Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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September 2008— Vol. XIV, no. 9

 

Dear Friends,

I expect many of you are even now preparing to return to your lecturing duties at the beginning of the new academic year. So let me wish you all the best for your renewed endeavours. For those who had the opportunity to undertake research abroad during the summer break, I would like to offer you the chance to share your findings with our colleagues. Do send me a short precis of what you discovered or contemplated, and possibly any conclusions about the state of church history and its writing. I am always glad to provide space for younger scholars to share their findings with others. and hence to give their researches some extra and doubtless well-earned publicity.

Let me also remind you that all the texts of these Newsletters can be found in reverse chronological order on the website = www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/akz. There is also a search engine which enables you to find individual topics or personalities. We are all indebted to Randy Bytwerk for his efforts in keeping this website up to date.

Contents:

1) Book reviews:

a) Tavard, Vatican II and the Ecumenical Way
b) Berdahl, Where the world ended
c) eds. Wolf, Flammer and Schuler, Galen als Kirchenfurst

2) Conference Report: Bishop Bell Memorial Conference, Chichester, U.K.
3) Book note: Detlef Garbe, Between Resistance and Martyrdom. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Third Reich.
4) Dissertation Abstract: B. Pearson, German Protestant Kirchentag 1949-69
5) Journal Issue: Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte/Contemporary Church History

1a) George H.Tavard, Vatican II and the Ecumenical Way, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press 2006.
(This review appeared in the Catholic Historical Review, March 2008, and is reprinted by kind permission of the author)

During the last third of the twentieth century, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was a compass point not only for Catholics but also for ecumenically minded Christians. With the passage of four plus decades, however, the discussions and especially the debates and the drama behind the conciliar documents are increasingly in danger of being misinterpreted, if not forgotten altogether; it is then important to preserve the memories of the dwindling number of participants for the benefit of posterity both as a matter of historical record as well as a resource for ecclesiological interpretation.

The present volume, which is variously autobiographical, analytical, and anecdotal, presents its author’s personal reminiscences and theological reflections about the ecumenical dimensions - antecedent, concomitant, and subsequent - of the Council. In this respect George H.Tavard has been uniquely privileged: a theologian with ecumenical interests and involvement prior to the Council, when “ecumencism” was an unfamiliar, even suspect, word among Catholics; a conciliar peritus and staff member of the Secretariat for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians that was responsible for drafting ecumenical statements for the Council’s consideration; a participant in numerous official national and international postconciliar ecumenical dialogues; as well as the author of dozens of volumes on a wide range of topics: ecumenism, theology, history and spirituality.

Perhaps the major value of this short book comes from its author’s extraordinary ecumenical experience; for example, one can read elsewhere about the institutional ecclesiology that prevailed in Catholicism prior to Vatican II, but gaining a feel for an ecumenical ecclesiology of “divine presence” comes only through the experience of dialogue; in other words, ecumenical theology is not abstract, but experiential. Similarly, while one might carefully chronicle the long history of interdenominational polemics, their resolution requires a healing of memories that includes the “act of forgetting”: “the Church needs to be disencumbered from things remembered that ought to be forgotten” (p.112). One might also note the author’s candid appraisal of the postconciliar Church as torn “between gauchist deviation and reactionary conservatism” which can be attributed to (1) “a glaring lacuna at Vatican II itself,” (2) “hesitancies on the part of Paul VI”, and (3) “the heavy weight of institutional inertia” (p. 122). Ecclesiologists as well as ecumenists, might then take to heart the “problems of reception” that have plagued even the best intentioned ecumenical documents; finally theologians would do well then to give explicit attention to the author’s concluding question: “Can Theology be Non-Verbal” (pp 141-480?

Unfortunately, one finds some slips in this book: for example, the encyclical, Humanae Vitae, published on July 25, 1968, could hardly have “caused an unexpected turmoil in the Summer of 1967” (p. 126). Also the enumeration of footnotes is sometimes out of sync. In addition, some opinions are at least debatable: for example, while “the condemnation of Anglican Orders, in 1896, by Leo XIII” may have been ecumenically problematic and historically questionable, it seems a stretch to claim , “The canonical category of validity no longer provides, if it ever did, an acceptable standard to describe and evaluate the sacramental experience of other Churches than one’s own” (pp. 92-93).

