Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I have so far covered four faith statements and/or declarations written by Free Confessional Church Synods in Germany during the time of Hitler. There were other statements written as there always are during stressful times in the Church.
Likewise, in just the last few months various presbyteries and elders have offered statements concerning the extreme problems connected with the 218 General Assembly. For Instance San Diego Presbytery, or An Open Theological Declaration by some Elders of the Beaver Butler Presbytery or A Response by the Presbytery of San Joaquin.
Likewise various renewal groups, pastors and theologians have been writing about solutions. For instance see Michael Walker’s "What Way Ahead?"and What Way Ahead? Part Two: Initiating the Case for Realignment, or Pastor Mark Robert’s series.
Now I want to move toward the declarations passed by the Barmen Synod after they affirmed the Declaration of Barmen. With the additional declarations the members of the Synod shaped the life of the Confessing Churches in very practical ways.
But first they affirmed who they were as members of the Church. They, with the beginning of the Barmen Declaration and the 4th declaration, adopted May 29-31 1934, averred themselves the true Church under the Constitution of the German Evangelical Church. The constitution had been accepted by the whole Reich Church on July 14, 1933.
There was an attempt to change the constitution for the benefit of the German Christians. The Confessional Churches fought this move. They were, however, very clear about their reasons for declaring themselves the “legitimate German Evangelical Church.” And at this time it was the “Reich Church Administration” which they rejected. They would later, when the constitution had been effectively ruined, insist the Confessional Church members not obey any command of the administration.1
But their stand as the legitimate Church was based on their acceptance of the Holy Scriptures and the Confessions of the Reformation. The members of the Barmen Synod wrote:
“Only those who are called and who desire to hold fast to Holy Scripture and to the Church’s Confession of Faith as its inexpugnable foundation, and who desire to make both the authoritative standard of the German Evangelical Church again, may legitimately speak and act in the name of the German Evangelical Church.”
It was in this part of the Declaration, IV, that they insisted that the Church could not in its structure be hierarchical since that would be contrary to the “Reformation Confession of Faith.” Along side the denial of a hierarchical structure they insisted on the independence of the churches declaring that they should be free from harassment by either a Church administration or “external compulsion.”
I will, with my next posting, look at Declaration V. “Concerning the Practical Work of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church.
1 With this link as you read you will find that in the coming years the Confessional Church would be greatly weakened as an institution. However to think about it in a different way read my posting Paul Schneider: A Chestnut Tree and the Confessing Church
Sunday, September 28, 2008
How do members of a Church, who are trying to bear a faithful witness to Jesus Christ, react when higher authorities use their positions to manipulate the situation in the Church? Does this scatter the sheep or draw them together? Is the Confession torn apart or lifted up by faithful witnesses?
In my last posting, The Church within a Church: The Church's message and form 4, I wrote about the “The Declaration Concerning the Right Understanding of the Reformation Confessions of Faith in the German Evangelical Church of the Present,” a statement written by Karl Barth and confirmed by most of the Free Synods. In this posting I am writing about “The Ulm Declaration” written in 1934.
This declaration was the Confessing Church’s answer to the hierarchical manipulation of the Churches in Germany. In this case it was the attempt by the German Christians to bring the “southern provincial churches of Baveria and Württemberg” into the Reich Church which was under the control of the German Christians. The attempt was manipulative, dishonest and included an attempt to remove a Pastor from his Church.
Dr. August Jäger, the “Legal Administrator” stepped into a conflict between the German Christians in “the Standing Committee of the Church Council” and the Bishop of the Württenburg Church, Theophil Wurm. He attempted to use the conflict as a way of influencing the Church to dispose of their Pastor. The attempt included a radio broadcast which lied about the Pastor and his Church.
This drew the churches of Baveria and Württemberg into the Free Synod movement. Arthur Cochrane writes of the Ulm Conference, “It was the most representative gathering of ‘Confessionals’ that had been held, bringing together delegates from Bavarian and Württenburg Churches, the Free Synods in the Rhineland, Westphalia, and Brandenburg, as well as many ‘confessing’ congregations throughout Germany.”1
The Ulm Declaration is the beginning of the Confessing Church’s insistence that they represented the true Church within the Evangelical Church of Germany. At the same time they understand that the German Christian’s call for peace and unity in the Church was totally political and had broken the peace of the Church.
