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THE DECLARATIONS, RESOLUTIONS, AND MOTIONS ADoPTED BY THE
SYNOD OF BARMEN, MAY 29-31, 1934
I. An Appeal to the Evangelical Congregations
and Christians in Germany
The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Bar-
men, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from all the German Con-
fessional Churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord
of the one, holy, apostolic Church. In fidelity to their Confession of Faith,
members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches sought a common
message for the need and temptation of the Church in our day. With
gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common
word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church or to
form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds than the abolition
of the confessional status of our Churches. Their intention was, rather, to
withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of
Faith, and thus of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In • opposition to
attempts to establish the ~ n i t y of the German Evangelical Church by
means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere .practices, the
Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in
Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy
Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
Therefore the Confessional Synod calls upon the congregations to range
themselves behind it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those
pastors and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the
German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions,
as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church
or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the
Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether
they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers.
If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen
to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then
let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of
faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God's people be of
one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has
said: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Therefore, "Fear not,
little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." ~
I ' " ~
II. Theological Declaration Concerning the Present Situation
of the German Evangelical Church
According to the opening words of its constitution of July 11, 1933, the
German Evangelical Church is a federation of Confessional Churches that
grew out of the Reformation and that enjoy equal rights. The theological
basis for the unification of these Churches is laid down in Article 1 and
Article 2(1) of the constitution of the German Evangelical Church that
was recognized by the Reich Government on July 14, 1933:
Article 1. The inviolable foundation of the German Evangelical
Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is attested for us in
Holy Scripture and brought to light again in the Confessions
of the Reformation. The full powers that the Church needs for
its mission are hereby determined and limited.
Article 2 (1). The German Evangelical Church is divided into
member Churches (Lan deskirch en ).
We, the representatives of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches, of
free synods, Church assemblies, and parish organizations united in the
Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church, declare that we
stand together on the ground of the German Evangelical Church as a
federation of German Confessional Churches. We are bound together by
the confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
We publicly declare before all evangelical Churches in Germany that
what they hold in common in this Confession is grievously imperiled, and
with it the unity of the German Evangelical Church. It is threatened by
the teaching methods and actions of the ruling Church party of the" Ger-
man Christians" and of the Church administration carried on by them.
These have become more and more apparent during the first year of the
existence of the German Evangelical Church. This threat consists in the
fact that the theological basis, in which the German Evangelical Church is
united, has been continually and systematically thwarted and rendered
ineffective by alien principles, on the part of the leaders and spokesmen of
the "German Christians" as well as on the part of the Church adminis-
tration. When these principles are held to be valid, then, according to all
the Confessions in force among us, the Church ceases to be the Church,
and the German Evangelical Church, as a federation of Confessional
Churches, becomes intrinsically impossible.
As members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches we may and
VII: BARMEN DECLARATIONS, RESOLUTIONS, AND MOTIONS
must speak with one voice in this matter today. Precisely because we want
to be and to remain faithful to our various Confessions, we may not keep
silent, since we believe that we have been given a common message to
utter in a time of common need and temptation. We commend to God
what this may mean for the interrelations of the Confessional Churches.
In view of the errors of the " German Christians" of the present Reich
Church government which are devastating the Church and are also thereby
breaking up the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess the
following evangelical truths:
1. It J am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the
Father, but by me." (John 14:6.) It Truly, truly, J say to you, he who does
not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that
man is a thief and a robber . .. . J am the door; if anyone enters by me, he
will be saved." (John 10:1,9.)1
Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word
of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in
life and in death.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would
have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and be-
sides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and
truths, as God's revelation.
2. I( Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and
sanctification and redemption." (I Cor. 1 :30.)
1 The translation of the texts from the Bible is that of the Revised Standard Ver-
sion and therefore not always an accurate rendition of the German.
2 The reader who wishes to pursue a study of all alterations made to the text of
the Declaration through its several drafts is referred to Gerhard Niemoller's work
on Barmen. Only the more important changes will be noted here. The phrase "as
a source of its proclamation" was not in the original draft; it was added at Barmen.
