Protest against the “Finance Departments”

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The Nazi regime launched another assault on the church with its “Law on the Management of Assets in the Regional Evangelical Churches” of March 11, 1935.

According to this law, so-called “finance departments” had to be instituted in the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union and in several other regional churches. These departments were initially comprised of church officials and were intended to oversee the church’s finances.

The Old Prussian Confessing Church refused to cooperate in any way. It stood by its refusal even when the Reich Ministry of Church Affairs forbade it to maintain offices and keep bank accounts of its own.

On September 26, 1935, the Confessing Church Synod of the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union announced that the church’s assets were to be managed solely by church agencies with denominational ties. The church therefore should not assume any responsibility by assisting in implementing the law of March 11, 1935.

Broad protest from the church stirred only when Reich Ministry of Church Affairs intended to extend the system of finance departments to every regional church, expand their powers and alter their make-up with a directive of June 25, 1937.

In early July, Councils of Brethren, intact regional churches and other church leaders who were not German Christians joined together in the “Kassel Committee” and raised a collective protest. They condemned the directive as an expression of state churchdom and an authoritarian principle and stated that church officials’ cooperation in the finance departments was contrary to the Confessions.

Only a few more finance departments were formed after the directive had been issued. Wherever they had already been established though, they thenceforth combatted the sitting church governments all the more bitterly. The finance department established in Baden in 1938 intervened in staff appointments and disciplinary affairs, blocked building projects and withheld taxes and offerings.

The church government, Confessing Church pastors and congregations, such as in Bickensohl in Baden, unanimously raised a protest against the Reich Ministry of Church Affairs’ attempt to undermine the church government’s authority through the finance departments and to provide the German Christians influence.

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