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Founding Manifesto of the Protestant League (1887); Statistics on Membership (1887-1913)

The Protestant League [Evangelischer Bund] was an anti-Catholic propaganda organization that first became active after the Kulturkampf (“cultural struggle”) between the Prussian state and the Catholic Church began to wind down. The league’s manifesto, dated January 15, 1887, declares the fight against ultramontanism – the Vatican’s dominance over the Catholic Church in Germany – as one of its aims. The nineteenth-century champions of papal authority were known as “ultramontanes” because, from the perspective of northern Europeans, Rome lies ultra montes, or beyond the Alps. Another expressed aim is strengthening and unifying the Protestant Church – a goal apparently shared by hundreds of thousands of members in the Wilhelmine era.

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Protestant League for the Safeguarding of German-Protestant Interests.
To Our Co-Religionists in all of Germany!

The German Protestant Church and, with it, our German fatherland are facing serious threats. The so-called Kulturkampf and the form of its settlement have increased the power of Romanism to the extreme. It is pursuing its objectives actively and with tenacious persistence by utilizing all those currents that run counter to German nature. The concessions that it wrested from the German governments only provide it with new means of attack. Even the greater moderation and peaceableness it has currently adopted for show help it gain further advantages. Protestantism has suffered the greatest losses at precisely those moments when the Catholic hierarchy succeeded in maintaining peace with state authorities.

We are not afraid of the enemy. The Lord Jesus Christ, the sole head of the church, is at the helm. His word of liberating and saving truth is our sword and shield, and our belief in him is the victory that has conquered the world! – We also know this very well: to confront the lurking dangers, the most urgent priority is for each confessor of the Gospel to take, in accordance with his own individual means and calling, the cultivation and protection of the Protestant faith and way of life as his driving concern. We highly regard that which has been achieved along these lines thus far (partly in the way of building, partly in the way of defense) by individual men who know how to wield the weapons of the mind and by associations, too. If we thought that this would suffice, however, we would be underestimating the danger and misjudging our duty.

When compared with the powerful unity of Rome, German-Protestant Christendom is sadly fragmented. The regional churches into which German-Protestant Christendom is divided are bound together so loosely and, incidentally, closed off to each other in such a way that the common Protestant consciousness is withering away.

Even more detrimental is the partisan strife that exhausts the finest powers and paralyzes the beneficial positive development of German Protestantism. While we remain split over internal church matters, the enemy that seeks to destroy us advances unstoppably. – In this, it has dangerous allies within our own camp. The false conceptions of parity and tolerance that prevail within numerous and influential circles provide it with welcome assistance. Moreover, the enemy’s road to power is being paved by the materialism to which entire strata of our society have sunken; religious indifferentism is scarcely less harmful.

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