So, one important action of this particular declaration was to tell the truth. The German Christians’ call for peace and unity was deceptive. The authors of the declaration wrote:
“It is not possible to preach peace and then immediately do violence to a Church that is bound to a Confession of Faith such as the Württenburg Church.”
The next action was to call for a true unity connected to the Church’s faithfulness to the Confessions. The authors wrote:
“Because of a constant endangering of the Church and its Confession and also in the interest of the truth, we exhibit, before Christendom and all who are willing to hear, a unity in which we intend, with the help of God’s strength, to remain faithful to the Confession, even though we have to expect that in doing so we will incur much trouble.”
After this the authors of the declaration confront some of the errors perpetrated against Bishop Wurm, and finally they give a call to faithfulness and offer a prayer, parts of which could be prayed by many in the PCUSA today.
“As a fellowship of determined fighters obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray Almighty God to open the eyes of all Christians to the danger that threatens our beloved Church. May he not let us waver in remaining faithful to his honor and in his service.”
1 This is just a small part of the incident for more information read, The Church’s Confession Under Hitler by Arthur C. Cochrane 137-139.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The Confessing Church in Germany, during the time of Hitler, was in many ways a Church within a Church. This is because the denominational institutions of the day were gathered under an artificial structure lead by a political bishop. It is also because its ideology and theology were attached to the German government‘s ideology.
Only those who resisted the artificial structure and denied the prevailing ideology and theology existed as the body of Christ. They became a Church within a Church.
Sinful and often failing, yet hid in the righteousness of Christ, they, from our historical perspective, can be seen as the faithful body of Christ.
The ideology of the compromised German Church was racist and nationalistic, the theology was liberal, denying the unique Lordship of Christ and the revelation of God found only in the Holy Scripture. By merging the two positions the German Christian’s provided themselves a basis for revering Hitler while rejecting both the Hebrew Bible and its Jewish people.
In the last posting of my series the “Church within a Church,” I wrote about two confessional statements that were written by the Confessing movement before the Free Synods were called. In this posting I will write about one of two statements that were written during the time of the “synodical movement.” In my next posting I will write about the second one which also entails the manipulative actions of the German Christians toward their brothers and sisters in the Confessing Church.
All of the statements, before and during the time of the Free Synods, are concerned with the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the form or structure of his Church.
The very first Free Synod, held in Barmen, produced a declaration that was the closest of all the statements to the Barmen Declaration. Like the Barmen Declaration, its author was Karl Barth. It was “The Declaration Concerning the Right Understanding of the Reformation Confessions of Faith in the German Evangelical Church of the Present.”
The Declaration first addresses an error. The error:
"It consists in the opinion that beside God’s revelation, God’s grace, and God’s glory, a justifiable human arbitrariness also has to determine the message and form of the Church, that is to say the temporal way to eternal salvation.”
Here the Declaration uses both the picture of the medieval Pope and the “fanatics” that the Reformation Confessions rejected. This is about the structure of the Church and its unity which is found in its confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words rather than a unity that is demanded by human institutions (the Pope)or human ideals (the Fanatics), unity would be found in the Church’s confession of Jesus Christ as her unique Lord.
Next the Declaration speaks of “The Church Under Holy Scripture.” After insisting that the Old and New Testament are a unity, the Old witnessing to “the coming of Jesus Christ,” the New to “Jesus Christ who has come,” the Declaration defines for the Church those events that count as God’s activity. That is, God’s activity is seen in his action in Jesus Christ “testified to by Holy Scripture,” rather than God’s activity seen in current events.
Under “The Message of the Church,” the Declaration speaks of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. It is a rejection of any kind of justification or sanctification accomplished by doing good works.
The last part of the Declaration is about the “Form of the Church.” Here once again is an insistence that the form of the Church flows out of its head which is Christ. The Church is “called, assembled and upheld, comforted and ruled, by the Lord himself through the ministry of proclamation.”
The Church’s message and form is “one and the same in different times, races, peoples, states, and cultures. The justification for differences in Churches in this or that place depends upon whether they are consistent with the unity of the Church’s message and form.”
This meant that the German Christians’ insistence that there be a German Church aligned with German culture and a rejection of the Hebrew Bible and its Jewish authors was not consistent with the Church’s message. This meant that the German Christian’s insistence on a human authority along side Jesus Christ was not consistent with the Church' form and was rejected.
