Prayers for Persecuted Confessing Christians

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A large number of pastors were disciplined by church and government authorities because of their efforts for the Confessing Church. The German Christian church governments disciplined insubordinate pastors with transfer, removal from office, forced retirement and dismissal.

The Nazi state employed interrogations, speaking bans, expulsions, residence bans, arrests, trials and concentration camp internment against troublesome pastors and congregational members for alleged or actual offenses against government decrees.

Starting in 1935, the Confessing Church systematically kept lists of everyone thusly “disciplined” and called upon congregations to pray for them during services. To this end, its governing bodies mailed “intercessory prayer lists” including the names of those disciplined and the type of disciplinary measure. The Confessing Church publicly showed its solidarity with the disciplined individuals when the names were read aloud during services.

The Nazi leadership regarded intercessory prayer as an anti-state political demonstration. Although it did not issue any official ban, the Gestapo forbade the mailing of the lists and the reading of the names more and more frequently and took this as an opportunity for further arrests.

Intercessory prayer was thus also a pretext for many detentions among the wave of arrests in 1937. It was punished as a violation of the “Pulpit Law” of 1871, which threatened clergy who made affairs of state the subject of an announcement in a manner endangering public peace with imprisonment.

At the peak of the wave of arrests, the “Kassel Committee”, an alliance of the Confessing Church which had been split since 1936, called upon congregations on July 11, 1937 to pray for all brothers and sisters in detention and to join together in special intercessory prayer services. Despite numerous convictions, the Confessing Church persisted with intercessory prayer for its persecuted members until the end of the war.

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  • ©Ev. Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte München, Nachlass von Soden 9

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