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“The Barmen Declaration has served as an inspiration to Christians facing tyranny, injustice, and discrimination for the church to reject the claims of oppressive regimes and to combat heretical tendencies within its own ranks,” Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay stated in a message to the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

The declaration was issued on the last day of a synod from 29–31 May 1934 which met in Barmen, a district of the city of Wuppertal in the Rhineland. It was an appeal to Protestants to reject the policies of the so-called “German Christians” who supported National Socialism and its policies in church life. 

“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,” the synod stated in its declaration.

“We are bound together by the confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” it affirmed.

Pillay, who comes from South Africa, recalled how in his country the Barmen Declaration helped inspire the theological resistance to apartheid.

This also found expression in the Kairos Document of 1985, whose anniversary the WCC will commemorate in 2025 when its central committee meets in Johannesburg.

The Barmen Declaration, Pillay said, was a “truly ecumenical event,” since it was the first common statement by representatives of Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches in Germany since the time of the Reformation.

“Today, the Barmen Theological Declaration reminds us of the inextricable link between the search for the unity of the church and the need for a common message on the basis of our faith against tyranny, war, and injustice,” Pillay wrote in his letter to Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, head of the EKD’s Department for Ecumenical Relations and Ministries Abroad.

WCC message to the Evangelical Church in Germany on the 90th anniversary of the Barmen Declaration

Text of the Barmen Declaration

More information about the Barmen Declaration

To mark the 75th anniversary of the Barmen Declaration in 2009, the WCC published a special issue of its journal, The Ecumenical Review, on the contemporary challenge of the declaration in a globalized era as well accounts of its influence in situations including Europe, Cuba, the German Democratic Republic, Indonesia, and South Africa. Articles are freely available to read or download HERE.