Differences in Churches are justified when they are consistent with the Church’s message which is the gift of grace. As Barth puts it under “The Church’s Message":
“The gift of grace is our membership in Jesus Christ: in him we are justified by the miracle of faith which ever again excepts the forgiveness of sins, which has taken place in him. And in him we are sanctified by the miracle of obedience that ever submits itself to the judgment and direction of the commandment, which comes from him.”
All quotes taken from The Church's Confession Under Hitler, Arthur C. Cochrane.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I misunderstood. After checking with a friend this is the right information: "the appeals process against the decision of the Roseville/Fair Oaks superior court case has not yet begun The cases for the two churches were consolidated, remember; and the synod was granted permission to intervene; and the final judgment was reached at the initial level. So now we wait – I don’t know if the synod has already begun filing paperwork or not. It will be a process of probably over a year, once that happens. So continue to keep us in prayer." (I have changed my text below.)
Saturday, the twentieth of September, was certainly “a day the Lord made” and I am grateful for the day simply because his sovereignty is always over all of our affairs. But this does not mean that we are always obedient to the Lordship of Christ.
I was in pain yesterday from shingles, but there was a deeper pain, which was experienced by many Evangelicals at Sacramento Presbytery's meeting.
Yesterday, the twentieth, Sacramento Presbytery voted on a resolution to ask the Synod of the Pacific to appoint an administrative commission to act on behalf of the Presbytery regarding the suits by the First Presbyterian Church of Roseville and Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. (And other pending and future suits) My Presbytery passed the resolution after almost three hours of new motions, attempts at amendments and debate.
One of the amendments was an attempt to confine the administrative commission’s concerns to only Roseville and Fair Oaks. It did not pass.
My Pastor, Dr. Donald Baird, offered a substitute motion that would have fulfilled the "gracious witness resolution" passed by General Assembly. It was defeated.
In the midst of our deliberations we found that the directive by our Synod’s PJC for the leaders of our presbytery to file an appeal in the case that Roseville had won was not a legal or binding move. They did not have to file the appeal. That did not seem to matter to those pushing this resolution.
There were other painful actions at this presbytery meeting. Perhaps the most painful was the refusal of the Council on Ministry to renew the contract with a Pastor of a very small church . It is a development funded Church in our Presbytery. The Pastor has been an unwavering leader among the Evangelicals in this Presbytery. He has also been a faithful and kind brother to all in the Presbytery, and his session and congregation have tried for two years to get the Council to allow him to be their permanent pastor.
After a member of the Church, myself, and another Presbytery member protested, Dr. Keith Posehn, the pastor of the Church, walked down to the microphone and said he had to honor the Council's motion. The Moderator was silent asking another member to hold his question. Then he told us that that was the bravest action he had ever witnessed. Pastor Baird prayed a very beautiful prayer of healing for all of us.The Presbytery voted on this motion and passed it. All may correct me if they care to but I call this persecution.
Some Evangelical and orthodox Presbyterians are writing about realignment (theological synods rather than regional synods) or various means for staying in the Presbyterian Church(USA) and still being faithful to Jesus Christ. After Saturday’s Sacramento Presbytery meeting I believe, at least for such presbyteries as Sacramento, that may be a very important option for the orthodox and Evangelical Christian.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I am ashamed to announce that on Saturday, the twentieth of September, the Sacramento Presbytery will be voting on a resolution to ask the Synod of the Pacific to appoint an administrative commission to act on behalf of the Presbytery regarding the suits by the First Presbyterian Church of Roseville and Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. It can be found on the Sacramento Presbytery page.
It will hopefully be remembered that the Presbytery had settled the dismissal of those Churches in a gracious manner until a complaint was filed by the pastors of Westminster Church in Sacramento. When the Churches then won their case in court and the Presbytery voted not to appeal the pastors once again filed a complaint.
I wrote about that here A Dis-heartening Action involving the Synod of the Pacific . In light of the passage of item 04-28 a "gracious witness resolution" offered by General Assembly commissioner Robert Austell and passed by the GA, this is becoming a shameful episode in our presbytery's life.