Such shortcomings aside, readers who once eagerly and sometimes seriously followed the proceedings of Vatican II will be treated to a retrospective that awakens memories, if not nostalgia. Readers for whom Vatican II is a matter of historical investigation and theological reappraisal will also benefit from the insights of an influential insider.

John T. Ford, Washington, D.C.

1b) Daphne Berdahl, Where the world ended. Re-Unification in the German Borderland. Berkeley: University of California Press 1999. 294 pp. ISBN 0-520-21476-5.

Daphne Berdahl’s career as a social anthropologist was sadly cut short by her untimely death last October. So her principal legacy will be this well-researched and illuminating study of a small village in central Germany during the period immediately following the overthrow of the Communist regime in 1990.

The village of Kella in southern Thuringen was exactly on the border between East and West Germany, on the eastern side, and was hence placed in both the restricted and security zones. This fact cut its inhabitants off from most contacts with their East German neighbours, and totally isolated them from the West. Berdahl’s interest was to study what happened when suddenly both the political and geographical barriers were removed.

In fact Kella had been a border village for centuries in a much older division in Germany - that between Catholicism and Protestantism. So religious ties had long played a part in the villagers’ identity. Berdahl’s observations on the role of the Catholic church will therefore be of interest to our readers. This historic legacy was the reason why, after 1945, the villagers remained devoted to their faith, despite the resolute efforts of the Communist authorities to root out such “superstitious survivals”. In 1953 and 1954 church services were prohibited. But the villagers walked ten kilometres to the nearest available chapel, and were finally successful in having the edict overthrown. But in order to assert its authority, the state government refused to allow the use of a pilgrimage chapel because it was situated in the no-man’s-land between the security fences. It remained visible but inaccessible for more than thirty years.

The Berdahl family were the first Americans the villagers had ever seen. But the warm welcome extended by the Catholic priest did much to break down the villagers’ reserve and suspicion of these alien guests. And they soon became aware of Kella’s strong attachment to its Catholic faith, and consequent immunity to the blandishments or threats of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), or the upstart claims of the German Democratic Republic. Fewer than 6% of the villagers joined the SED, and less than half of these were natives. The church members remained an obstinate pocket of resistance, even if many of them were obliged, for opportunistic reasons, to be recruited to one or other of the state-organized activities or associations.

Chapter 3 is devoted to an analysis of the interplay between religion and identity, as well as between popular faith and institutionalized religion. As noted above, during the forty years of Communist rule, these religious traditions converged in opposition to the socialist state. But after 1989, with the state no longer hostile, there has been a renegotiation and a redefinition of religious identity and practices. In Kella, the Catholic community survived by being largely inconspicuous. As in most border areas, it clung to a highly traditional liturgical practice and concentrated on personal devotion. In fact the area was largely regarded as a religious and social backwater. These Catholics therefore played no part in promoting a climate of reform before 1989. This was left to the Protestants in the more active urban centres. In any case the small number of Catholics induced a sense of quiescence towards the state, which was abandoned only days before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

By the summer of 1990, some of the Catholic religious practices, which had been prohibited under the communists, such as pilgrimages to local chapels, had been revived. The sense of reattachment to their traditions and past seemed more potent than doctrinal convictions. The church served to create an ethnic belonging which fulfilled people’s desires. This kind of popular religion withstood both socialist political pressures, and obtrusive reformist measures by the church hierarchy. Thus the first action by the villagers in November 1989 was to replace the original statues for the Stations of the Cross leading to the now available pilgrimage chapel. The wooden cross held together by barbed wire still remains an imposing image of Kella’s suffering and a symbol of their enduring Catholic faith.

In the immediate aftermath of 1989, however, the Church lost much of its appeal and influence, Consumerism gripped most East Germans. The Church could do little but protest against the sins of covetousness. Most villagers, while still maintaining that they were “good Catholics”, were rather easily seduced. Increased mobility has also meant that the villagers could satisfy their religious inclinations elsewhere. The transfer of Kella’s energetic priest seemed to indicate a loss of interest by the higher church authorities, already remote enough from the parishioners. Many felt abandoned or even betrayed. It became clear that, in the new state, church officials could no longer assume obedience and loyalty. They needed to earn it from their congregations. Popular religion endures, but support for the wider ecclesiastical institutions remains questionable.
Ms Berdahl’s perceptive analysis shows that, in religious life, as in other spheres, the re-integration of this small village where the world ended, was a costly but creative process, which is still continuing. It is a tragedy that she will no longer be able to provide us with a sequel.