The original wording indicates, moreover, that Jesus Christ is the revelation and not
merely" acknowledged" to be God's revelation. Attention is drawn to the transla-
tion of the German construction " als konne und musse die Kirche ... anerken-
nen," which is usually translated, "We reject the false doctrine that the Church can
and must . . ." After consultation with several German scholars, and with Professor
Barth himself, I decided to employ the more literal and admittedly more awkward
construction above. Involved here is a characteristic point in Barth's theology and in
the Barmen Declaration, namely, that sin and evil do not have a positive existence
as that which is created and willed by God. They exist as that which God hates and
negates, as an impossible possibility. Therefore it is not possible for the Church to
acknowledge other truths, etc., as God's revelation. This is the lie propounded in
false doctrine. " Gestalten" has been rendered as "figures." The German word con-
veys the historical structure that lies behind a person and the history made by that
person. It indicates a person who influences the course of events and attracts a fol-
lowing. The implied contrast is doubtless between Jesus and Hitler.
As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so
in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty
claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance
from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his
We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in
which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords- areas in
which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
3. (( Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way
into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is]
joined and knit together." (Eph.4:15-16.)
The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which
Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through
the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the
midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its mes-
sage as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and
wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expecta-
tion of his appearance!
We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to
3 "Zuspruch" has been translated" assurance." But here it also implies a judicial
verdict made by God in Jesus Christ. It could therefore also be translated" adjudg-
ment." Likewise, "claim" (" Anspruch ") is something God has done in Christ.
Men are "claimed" by God in him before they come to hear and know about it.
It is a pity that in English the play on words in " Zuspruch" and " Anspruch "
cannot be brought out.
~ This paragraph originally read: "The Christian Church is the congregation of
brethren in which Jesus Christ is proclaimed as the Lord. It has to testify with its
faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, in the midst of a sin-
ful world and itself as the Church of sinners, that it is solely his property, and that
it wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction." In Barmen the
article was given its present complicated form when Hermann Sasse insisted upon
mentioning the sacrament. Thereupon the Reformed theologians on the Theological
Commission - Barth, Obendiek, and Niesel- requested that the Holy Spirit be
mentioned. In a letter to Wilhelm Niemoller, dated Schoeller, January 11, 1954,
Wilhelm Niesel stated that he had suggested the phrase: " Through the Holy Spirit."
Concerning this point, Barth recalled in a letter to Niemoller, dated Basel, October
17, 1953: "In the deliberations of the Commission during the synod the first para-
graph of Thesis 3 acquired its present complicated form when Sasse and Althaus
insisted upon having the' sacrament' mentioned. Thereupon I could do nothing but
insist upon mentioning the Holy Spirit! This is how the paragraph became so • Cal-
vinist,' as it was afterward lamented." Actually Althaus was not a member of the
Commission. When Barth linked his name with Sasse's, it is possible that Sasse had
conferred with Althaus, or that Barth's memory had slipped. The point is of con-
siderable interest in view of Barth's later teaching concerning the" sacraments." In
his report to the synod, Asmussen said: "If you read this sentence slowly, you will
see that every word has been weighed with the greatest exactness."
vn: BARMEN DECLARATIONS, RESOLUTIONS, AND MOTIONS 241
abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to
changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.
4. (( You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their
great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you,' but
whoever would be great among you must be your servant." (Matt. 20:
The various offices in the Church do not establish a dominion of some
over the others; on the contrary, they are for the exercise of the ministry
entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this
ministry, could and were permitted to give to itself, or allow to be given
to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.
5. (( Fear God. Honor the emperor." (I Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the
Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of pro-
viding for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat
and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and
human ability. The Church acknowledges the benefit of this divine ap-
pointment in gratitude and reverence before him. It calls to mind the
Kingdom of God, God's commandment and righteousness, and thereby
the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the
power of the Word by which God upholds all things.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its
special commission, should and could become the single and totalitarian
order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church's vocation as well.