Because the Presbytery Docket file is so large I am placing the resolution here:
"RESOLUTION RELATING TO
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF ROSEVILLE V. PRESBYTERY OF SACRAMENTO
FAIR OAKS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH V. PRESBYTERY OF SACRAMENTO
WHEREAS, the Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Roseville (collectively, the "Plaintiffs") have heretofore initiated the above-captioned suits (collectively, the "Original Suits") against the Presbytery of Sacramento (the "Presbytery") to quiet title in certain real property; and
WHEREAS, the Original Suits have been consolidated in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Placer as Case No. SCV 20758; and
WHEREAS, the Synod of the Pacific (the "Synod") has filed a motion for leave to file its complaint in intervention in connection with the Original Suits, which motion has been granted; and
WHEREAS, on September 11, 2008, a judgment was entered in the Original Suits in favor of the Plaintiffs; and
WHEREAS, if an appeal (the "Appeal") is to be taken, notice of appeal must be filed no later than 60 days after the entry of judgment, which will be November 10, 2008; and
WHEREAS, certain other churches have threatened suit or may in the future initiate suits to quiet title in certain other real property (the "Additional Suits"); and
WHEREAS, the Presbytery has incurred substantial expenditures in connection with the defense of the Suits and is financially incapable of funding the Appeal and/or the defense of the Additional Suits; and
WHEREAS, the issues in the Original Suits and the Additional Suits (collectively, the "Suits") involve or may involve the validity and enforceability in the State of California of the trust clause of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (G-8.0200) and, upon appeal, it is likely that the law of the State of California will be interpreted in a way that will establish precedent applicable to Presbyterian churches throughout the State of California; and
WHEREAS, the Synod of the Pacific is a regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that has jurisdiction over six presbyteries within the State of California and is "responsible for the mission of the church throughout its region," (G-12.0102), having the responsibility and power "b. to initiate mission through a variety of forms in light of the larger strategy of the General Assembly; . . .e. to develop and provide resources as needed to facilitate the mission of its presbyteries. . . . j. to provide services and programs for presbyteries . . . . within its area that can be performed more effectively from a broad regional base;" and
WHEREAS, for the reasons set forth above, it is more appropriate that the Synod, as a higher governing body, having access to greater resources and having a larger territory of jurisdiction
within the State of California, be responsible for the defense of the Trust Clause by means of the Appeal;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The Presbytery hereby petitions the Synod to appoint an administrative commission under G-9.02503, with the power to act on behalf of the Presbytery in all matters related to the Suits, including the Appeal and to provide or obtain funding in connection therewith..
# 5604578_v2 "
A good answer to this problem of property is offered by Rev. Mark Roberts here The PC(USA) and Church Property, Part 4Please pray for Sacramento Presbytery.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I don't usually do postings or write on political issues especially not on elections of the President of the United States. But after reading several blogs that hold my interest and thinking hard about it I have decided to do a post with a few links about the election.
The reason I am doing this is because of such issues as fairness, integrity and a Christian's attitude about politics in America. First of all to be up front about it, I am a Democrat who usually votes pro-life if it is possible to do so. And just to show you how adamant I am about integrity and fairness I will tell a funny story on myself.
Quite a few years ago, with the usual happening in California, a governor's race with no pro-life candidate, I noticed that one of the pro-life groups was pushing a candidate who was connected to David Duke's (read neo-Nazi) party. They of course didn't know the particulars, but because I write on racist issues I did, and called and told them so. It was too late; they had already published and couldn't retract. I called the Sacramento Bee who sent someone to my house to pick up materials I had on the subject.
But the out-come was that it was simply someone who writes a column who was interested. And she was interested in what I had said, not my information on a bad candidate. What did I say, "I am so discouraged I think I am going to write-in Mother Teresa's name for Governor." So the next day in the paper in the column were my words about writing in Mother Teresa's name. And on voting day one of my daughters heard a voting worker say "have you noticed anyone writing in Mother Teresa's name yet." I hope the volunteers weren't looking! (And I won't tell if I did or not.)
So this is about Christian blogs and some of their political thoughts. The first blog is an official blog for the PCUSA. It is the National Network Of Presbyterian College Women. It is Network Notes. Noelle Tennis Gulden, the staff person for the college women, has written this particular post and it is about Sarah Palin. The post is Weighing in on Palin
The post bothered me but mostly because of the article Ms Gulden linked to. The article was written by Mary Hunt a radical Catholic feminist who was neither kind nor honest about the new Vice-Presidential Candidate.
There are interesting comments including Ms Gulden's explanation of why she linked to the article. ( I must admit that I am also concerned because this is an official blog and I know that there are Presbyterian college women who are Republican and/or at least tend to vote that way and might be discouraged about finding themselves on the outside of the NNPCW.) I also commented and I must confess I was somewhat upset when I did, so I apologize if I am too strident in my comments.
There are two other blogs I have linked to. They are both Southern Baptist Pastors and given their conservatism I believe they are two of the most gracious postings on the election I have read.
