyed by other religions.
Our Involvement with Bible Training Institutions
During our 38 years as missionaries in Austria, we were involved in
five Bible School projects. The first project was in Maria Ansbach,
near Vienna. Missionaries serving with the European Evangelistic
Crusade felt that the evangelical churches of Austria needed a
school to train workers and pastors. We were still in language
study, but when fellow missionaries learned that I had worked
several years in construction and had helped to build churches in
America, they conscripted me to help prepare a house for the school.
Four students were enrolled from September, 1965 through June, 1967,
after which the school closed its doors.
The second project was an evening Bible school of the Linz Baptist
Church. It lasted from April to November, 1971.
Around the same time, in September, 1971, Southern Baptist
missionaries working with the Salzburg Baptist Church opened a third
Bible Institute. I only taught there a couple of times before the
school closed in June, 1973.
The fourth school was founded in the Mennonite Brethren church of
Linz in September, 1973 and did fairly well for five years. I taught
and provided the school's printing needs. I was also present when
Leaders of three major evangelical denominations met to discuss the
possibility of starting an Austrian Bible School, but the project
never came to fruition.
In 1980, we moved from the Linz area to a young church Ampflwang. We
started an Austrian Bible institute in 1984 (described in Chapter 21
of my autobiography). The
history of that school reminds me of Joseph's interpretation of
Pharaoh's troubling dream. There were seven bountiful years followed
by seven lean years.
The school began small and continued to grow until 1991. In that
year it was decided that we should purchase property instead of
leasing. Three properties presented themselves as possibilities. We
personally wanted the school to remain in Ampflwang where we could
either purchase our leased campus and build or purchase another
suitable property. I made it clear to the Board that I could not
move with the school to a distant location because I was our
Mission's Field Director for Austria and responsible for six couples
working in Upper Austria. The Board decided to purchase a property
in Wallsee, Lower Austria, on the Danube River. The "lean years"
began almost immediately, and in 1999, the format was changed to
offer Christian training in urban centers. The Wallsee property was
sold and the name was changed to "Evangelikales Bildungswerk
After we retired from Austria in 2002, some Christians still felt
that Austria needed a Bible School and not just "Training Centers."
Two small Bible Institutes were founded to meet that need. One of
these was started by a former Board member of the school that we
When Austria recognized evangelical churches in 2013, it
automatically became obligated to recognize their educational
institutions under the same criteria as they would similar
institutions of learning. Leaders of the school we founded in 1984
and of the two more recently organized schools prayerfully decided
to join forces in order to meet requirements for state recognition
as a private Christian university. The more than 700-page
application was presented to the Austrian government in February,
2018. For the next seven months there was a lot of interaction
between the proponents of the university and government
representatives, but during this period, positive steps were also
taken in faith that the Lord would answer the prayers of Austrian
believers. They were praying fervently that the application would be
accepted. Although the school was not yet a recognized university,
Fall classes were set to begin as usual.
Meanwhile, God was doing amazing things to show his
favor for the project. The city of Vienna opened a brand new Central
Railway Station in 2013 and real estate in that area became
Main entrance to the Central Railway Station by day and by night
In God's providence, a Christian Real Estate broker
built a modern office building next to the station. When he learned
of the ambitious university project, he offered to lease the lower
floors to the school. Construction workers have been busy all year
preparing a new home for the university.
The new office building, the bottom floors of which will house the
Construction was completed in time for Fall classes
to begin. It was decided to have a dedication service for the
facilities on October 5th even though the government had not yet
granted university status.
Surprise! Just three hours before the dedication
service began, a message arrived saying that the application had
been approved! Many tears of joy were shed as prayers of
thanksgiving ascended heavenward!
Students are Rejoicing!
Many of these books came from our Bible School library
God is still writing His-story!