The Breslau Synod of 1943

The Old Prussian Union’s confessional synods met regularly from 1934 onward. These assemblies were held even during the war. Representatives of all of the Old Prussian Union’s eight provincial churches were members. While the synods from 1940 to 1942 convened outside of Prussia – in Leipzig in 1940 and in Hamburg-Hamm in 1941 and 1942 – for reasons of security, synod members were summoned to Breslau in 1943. The assembly’s venue was the congregational building of the Church of Our Savior.

The twelfth – and final – confessional synod met on October 16 and 17, 1943 and primarily devoted itself to an exegesis of the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

The synod was opened with a meditation on Luke 19:11–28 led by Oskar Hammelsbeck. He examined the parable of the talents, bearing in mind the situation in which the church found itself. Accordingly, the gifts bestowed on the church by God preclude “collective egoism”. Instead, these gifts serve to reach into the public sphere, into the world. The talent was indeed entrusted to the church, but only with the intention of the church serving the world. Hammelsbeck thus gave an important impetus to the church’s assumption of global responsibility, which was expressed in the synod’s central topic, its study of the fifth commandment.

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