The first is by Thabiti Anyabwile who pastors in the Cayman Islands. His blog is Pure Church. The title of his post is " A Proposal for Christian Bloggers Interested in Politics" at A Proposal for Christian Bloggers Interested in Po...
Anyabwile's proposal is that Christian bloggers make their pick of who they will vote for and then blog about them whenever they are dishonest or unkind to their opponent. Here are a few of his words:
"Well... it's happened. We all knew that it would. The national campaign for president has taken a nasty turn. For the first time in years, we had two candidates that looked as if they might fulfill their promise of a race with integrity and some measure of cleanliness. Well, okay, that was a brief and fleeting moment as both candidates tried and usually did take relatively high ground during the primaries."
The next is by a Pastor in Boulder Colorado, Scott Kelly. His blog is Views from the Grass. He has two postings that are very helpful. One is on Sen. Barack Obama and his book The Audacity of Hope. At Book Review: Audacity of Hope you will find a fair assessment with both kind words for Obama and words of disagreement. He begins with this:
"For the first time, a non-white person has a reasonable chance of becoming the next President of the United States of America. At long last, one of the major political parties in this country has nominated an African-American. Praise God!"
The second posting is about Sen. McCain and Sarah Palin. It can be found here: Thought on McCain/Palin '08. This posting also has a fair assessment and words of disagreement. And this is how Kelly begins:
"For the first time, a woman has a reasonable chance of becoming the next Vice-President of the United States of America. At long last, the Republican party has nominated a woman. Praise God!"
So I am hoping that all Christian bloggers will write with political and Christian integrity about the candidates and the issues. Because presidents come and go but Jesus Christ is king forever.
Up-date: Ms Gulden of Network Notes has removed her posting about Sarah Palin and the new one Who's Looking Out for Michelle? I thank her for doing so!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
There are many different quizzing groups. As a teenager, many years ago, I did some quizzing with Youth for Christ. Sheldon's team is part of the Missionary Alliance Churches.
The teams start out competing locally. The members memorize whole books of the Bible. They are given very minor clues and members jump to their feet in order to be the first to say the right verse.
Once Again congratulations to Sheldon and his team.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Some Churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA), who have gone to court to keep their property, are losing court cases around the issue of whether or not the denomination is a hierarchical institution. Whether one agrees or disagrees with going to court over property, the issue of the Church being hierarchical is also a part of the history of the German Church struggle.
The Lordship of Jesus Christ, the form of the Church and a hierarchical view of the Church were all intertwined in the confusion that existed before and during the rule of Hitler’s Nazis.
It was for this reason that many of the confessional statements written in the few years before the Declaration of Barmen had as their concern how the form of the Church must grow out of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And it was for this reason that during the synod that produced the Declaration of Barmen a resolution was also approved that contained this statement about the Church:
“It is impossible to divorce the Church’s outward order from the Confession of Faith. …
The unity of the German Evangelical Church is also not achieved by recklessly setting up a central authority that is based upon a worldly Führerprinzip foreign to the Church. A hierarchical structure of the Church is contrary to the Reformation Confession of Faith.” (emphasis mine)1
As has been stated this statement grew out of a dispute about the Lordship of Christ over the Churches. In Germany it was a dispute about placing a Reich bishop along with lesser bishops over the Church.
The writing of faith statements and confessions of faith began before the free synods and accrued until members of the Barmen Synod wrote and accepted the Declaration of Barmen. In this posting I deal with two statements written before the beginning of free synods and in the next I will look at two that were written during the free synod meetings. They are all concerned with the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the form of his Church.
There is not an English translation of the first one but Arthur C. Cochrane explains its content in his book The Church’s Confession Under Hitler. The “Altona Statement,” or “A Word and Confession to the Need and Confusion in Public Life” was written “a few weeks before Hitler assumed power.” One of its authors, Hans Asmussen, would later give the sermon that explained the Declaration of Barmen to the members of the Synod of Barmen.
This statement simply explained what the Church was, how Christians were to function in the public forum and the relationship between the Church and the State. It stressed the sinfulness of humanity and the forgiveness given by Jesus Christ to his people.
The second statement is the “Düsseldorf Theses,” written in May 1933. It began with a statement from the “Ten Theses of Berne,” written in 1528. “The holy, Christian Church, whose only head is Christ, is born of the Word of God, abides in the same, and hears not the voice of a stranger.”