We rej ect the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond
its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics,
the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of
G These two paragraphs on false doctrines of State and Church were originally
one, and read as follows: "We reject the error, as though the State· were the only
and totalitarian order of human life. We reject the error, as though the Church had
to conform to a particular form of the State in its message and form." Merz con-
tended that the damnatio had to be completely altered in view of the fact that the
synod was opposed not to the State but to the "German Christians." For a time it
appeared that an agreement could not be reached. However, during a recess Barth
reworded this section and his new version was accepted. Attention is drawn to the •
fact that the fifth thesis does not speak of the State as an .. order" or .. ordinance" -.
(Ordnung) of God, but as having a specific task by or according to God's" appoint-
ment" or " ordering." Barth himself informed me that the German word Anordnung
(here translated " appointment ") is to be understood in the sense of ordinatio in-
stead of ordo. In keeping with the obvious intention of the framers of the Barmen
Declaration to get away from the idea of "orders," with which the doctrine of the
State has been burdened, I have used the word "appointment."
6. " Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matt. 28:20.)
"The word of God is not fettered." (II Tim. 2:9.)
The Church's commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists
in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all people in Christ's
stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through
sermon and sacrament.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance
could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any ar-
bitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.
The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares
that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of
these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical
Church as a federation of Confessional Churches. It invites all who are
able to accept its declaration to be mindful of these theological principles
in their decisions in Church politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to
return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.
Verbum Dei Manet in Aeternum
III. Resolution of the Confessional Synod of the
German Evangelical Church
1. The synod acknowledges the Theological Declaration Concerning the
Present Situation of the German Evangelical Church together with Pastor
Asmussen's address to be a Biblical, Reformation testimony, and assumes
responsibility for it.
2. The synod hands this Declaration over to the Confessional conven-
tions for the purpose of working out an interpretation of it on the basis of
IV. Declaration Concerning the Legal Status of the
German Evangelical Church
1. The unimpeachable basis of the German Evangelical Church is the
gospel of Jesus Christ as it is testified to in Holy Scripture and brought to
light again in the Confessions of the Reformation. The present Reich
Church administration has abandoned this unimpeachable basis and has
been guilty of numerous violations of the law and the constitution. It has
thereby forfeited the claim to be the legitimate administration of the Ger-
man Evangelical Church.
Only those who are called and who desire to hold fast to Holy Scrip-
ture and to the Church's Confession of Faith as its inexpugnable founda-
VII: BARMEN DECLARATIONS, RESOLUTIONS, AND MOTIONS 243
tion, and who desire to make both the authoritative standard of the Ger-
man Evangelical Church again, may legitimately speak and act in the
name of the German Evangelical Church.
The congregations and Churches agreed in such a Confession are the
legitimate German Evangelical Church; they are assembled as the Con-
fessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church.
2. In the present Church emergency, the Confessional Synod has the
task of assembling the confessional congregations in the German Evangeli-
cal Church and of representing them, of caring for their fellowship and
common tasks, and of working to the end that the German Evangelical
Church be led according to the gospel and the Confession of Faith, and
that thereby its constitution and law be safeguarded.
3. It is impossible to divorce the Church's outward order from the Con-
fession of Faith. Accordingly, the division of the German Evangelical
Church into regional Churches, as provided in the constitution, has its
basis in the Confessions. Regional Churches bound to a Confession may
not be robbed of their independence through membership in the German
Evangelical Church by means of an administration or by external com-
pulsion, since the Church's outward order always has to justify itself to its
Confession. The incorporations which hitherto have been made by the
Reich Church government lack legal force.
4. The unity of the German Evangelical Church is also not achieved
by recklessly setting up a central authority that is based upon a worldly
Fuhrerprinzip foreign to the Church. A hierarchical structure of the
Church is contrary to the Reformation Confession of Faith.
5. The German Evangelical Church can achieve a genuine Church unity
only by (a) protecting the Reformation Confessions and by requiring an
organic federation of the regional Churches and congregations on the
basis of their confessional stand; (b) by giving to the congregation as the
bearer of the proclamation of the Word the place due to it. It must be its
earnest desire that the Spirit of the Lord Christ and not the spirit of tem-
poral rule be decisive in the Church of our fathers.