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1c) Wolf, Hubert, Flammer, Thomas and Schueler, Barbara (Eds) Clemens August von Galen. Ein Kirchenfürst im Nationalsozialismus, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007. vi + 280 incl. 3 figs. ISBN 978-3-534-19905-1.

(This review appeared first in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April 2008)

German Catholics are still attempting to come to terms with their church’s record during the Nazi era. The facts have long since been established: Catholics failed to mobilize more than a minimal opposition against the criminal atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. The church’s officially propagated view, ever since 1945, that Catholics were amongst the first victims of Nazi discrimination and persecution is so obviously inadequate that there is still a need for more sophisticated defensive apologias. To this end, Catholics have concentrated on the career of the one bishop who did protest against the Nazi injustices and murders, although only partially and without any intention of trying to overthrow the regime itself. The heroic stand of Bishop Galen of Münster against the so-called “euthanasia” of mentally-ill patients is well-known and has been much exploited by Catholic supporters. His public protest in July and August 1941, at the height of Hitler’s military victories, was undoubtedly an extremely courageous act. Whether it should compensate for the silence with which German Catholic greeted the annihilation of the Jews is debatable. Such issues are outlined in this conference report marking the sixtieth anniversary of Galen’s death in 1946. But since the majority of the contributors are well-known defenders of the Catholic cause, the overall tone is hagiographic. Indeed, the final chapter describes the steps taken which have already led to his beatification and may eventually lead to his canonization as a saint of the church.

To be sure Heinrich Mussinghoff’s chapter on Galen and the Jews admits that he offered no protest on the occasion of the November 1938 pogrom, even though the Jews of his own see city were affected. And when he became aware of the mass murders occurring in Poland and Russia, prudence dictated a strict silence lest worse befall the Catholics too. The contrast between his image as “the Lion of Münster”, and his share in the widespread antipathy and disinterest towards the plight of Jews and foreigners is only too evident. It can be explained in part by the traditional Catholic theological prejudice against Judaism, but even more by Galen’s ingrained conservative, aristocratic and nationalist background. The remaining articles in this collection shed more light on his political and social views, his early upbringing during the years of harassment under the Bsmarckian Kulturkampf, his apprenticeship in Berlin, and his undoubted lack of sympathy for the loud-mouthed radical racialism of the Nazi movement. Like his fellow bishops, Galen’s priority was the protection and preservation of the catholic milieu. It was principally his awareness that many of those killed in the so-called “euthanasia” process were faithful Catholics which prompted his outspoken intervention. But his circle of obligation was limited. Few of the contributors to this volume seem to think that this was something which should be regretted.

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2) Bishop Bell Memorial Conference

2008 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Bishop George Bell, one of the most prominent leaders of the Church of England in the early twentieth century. The anniversary is being widely observed in Britain, with an exhibition at the House of Lords, the opening of a new George Bell House at Chichester Cathedral and a celebration at Christ Church, Oxford. It is in this context that the conference 'Art, Politics and the Church: Bishop George Bell, 1883-1958' took place at Chichester in 23-5 June. The academic programme was organized by Andrew Chandler, Director of the George Bell Institute, which is now based in the newly-established University of Chichester.

He reports: The conference was truly an international gathering, bringing together scholars from the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, India, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States. It was inaugurated by the present bishop of Chichester, John Hind. Sessions on Politics, Art, Education, Ecumenism and the Refugee Crisis were chaired by Professor Michael Hughes, head of the Department of History at the University of Liverpool, the Revd Canon Alan Wilkinson at Portsmouth cathedral, Rachel Moriarty of Chichester Cathedral, Dr Katharina Kunter of the University of Karlsruhe, Professor George Wedell, formerly of Manchester University (a godson of Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and Dr Kenneth Wilson (formerly Oxford and Birmingham).