The Theses emphasized that Jesus Christ was the head of the Church and that the ministries within the Church are “ordered by him." The statement speaks to each ministry, preachers, elders, teachers, etc., explaining what the duties are and that it is only in the grace of Jesus that they have their usefulness. The offices are always referred to as ministries and their authority is grounded in the grace of Christ.
Number 12 of the Theses is “Jesus Christ is the only ‘spiritual leader’ of the Church. He is its heavenly King who lives on earth through his Spirit in every one who is obedient to his commission in serving him in the Church.”
Only Jesus Christ has ultimate authority, any other ministry is just that a ministry. The authority of each ministry is established as it functions in the Spirit through the grace of Jesus Christ.
The Confessing Church appealed to the Reformation Confessions and declared that any other form of the Church grew out of arbitrary human ideals and was an unacceptable way of ordering the Church. Within the free synods a hierarchical Church was denied on the ground that Jesus Christ alone was head of the Church. It is with this denial that they stood against a corrupt German institution, a heretical Church.
1 “Declaration Concerning the Legal Status of the German Evangelical Church,” in The Churches Confession Under Hitler by Arthur C. Cochrane, 242. It seems to me that since we have the Declaration of Barmen in our Book of Confessions and since this statement is based on that and other Confessions that should be proof enough that we are not a hierarchical Church.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Over the weekend my husband and I re-watched the movie “Witness.” The movie centers on an Amish community and a little boy who is the only witness to a murder in a train station. As I was watching the movie I realized that not only was the boy a witness to the evil of a corrupt police department, but the whole Amish community was a witness to the invasion of the corrupt officials as they invaded the peaceful community.
Because of the community’s witness, as a group, the murderers were not able to complete their unspeakable deeds.
I am reminded of this as I write on the witness of the free synods of the Confessing Church in Germany during the time of Hitler. I am also reminded of this as I think about those in the PCUSA who hold an orthodox view of the Christian faith and choose, out of obedience to Jesus Christ, to stay in the denomination. Often, all that is required of a witness is to observe and state the truth. Or conversely to state the truth and observe.
Beginning very early, in 1934, the Reich bishop, Ludwig Müller, committed many “dictatorial acts” by eliminating many pastors from their positions. “Over two hundred ministers were subjected to disciplinary measures, suspensions, and dismissals.” Martin Niemöller was the first of this group to lose his position. This was the beginning of the call for free synods which were not official synods of the Church in Germany, but rather began with local meetings of those who had protested but now needed to simply stand in faithfulness.
The first free synod was a Reformed synod. It met in Barmen-Gemarke on January the 3- 4th. 1 There were “320 elders and ministers representing 167 congregations.” The next meeting was in “Pomerania on February 4.” The third free synod was held again in Barmen and was a Free Evangelical Synod consisting of Reformed, Lutheran and United ministers and elders. That was in February the 18 and 19th.
Next, members of the Council of Brethren of the Pastor’s Emergency league meeting on February 20 asked to become members of the free Evangelical Synod of the Rhineland and brought with them the congregations of the league. On March the 7th, congregations from Berlin met for a “Free Evangelical Synod for Berlin and Brandenburg.” Arthur C. Cochrane, author of The Church’s Confession Under Hitler, gives some interesting statistics here. He writes that four laymen and two ministers from each Church attended; “four hundred men and forty women altogether.” (My emphasis; a new history project for someone!)
The next meeting also has an interesting piece of data beside it. In March the 16th “the day the Secret Police dissolved the regularly called [official] Synod of Westphalia,” the First Westphalian Confessional Synod was held in Dortmund. On April the 29th the Free Evangelical Synod of the Rhineland met with the Westphalian Confessional Synod.
With further manipulative actions by official Church leaders in takeovers of Churches and dismissal of pastors many more congregations in Germany joined the Free and Confessional synods. By April 22 the Ulm Conference was held which had delegates from, “Bavarian and Württenburg Churches, the Free Synods in the Rhineland, Westphalia, and Brandenburg, as well as many ‘confessing’ congregations throughout Germany.”
Of course the most important meeting was held in Barmen on May 29-31 when the "Declaration of Barmen" was formulated, presented and accepted.
Several actions occurred within these free synods. The first was the formulating and acceptance of several confessional statements. The first statement was the “The Declaration Concerning the Right Understanding of the Reformation Confessions of Faith in the German Evangelical Church of the Present.” This, like the later “Declaration of Barmen” was written by Karl Barth. Another Confession was the “Ulm Declaration.” I will write about these statements in my third posting on this subject.