In obedience to the Lord of the Church there is such a strong unifying
power that in spite of the differences in the Reformation Confessions we
can stand together in a unity of purpose and action in the German Evan-
V. Declaration Concerning the Practical Work of the Confessional Synod
of the German Evangelical Church
The sixth point of the common witness of the Confessional Synod of
the German Evangelical Church states: "Lo, I am with you always, to
4 P ,_.
the close of the age" (Matt. 28:20). "The word of God is not fettered."
(II Tim. 2:9.) The commission of the Church, upon which its freedom is
founded, consists in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all
people in Christ's stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word
and work through sermon and sacrament."
The Confessing Church of Germany is thereby summoned to a work
of service. God has granted us confessing congregations. Through the
resuscitation of many Church members and pastors, a new sanctified will
to service has been awakened. When the Confessional Synod of the Ger-
man Evangelical Church takes over the administration of German evan-
gelical Christendom, it assumes a great responsibility for the new gifts
and powers given by God. Consequently the following is recommended
as urgent work for the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical
I. Ministering to the Spiritual Renewal of Ministers
If the minister is to perform in the Spirit of the Word of God the new
tasks given to him by God for the edification of the congregation, he needs
the permanent discipline and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
1. The spiritual ministry of the brethren among one another.
a. The ministers must unite and regularly meet in the various synods
for mutual service, for common work under God's Word, and for
prayer. From time to time ministers' wives must also take part in
h. We also need in our Church men who exercise the office of exhorta-
tion and comforting, and who will be free from time to time
to strengthen and admonish the brethren in different places, es-
pecially those who are isolated.
c. Special retreats of several days' duration away from the large
cities; if possible also for ministers' wives.
d. Spiritual fellowship held at regular intervals.
2. Serious theological training in order to attain an extensive agreement
in questions of doctrine in conferences constituted according to the
Confession of Faith.
3. Systematic education for the pastoral ministry. This education, which
hitherto has been more or less left to chance, demands serious train-
ing in the preaching, instruction, and pastoral work of the minister.
4. The care of theological students:
a. By meetings at the universities and during vacations.
h. In suitable assistantships.
c. In seminaries for preachers.
VII: BARMEN DECLARATIONS, RESOLUTIONS, AND MOTIONS
d. In theological schools.
II. Edification of the Confessing Congregation
The relation of the minister and the congregation is of the most intimate
nature. The pastor takes his place in the congregation and the congrega-
tion stands behind its pastor. Although a confessing congregation may be
willing to serve, it nevertheless has to be equipped for that purpose. No
Church order for confessing congregations is to be prescribed here. But
we would like to draw attention to the resolution passed by the Prussian
Confessional Synod: "The Upbuilding of the Confessing Church in the
Old Prussian Union." 6 Here reference to ways in which service may be
rendered in congregations is made only in connection with the witness of
the Confessional Synod.
1. The confessing congregation as a spiritual organism.
a. The ministry of the Word. The congregations need to learn that
the Sunday Church service is the very heart of the life of the con-
gregation. The hallowing of Sunday is to be earnestly enjoined
upon the congregations. The administration of the sacraments per-
tains to the edification of the congregation, the meaning of which
needs to be disclosed anew. Instruction, meetings of young people
who have been confirmed (Christian education), Bible classes,
and pastoral work all contribute to a highly necessary, personal
familiarity with the Bible.
b. Special arrangements for the training of the congregation. Men's
work, retreats for elders, and evening meetings for parents to
further Christian family life, and women's societies.
2. Since voluntary societies are viable only on the basis of a confessing
congregation (home missions, foreign missions, young people's so-
cieties, associations for men and women, etc.), these societies and
their office-bearers are required to take a definite stand in favor of the
Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church. Only if they
make such a decision will they be entitled to have a part in the build-
ing of a confessing congregation.
III. The Mission of a Confessing Congregation
Only where brotherly aid is afforded the pastor of the congregation
and the congregation lives as a spiritual organism - and that means as
6 For the text, see K. D. Schmidt, Die Bekenntnisse des Jahres 1934, pp. 87 fl. The
reference is to a resolution passed by the Prussian Synod that met in Barmen on the
day the Synod of Barmen convened.
q $ $
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the body of Christ - is it fit for the ministry which it has to render to all
people through the sermon and sacrament, namely, the ministry of the
proclamation of the free grace of God in Jesus Christ. The commission is
great, wide is the field and ripe for the harvest. All active members of
the congregation are included in this missionary work, either as those
who preach or as those who make intercession. The mark of a living con-
gregation is that it is always a missionary congregation.