Bell’s career led him after 1914 to become heavily involved with the affairs of Germany, and particularly with those of the German Protestant Churches. From the 1925 Stockholm Conference onwards, he took a very close interest in the political developments and attitudes developing in the German churches. He was greatly disturbed by the rise of Nazism, and therefore was particularly glad to strike a warm friendship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when the latter arrived in Britain in late 1933. Bell and Bonhoeffer’s friendship meant much to both men. Professor Gerhard Besier (Dresden) proceeded to explore Bell's relationship with Visser 't Hooft, the first General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, in the context of the burgeoning ecumenical movement, a defining friendship which remains fundamental in this international landscape. Joseph Mutharaj (Bangalore) explored Bell's relationship with Indian independence and the creation of the Church of South India.

It was Bell who invited Gandhi to spend a weekend at Chichester in October 1931, and Bell who took on the British opponents of the church union in India after 1945. In his paper Geoffrey Chorley (Liverpool Hope University) discussed Bell's position in the education debates which took place in British politics before the passing of the 1944 Butler Act. Here, he found Bell 'going underground' in his attempts to conserve some place for the Church of England in the life of the country's schools. At the end of the afternoon the conference went to a reception at the Bishop Otter Gallery to celebrate the visiting Art in Exile exhibition, presenting work by Dachinger, Bilbo, Meidner and Feibusch, curated by Jutta Vinzent and Jenny Powell at the University of Birmingham. In the evening the religious drama group, RADIUS, gave a presentation of readings drawn from the Bell archives and from works by John Masefield and TS Eliot in the university chapel.

In a second day committed to the Arts and international politics, Peter Blee (Berwick, Chichester diocese) discussed Bell's patronage of artists from the Bloomsbury circle and from further afield. This paper set Bell's work in a wider context of the church's relationship with creative art and public life at large, something which Bell himself saw divorced by the Protestant Reformation. The brilliant and productive friendship between Bell and the exiled German Hans Feibusch was a strand further developed by Michael Ford (Chichester) in his presentation of a succession of Chichester commissions executed by Feibusch between 1939 and the 1970s. These remain intact today, but the closing of churches has also created dilemmas of preservation. One of Feibusch's grandest and largest commissions - a mural based on Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress - is today falling apart in a redundant church in Eastbourne. A third paper by Peter Webster (Institute of Historical Research, London) discussed Bell's place in the revival of religious drama during the first half of the twentieth century, with particular reference to The Coming of Christ, a production which combined the gifts of John Masefield and Gustav Holst, performed at Canterbury Cathedral when Bell was Dean there.

Three subsequent papers explored Bell's significance in the landscapes of the second World War and the Cold War. Philip Coupland (Wellingborough) examined Bell's contribution to the new European movement during the war and after. Bell was, indeed, distinctive in repudiating national priorities and pressing the claims of Europe as a political and religious whole. Dianne Kirby (Ulster) explored Bell's Cold War role within the context of Church-State relations in Britain itself. Here, she argued, church leaders were constantly used by politicians to fortify various policies of their own, and, for their part, church leaders were ready to lend weight to a contest between democracy and dictatorship on official visits and with publications. Tom Lawson (Winchester) discussed Bell's opposition to a number of war crimes trials in Germany in the wake of the war, arguing that his debatable understanding of the relationship between the Nazi regime, the churches and the German armed forces led him to a succession of misjudgments. He suggested that Bell's desire to see reconstruction in post-war Germany eclipsed his perception of the justice owed to the victims of the Nazi state. The day was concluded by a public lecture at Chichester Cathedral given by Dame Mary Tanner, a president of the World Council of Churches, an event attended by almost 300 people.

On 25 June James Radcliffe (Chichester; formerly British Foreign Office) told the story of the various refugee organizations at work inside Germany between 1933 and 1939, with which Bell worked to extricate a number of 'Non-Aryans' in the churches there. Charmian Brinson (Imperial College, London) discussed Bell's support for refugees from Germany and Austria, with particular reference to the Internment controversy during the war. Here, she found Bell a constant advocate, and also an apparently inexhaustible practical friend to those in need of pastoral support. Accordingly, the conference glimpsed the refugees both as emigrants and as immigrants. Two final papers returned to the ecumenical theme. Jaakko Rusama (Helsinki) explored Bell's ecumenical theology and looked to its legacy since 1958, with particular reference to Anglican-Lutheran understanding. Tamara Grdzelidze (Georgia and Geneva) sought to apply Bell's ecumenical arguments to present ecumenical issues and approaches at Geneva and found it a very different landscape indeed.

