The Theological Declaration of Barmen

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In early May of 1934, a decision was made to prepare for a National Synod of the Confessing Church in Barmen in order to arrive at a common course of action against the German Christians’ church policy. Asmussen together with Thomas Breit and Karl Barth formed a “Theological Committee” intended to support this alliance of Lutheran, Reformed and United members of the Confessing Church with a theological declaration.

The group gathered in Frankfurt on May 15-16, 1934. Even though the defining draft of the “Theological Declaration of Barmen” was Barth’s, the final draft did not come into being until after the committee members had worked on the text extensively.

Even more important, however, was Asmussen’s explanation of the Declaration during a lengthy lecture at the synod on May 30, 1934. According to it, the Confessional Synod claimed to succeed the constitutional federation of churches legally. Asmussen explained that there could no longer be any association with the German Christians loyal to Hitler and their “heresy”. Nevertheless, the Confessing Church’s protest was not intended to oppose the new state as such but rather the corruption of Christian doctrine.

In this sense, the “Theological Declaration” demanded a clear separation of church and state. This was a rejection of any attempt to coordinate the church with the state. The synod’s resolution expressly adopted the text of the “Theological Declaration” in conjunction with this commentary. The two together established a new foundation for the Confessing Church’s course of action.

The synod’s texts, including Asmussen’s lecture, were printed immediately.

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  • © Private collection of Tim Lorentzen

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