862.404/61

The Chargé in Germany (White) to the Secretary of State

No. 819

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 760 of April 26,65 I have the honor to inform the Department that, notwithstanding the appointment of Dr. Jäger and Bishop Müller’s conciliatory proclamations, available reports continue to indicate that the situation is still unsettled in the Evangelical Church.

Reich Bishop Müller appears to have achieved a distinct success in one direction. The Evangelical churches of Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein have been formally united with the Unified Evangelical Church and the functions and duties of their legislative and executive authorities have been transferred to the latter. A similar union has been made with the Evangelical Church of Hesse-Nassau.

The Clerical Ministry of the Unified Evangelical Church has issued an order that new synods of the Saxon and Hessian churches shall be elected by the retiring synods. If the latter cannot agree, the state bishop will appoint the new members. This step has obviously been taken in order to suppress any opposition to Müller. In addition, Dr. Jäger has announced that the constitution of the Unified Church will [Page 271]be modified in order to promote unity and to accord at the same time recognition to local customs and beliefs which exist in certain regional churches. It is not impossible that this may be an attempt to overcome the resistance of the Westphalians who are reported to have declared their independence and requested the Federal Government to recognize the existence of their church.

I received last week the visit of the Reverend Dr. Keller of Geneva, who said that he was visiting Germany at the request of the Secretary of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ of the United States, in order to protest to Reich Bishop Müller and Drs. Jäger and Heckel (the latter being the head of the foreign department of the Unified Evangelical Church) against the suppression of liberty in German Protestantism. He informed me that he had discussed with Dr. Müller (1) the return to the original constitution of the Unified Church (this probably means the withdrawal of Müller’s unilateral decrees giving himself greater authority), (2) the Aryan paragraph, and (3) the general character and structure of the Church. He remarked that Müller’s amnesty decree (see my despatch No. 760 of April 26) was not functioning well, and added, that protests against present conditions had been made by the Anglican Bishop of Chichester. The last mentioned is to be found on page 7 of the Times of London of May 12th. It is mainly directed at the autocratic powers assumed by the German Church. He specified that the problem of the German Church would be taken up at the August meeting of the Universal Council in Denmark. In the strictest confidence Dr. Keller intimated that the Swiss Minister in Berlin had made unofficial representations and that the Archbishop of Sweden had also had an interview with Chancellor Hitler.

In an interview granted to the press, Dr. Jäger stated that the Unified Church would not interfere with or disturb matters of faith. Even certain local differences in church government would be respected, where these differences related to strictly religious subjects. It was necessary, however, to introduce the principle of leadership into the German churches which, on account of their weakness and division, lay in great danger of losing their influence and authority.

Respectfully yours,

J. C. White
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