The Second action was the formation of leadership groups in the form of councils of brethren. The third inevitable action happened in the midst of severe crisis and persecution. Members of the synods came to the conclusion that they were the “legitimate” Church in Germany. This recognition of their own legitimacy can be traced to their stands on the faith and confession of the Church rather than any political viewpoint.
The members of the free synod and confessional gatherings were certainly witnesses to the German Church, the German people and later to the worldwide Church. They shared a witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the midst of a Church which wanted to share his Lordship with other gods. In gathering together they stood as one against an egocentric culture within Germany. And they spoke truth when everywhere lies and manipulation were the norm. Because of their witness paganism never totally engulfed the whole Church.
But, most important, it was the unique act of calling together "free synods" as a way of addressing the crisis within the official Church which allowed the confessing Christians and congregations to bring orthodox teaching and structure to the churches while speaking confessional truth to the German people.
1 All of the material about the free synods is taken from The Church’s Confession Under Hitler by Artur C. Cochrane.
Monday, September 8, 2008
This series will deal with how the Confessing Church in Germany, during the Nazi years, dealt with its position as a Church within a Church and how that is relevant to the orthodox in the PC(USA) today.
The official Church was a combination of the Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches gathered together under a Church government shaped, promoted and used by the Nazi Government. Many will see this as a non-relevant subject for the orthodox within the PCUSA today, and clearly the differences are vast. But surprisingly the most basic issues, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, revelation, atonement and ideas about the form and nature of the Church are the same.
With this beginning post I lay out the vast differences, the similarities, and the Confessing Church’s path of resistance that I believe offer some clues toward the future.
Certainly the most serious differences were the dictatorship the Church struggled under and the real issues of life and death. The most serious symptom of the real theological issues within the Church was the German Church official’s refusal to allow Jewish Christians a place within the Church as well as the end of missionary activity to the Jewish people.
Confessing Church pastors and officials faced loss of their ordination; they faced prison and death. All of those involved in youth ministry faced the despair of watching their organizations be dissolved into Hitler’s youth organization. Theological professors lost their university jobs. But one Professor, in particular, noted that the problem was much deeper than the militant dictatorship that existed in his day.
Karl Barth understood that the Church's theological problems began in Germany two-hundred years before and stated that after the, “Church will have finished with the public, savage heretics [the German Christians],” …”who will save her from the blandishments of those who seem correct as to the standards of the Church, Bible and Reformation. And yet, in principle do not think differently from those heretics.”
So, for similarities the most basic sameness in the two Church struggles has to do with revelation. Without dictatorships, without Nazis or any other evil ideology some fail to see that the two struggles are the same. The theologians of Germany for two hundred years had prepared the Church of Germany to recognize other forms of revelation beside Jesus Christ as he is found in Holy Scripture. Today it is reason, science, culture, gender, community, etc. Then, culture, soil, community (volk) and the events of history became the revelation German Christianity placed beside Jesus Christ.
Christianity became Germanic; Hitler and National Socialism were the great gifts and revelation that God had supposedly given to Germany. This is why the German Christians rejected the Jewish people and the Hebrew Bible. This is also why many of the German Christians rejected the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. For them Jesus became a kind of super hero, some one to emulate rather then kneel before. The culture of Germany became more important than the blood of the cross.
Ideas about the Church changed with the new revelation. The Church was seen as a means to unify the community, the volk. The Church was to be an instrument for building up people and culture. The Church took on a new appearance. The German officials rejected the Reform understanding of parliamentary governance. Leaders of the German Faith movement wrote in their "Guiding Priniciples":
“The time of parliamentarianism has outlived itself even in the Church. Ecclesiastical parties have no religious sanction to represent Church people and are opposed to the lofty purpose of becoming a national Church.”1
The leaders believed parliamentary governance destroyed the unity of the Church and the nation. Instead they opted for a hierarchical structure that went well beyond the Lutheran tradition since it was shaped on an administrative rather than a spiritual foundation.
The orthodox in the midst of the Church crisis began to call for free synods. Arthur Cochrane writes:
"There remained for Christ’s flock the one thing possible—the one thing the Church can do when all other possibilities have been exhausted, namely, a common Confession of Christ in the face of a heresy that threatens the life of the Church as the true bride of Christ. Thus in the early months of 1934, a new movement appeared on the scene, in which the laity played as important a part as the clergy. A.S. Duncan-Jones has called this the ‘synodical movement, because it took the form of local synods of clergy and laity who expressed their mind on the dangers that threatened the Church.’”
