Majorities in the Protestant Church

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His acts of violence against opponents inside the church and numerous violations of the law caused the Reich Bishop and the German Christians to lose all credibility among the majority of Protestant pastors and parishioners in early 1935. Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller had additionally disappointed Hitler’s expectations that he would coordinate the Protestant church with the Nazi state and had thus lost the support of state and party as well.

The Confessing Church then harbored hopes that it could push through its agenda and obtain state recognition. As the map on the “State of the church struggle in Germany” shows, disapproval of the church government under Ludwig Müller did not conversely mean however that the majority of pastors and congregations approved of the Confessing Church’s aims. Many congregations were hardly affected by the ecclesio-political struggles of 1933-34 and everyday church life proceeded as usual. Most pastors and congregations were affiliated with neither the Confessing Church nor the German Christians and remained ecclesio-politically neutral.

Moreover, resistance against Ludwig Müller’s church government was not tantamount to disapproval of the political situation under the Nazi regime. Rather, most Protestants were content with the once again “orderly” political circumstances in the wake of the Weimar Republic and with the Nazi state’s increasingly evident economic, domestic and foreign policy “successes”. This contentment was shared by all factions in the church, not only the German Christians and the ecclesio-politically neutral “center” that accounted for approximately half of German Protestantism but also the Confessing Church.

A new situation that affected the balance of power inside the church arose in 1935 when the Reich Ministry of Church Affairs was established and Ludwig Müller was deprived of power. After wearisome debates over the issue of whether it could work together with the ministry, the Confessing Church 1936 broke up into wings, thus weakening its position from then on. Some members of the Confessing Church also moved toward the neutral “center”, which was wooed by the Reich Minister of Church Affairs, and began to become active ecclesio-politically. Power among the German Christians shifted to the radical Nazi “Thuringian German Christians”, while the moderate German Christians faded into insignificance.

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  • ©Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte München, A 1.7

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