Contravention of the “Offering Decree”
On June 9, 1937, Reich Minister of Church Affairs Hanns Kerrl and Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick forbade with a decree all church offerings, which had not been authorized by ecclesiastical authorities recognized by the state. Noncompliance was placed under threat of punishment.
The “Offering Decree” was intended to hit the Confessing Church in the destroyed regional churches, which was illegal in the eyes of the Nazi state and was dependent on collecting its own offerings. The Confessing Church however called for contravening the government decree.
The Council of Brethren of the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union called upon pastors and congregations on June 17, 1937 to continue collecting offerings at their church services according to the Confessing Church’s plan. The Old Prussian Confessing Church Synod in Lippstadt from August 21 to 27, 1937 also instructed congregations and pastors to collect offerings, regardless of the government ban. It accused the Nazi state of arrogating for itself a decision about which church government was lawful and which unlawful, i.e. where the church is true and where false.
The Confessing Church congregations and pastors in the destroyed regional churches followed the instructions from the Councils of Brethren and Confessing Church Synods and contravened the Offering Decree everywhere. Consequently, the Gestapo barged into church services, confiscated offering money from altars and made numerous mass arrests.
Hundreds of clergy were criminalized and brought before the court. After the courts initially often decided for the defendants, the Reich court ruled in September of 1938 that the ban on offerings ordered by the Confessing Church was legally valid.
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- ©Ev. Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte München, C 3. 20