1. Special tasks within individual congregations (evangelization, dis-
tribution of literature, Bible study weeks for the deepening of the
spiritual life ) .
2. Ministering to the alienated (freethinkers, German Faith Movement).
3. Responsibility for congregations and areas of the German Evangeli-
cal Church in special danger (compilation of a list of experienced
evangelists; training of evangelists for special tasks; working out
plans and programs).
4. Ministering to the Reich Army (Drill Centers, Storm Troopers,
Black Corps, Hitler Youth, provision for Labor and Youth Camps).
VI. Motions and Resolutions
The " Declaration Concerning the Legal Status of the German Evangeli-
cal Church" was adopted unanimously.
The synod then adopted the following resolution:
" We declare that it is the unanimous mind of the synod that we deny
that the present Church administration of the German Evangelical Church
has any authority or right to undertake a reform of the constitution; on
the contrary, we expressly demand that the existing constitution be re-
" We declare that as long as the present Church administration exists,
the Confessing Church categorically refuses to negotiate with it in regard
to constitutional questions.
"Under these circumstances the Confessional Synod dispenses with
passing a resolution concerning the overture presented by the Legal
Committee, 'Our View of the Proper Constitution of the German Evan-
gelical Church,' and transmits it to the Council of Brethren as material
for future work."
Following the adoption of the "Declaration Concerning Practical
Work," the following motions were passed:
1. That the Council of Brethren of the Confessional Synod appoint a
committee to serve the spiritual renewal of the ministry.
2. That the Council of Brethren of the Confessional Synod appoint a
VII: BARMEN DECLARATIONS, RESOLUTIONS, AND MOTIONS 247
committee that will supply the necessary directions and principles
for the work outlined in Sections II and III of the Declaration, and
which is to be responsible for carrying them out. It is especially in-
cumbent upon it to assist Churches in threatened areas.
3. That the Council of Brethren require that Home and Foreign Mis-
sionary Societies, etc., decide in favor of the Confessional Synod.
4. That the Council of Brethren issue a newssheet for the Confessing
The first two motions were passed unanimously. Three and four were
referred to the Council of Brethren as suggestions.
The Synod's Working Committee recommended to the synod that it
appoint a permanent Council of Brethren composed of the members of
the present Working Committee, namely:
President Koch, Bad-Oeynhausen
Bishop Meiser, Munich
Bishop Wurm, Stuttgart
Pastor Dr. Beckmann, Dusseldorf
Pastor Bosse, Raddesdorf (Hanover)
Dr. Fiedler, Leipzig
Pastor Dr. Hesse, Elberfeld, as moderator of the Reformed Alliance
Pastor Karl Immer, Barmen
Pastor Jacobi, Berlin
Herr Link, Dusseldorf
Pastor Niemoller, Berlin-Dahlem
and that it be authorized to carry out the tasks assigned to it, and to act
for the synod in accordance with the rule that in all important matters the
decision of the Confessional Synod itself must be obtained. The Council
of Brethren has the power to appoint synod's committees. It is authorized
to alter and enlarge its membership. (Pastor Asmussen was subsequently
elected to it.) On motion this recommendation was unanimously adopted.
On motion it was unanimously adopted that the Confessional Synod
of the German Evangelical Church authorize its Council of Brethren to
present a case to the Reich Minister for Internal Affairs a well as to the
Minister for National Enlightenment and Propaganda that the hampering
of the Church press in matters of Church reform be effectively stopped.
On motion it was unanimously adopted that the Confessional Synod
protest against all internal and external pressure brought upon assistant
ministers and candidates by the "German Church" administration,
and that it charge the Council of Brethren of the Confessional Synod with
the spiritual care and the personal welfare of young theologians.
ARTHUR C. COCHRANE
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