As part of this movement and alongside it several declarations were formulated which eventually led to the Declaration of Barmen. Beyond this, at the same synod that produced the Declaration of Barmen, the Confessional Synod voted for a resolution that dealt with such things as the Confessing Church's legality, their practical work, the spiritual renewal of ministers, education and the mission of the Church, (which included among other projects ministering to Storm Troopers and Hitler Youth!).
With further postings I intend to deal with the “free Synods,” the gathering declarations and finally with the various resolutions the members of the Synod of Barmen approved to guide them as they became a Church within a Church.
1 “The Guiding Principles of the Faith Movement of the ‘German Christians,, June 6 1932” Appendix II in The Church’s Confession Under Hitler, Arthur C. Cochrane, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press 1961) 222.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I intend to follow this series up with another on how the Confessing Church survived as a Church within a heretical Church. The information will come mostly from a document attached to the Declaration of Barmen found in The Churches Confession Under Hitler. As I have stated in a footnote, “Those who formulated the Declaration of Barmen also laid out some practical steps for being the Church in a time of division and crisis. This can be found under Barmen as “III. Resolution of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church.”
The 10th characteristic of a Confession of Faith:
“A Confession of Faith possesses a relative and subordinate authority and freedom. They are founded upon and limited by the absolute and unique authority and freedom of God’s word in Holy scripture. When the Church confesses Jesus Christ as attested in Holy Scripture in the name of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and in continuity with the Fathers, when its confession fulfills both the dogmatic and ethical requirements of a Confession, and when it comes forth with an unequivocal Yes and a No, such a Confession exercises authority. …”
Referring to the confessional authority as spiritual authority Cochrane goes on to write of the nature of that authority:
“The authority of the creeds and Confessions is not due to the fact that they have been adopted in the constitutions of certain Churches. Conversely, the authority of a Confession is not abolished or lessened by the fact that certain Churches have refused to recognize their validity in Church law.”
Cochrane asks the important question, “Who will deny that the ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions of the Reformation still exercise authority even in so-called confessionless Churches?”
Cochrane shows how the true Confession of Faith is in fact a Christological act. He writes:
“The primary condition of a Confession, the possibility of a Confession, is not that men decide to confess Christ for a variety of reasons—say, for the sake of a Church union—but that Christ for no reason at all, that is, in his sovereign freedom, has decided to confess himself to us. A Confession is Christological not only in the fact that its articles are related to Christ but in the sense that he is the confessor. The Church confesses only in him! The Confession occurs not when we think we have discovered the truth, but when the truth has found us.”
Cochrane writes of the possibility of another or new Confession of Faith by the Church in other lands in his and now our day. He asks some questions. I will finish with some of his questions:
“Are we on the threshold of a day when the Church knows that its only weapon and defense will be its Confession of Faith? Are we conscious of some great heresy by which our Churches are ‘grievously imperiled’ and of some great truth by which we are possessed? Are we prepared to make dogmatic and, much more important, ethical decisions as a Church, and for the sake of them to lose our life in order to find it?”
The Confession of the Church 1
The Confession of the Church 2
The Confession of the Church 3
The Confession of the Church 4
The Confession of the Church 5a
The Confession of the Church 5b
The Confession of the Church 6
The Confession of the Church 7
The Confession of the Church 8
The Confession of the Church 9
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The first is Rev. Kim's Saddened at Called to be the Pastor's Wife and the Pastor.
Rev. Kim writes among other things:
"I'm saddened that smart, accomplished people are presuming that this woman has nothing to offer her country and this country's women, simply because of the views she holds and the party she represents.
I'm saddened that smart, accomplished people who call for diversity of thought and belief on a wide range of issues only seem to welcome such diversity of thought and belief when it aligns with their own."
The other is on the Anchoress, entitled "Sarah & Bristol Meltdown the Haters."
The Anchoress' words include:
"They’re in trouble over there. [forums of the far-left], They’re in serious trouble of the mind, and trouble of the heart and trouble of the soul. They are so paranoid, and so full of hate, at this point, that they are clinging to an insane idea - one that betrays a sort of soul-sickness that leaves me feeling both incredulous and chilled.
How much do you have to love your hate in order to surrender your reason, and your humanity, to it?"
It is also helpful to go to Get Religion . Org and read some of their articles.