Between 1870, when preachers from the Southern German Wesleyan Methodist Church began working in Vienna, until 1933, Methodism had a place in Austria, though its role was severely restricted by the state. In 1911, Austria became part of a Methodist mission conference, which included congregations in Vienna and Graz, Hungary, and what is today Serbia.
The conference divided after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I. It wasn’t until 1920 that restrictions against the church were lifted and the Methodist Church was able to provide significant aid during a time of deep unemployment and poverty. Congregations were formed in Vienna, St. Pölten, Krems, and Linz, and a home for children in Türnitz was founded. The worship services and Sunday schools were full. In Vienna even worship services in the Czech language were held.
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That growth ended when the Austrian parliament was dissolved and religious freedom was rescinded. The Fascist regime of Austria gave way to the National Socialists and the Anschluss to the Third Reich. Until the end of World War II, the Austrian congregations were part of the Germany South Annual Conference of the Methodist Church.
In 1945, the Methodist Church in Austria was reorganized. Methodists helped countless refugees who had come into the country, and new congregations were formed in the refugee camps in Linz, Ried/Inn, Salzburg, and Bregenz. In 1951, the Methodist Church was recognized by the Austrian state. Pastors from the United States, Switzerland, and Germany helped rebuild the Church, responding with food and medicines when refugees from Hungary arrived in 1956.
Internationalism and openness toward all seekers continue to be characteristic of the steadily growing United Methodist Church in Austria. People of many nations come together in worship, and services are sometimes translated into several languages. Although the Church is small, it plays an important role in the ecumenical movement in Austria and in the organization and support of many international conferences. It is a founding member of the Ecumenical Council of Austria. It maintains close contacts with the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church and cooperates with them in the areas of charities, public relations, and religious instruction in schools.
The Church is also an important bridgehead to the Methodist congregations in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, and Albania. The UMC rounds out its missionary work by running a Protestant bookshop and publishing house in Vienna.