Theophil Wurm

Theophil Wurm was born in Basel on December 7, 1868, into a family rooted in Swabian Pietism. His father was a teacher at the Basel Mission House and later a dean in Blaubeuren; his mother came from Switzerland. He attended the very traditional Württemberg Boarding School and earned his degree in theology from the University of Tübingen. Following an eight-year vicarage, he began working for the Inner Mission as a pastor in 1899. Wurm had been motivated by Adolf Stoecker, with whose social city mission work he had become acquainted during a study trip in 1893-94. In 1900, Wurm married Marie Bruckmann, who came from a religious family of industrialists. The couple had three daughters, one of whom died young, and two sons.

Wurm took over the management of the Evangelische Gesellschaft in Stuttgart in 1901. He became the second municipal pastor in Ravensburg in 1913 and dean in Reutlingen in 1920. Before assuming office as dean, he resigned the seat in the state’s constituent assembly and Württemberg state parliament, which he had won for the Citizens' Party (DNVP) in 1918. Wurm rose to become prelate of Heilbronn in 1927 and was elected president of the church in Württemberg in 1929. He was named regional bishop in 1933, a title he bore thereafter.

Wurm’s mainstream religious and conservative views initially led him to have positive expectations of the National Socialist movement. Wurm hoped to be able to win back the working class, largely lost to the church in the 19th century, through dedicated evangelization. As the Nazi regime’s anticlerical and inhumane position increasingly became clear to him, he lodged emphatic protests with government authorities, for instance, for forcing the church out of education, killing the infirm or exterminating Jews. His understanding of authority held him back from speaking out publicly.

Wurm became crucial to the reconstitution of the Evangelical Church after the war’s end; he was the first president of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany until 1948. He retired from the office of bishop at the end of 1948 when he turned eighty. Wurm died on January 28, 1953 in Stuttgart.

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