- Germany's Protestant church had been split since the time of the Reformation into Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) confessions. Al-though these were administratively merged in 1817 as the Evangelische Kirche, parishes still adhered to centuries-old traditions: the majority Lutherans attached prime importance to justification by faith, while the minority Calvinists stressed predestination and active engagement with the world. From the nineteenth cen-tury church officials held civil-service* status and were permitted to tax mem-bers; in exchange, they submitted to state supervision. This heritage ensured a compact between church and crown: governed by a conservative hierarchy, the church idealized a Christian state in which the king (later the emperor) shared the same faith as the people, and from which unbelief and alien dogmas were excluded.The Evangelische Kirche held the Republic in disdain. Initially, the shock of defeat and revolution threw its leadership on the defensive and not only termi-nated the traditional legal order of Protestantism but erased its political support and jeopardized its economic foundation. Legally, the monarch's abdication eliminated its constitution. No matter how many changes church governance had experienced over four centuries, until November 1918 all had been made in the name of the ruler concerned. Protestantism had never needed its own political party so long as those governing the church were also its political representatives. Thus, in contrast to Catholics,* whose political agent was the Center Party,* Protestants faced a political vacuum in 1918. At best, they fore-saw a state governed by people espousing the separation of church and state; at worst, they faced persecution. But attempts to establish a Protestant People's Party or combine with the Center Party foundered early in the Republic.Many key Protestants were not fixed on obstruction in their relationship with the Republic. In November 1918 regular reference was made to chapter 13 of Paul's Epistle to the Romans: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." But this resolve was irreparably harmed by Adolf Hoffmann, Prussia's* first Cultural Minister. A member of the USPD, Hoffmann came to symbolize socialist attitudes toward religion. Not only did he proclaim separation of church and state, but his decrees abolishing religious instruction and ending state subsidies spawned a massive petition drive supporting pres-ervation of the Christian character of schools." Although Hoffmann was dis-missed in December 1918, neither Protestants nor Catholics recovered from the shock of his vetoed resolutions.Although the Constitution* did not ensure harmony, it dispelled many Prot-estant fears. Through Article 146 a unified educational system received only slight preference over either denominational or secular schools. Moderates on both sides agreed that the constitutional provision for separation of church and state protected mutual independence and freedom of action. Not only were church privileges ensured, but state control over church affairs was technically reduced. The Constitution allowed for twenty-eight separate Landeskirchen (state churches), each of which, while linked to the others by the national Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenbund (established in May 1922), jealously guarded its independence. While some leading Protestants never adjusted to a state without a crown, others slowly conformed to new circumstances. The Prussian church treaty of 1931, which formed a partnership between the state gov-ernment and church leadership, was preceded by a similar agreement in Bavaria* and followed by another in Baden. Had the Republic survived, a Reich church treaty might have formalized the independence of Protestants throughout Ger-many while securing increased loyalty on the part of church leaders to the Republic.Significantly, the bulk of Reichstag* deputies from the DNVP were Protes-tants, including several church leaders. An area of severe friction in church-state relations centered on the church's commitment to preserve German Kultur. Because of the broad freedoms associated with the Republic, the regime came to symbolize the forces of decadent modernism undermining the German nation. Above all, the commitment of church leaders to denominational schooling im-posed an important wedge between Protestants and the Republic. Finally, throughout the Weimar era the bulk of Protestants viewed socialism as their main enemy due to its traditional emphasis on class warfare and its hostility to religion. Protestant leaders pointed reprovingly at the fact that in 1928 only 20 of 152 SPD deputies belonged to a church. Thus, despite appearances of rap-prochement, the trend among Protestants after 1929 was toward parties of the radical Right.Efforts to cooperate with Nazism made the church exceedingly vulnerable to that movement. Few Protestant leaders fathomed that Hitler's* plan to reesta-blish a state church (Staatskirche) endangered traditional theology. Under the influence of Karl Barth,* however, a small but important group experienced a revival in the 1920s whereby anything exacting an ideological claim—proletar-ian socialism or militant nationalism—was reproved as nonbiblical. By de-manding uncompromising commitment to God, Barth helped prepare numerous Protestants for the struggle of the 1930s.REFERENCES:Borg, Old-Prussian Church; Conway, "National Socialism"; Frank Gor-don, "German Evangelical Churches"; Helmreich, German Churches under Hitler; Scholder, Churches and the Third Reich; Wright, "Above Parties."
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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