A final plenary session looked to the future of Bell research in an international context. There is much now to be done. The Bell archive at Lambeth Palace Library in London is vast and its significance within international church history is, potentially, immense. There are now plans for a new collected edition of Bell's letters and papers, overseen by Andrew Chandler. But further financial resources must be raised for this work and this is something is best attempted within a explicit international framework of supporting institutions. If Chichester now offers a viable centre for such research in Britain itself, it remains to be seen what other bases can be found for such an enterprise in other countries, particularly in North American colleges. Much of great value could now be accomplished by some simple, strategic alliances. If you have an interest in jumping onboard, please contact Andrew Chandler at A.Chandler@chi.ac.uk

3) Book Note:

Detlef Garbe, Between Resistance and Martyrdom. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Third Reich. (translated by Dagmar Grimm) Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, in association with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum 2008. 834 pp ISBN 0-299-20790-0 cloth, 0-299-20794-3 pbk

It is welcome that at last an English translation has appeared of Garbe’s masterly account of the fate of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the hands of the Nazis, which originally came out in German in 1993. It was reviewed at some length and favourably in this Newsletter in the issue for December 1995, section 5: Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Nazi period. You are asked to turn to our web-site: www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/akz and use the Search engine to locate it.
Apart from a few pages of illustrations, the text is the same as in the original edition, which is undoubtedly the most comprehensive account of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ sufferings during the traumatic years 1933-1945, but leaves unsettled the issue of whether the Witnesses can be considered part of the anti-Hitler resistance movement.

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4) Dissertation abstract

Benjamin Pearson, who is about to join the University of Northern Illinois, last December completed his dissertation entitled “Faith and Democracy: Political Transformations at the German Protestant Kirchentag, 1949-1969” under the direction of Konrad Jarausch at the University of North Carolina.

During the 1920s, the German Protestant churches were among the strongest opponents of the democratic political system of the Weimar Republic. Socially and culturally reactionary, politically authoritarian, and virulently nationalist, they contributed strongly to the discrediting of the Weimar system. In the process, they helped to pave the way for the Third Reich. However, the experiences of the Nazi dictatorship and Second World War caused many Protestants to question their traditional social and political assumptions. In the decades following World War II, West German Protestants struggled to make sense of the lessons of their past, reforming their own religious and political traditions. In the process, they became important contributors to the ultimate stability and success of the democratic Federal Republic.

My dissertation examines this transformation at the meetings of the German Protestant Kirchentag, one of the largest and most diverse postwar forums for the Protestant laity. Meeting every year from 1949 until 1954, and every second year thereafter, the Kirchentag regularly drew crowds in the tens- and hundreds-of-thousands to its five-day program of teaching, preaching, worship, and celebration. Until 1961 its audience was drawn from both East and West Germany, and its role as a bridge between the two German states gave it an especially prominent place in public life. As an organization specifically devoted to promoting the responsibility and activity of the Protestant laity in all aspects of church and public life, the Kirchentag addressed a wide variety of religious, political, and social issues in its meetings. Officially independent from the state churches, it also enjoyed the unique freedom to pioneer new topics of discussion and to approach old topics in new ways.

Drawing on material from the Kirchentag, my dissertation focuses on three broad areas of change in postwar German Protestantism. First, it examines changing understandings of the role of churches and religious belief in postwar society. The early postwar years were marked by optimism that the renewal of popular religious belief would thoroughly transform German life: an optimism that helped to draw large numbers of Protestants into the political process. However, this attitude became harder to maintain as the economic recovery of the mid-to-late 1950s led to renewed religious complacency. In response to these developments, Protestants at the Kirchentag continually experimented with new ways to maintain the churches' social relevance, embracing economic and social modernization in the late 1950s and more radical religious, social, and political reforms in the 1960s.

Second, my dissertation looks at efforts to come to terms with the legacies of German nationalism, military aggression, and mass murder. These efforts began in the early 1950s along two different tracks. On the one hand, many church leaders worked to promote Christian faith and Christian "brotherhood" as alternatives to the virulent nationalism of the past, proclaiming that the church itself was a new "Heimat" [homeland] for those displaced by the war and its aftermath. At the same time, however, others pointed out the churches' own complicity in the Nazis’ crimes, calling for a thorough rethinking of the National Protestant tradition. By the end of the 1950s, self-critical voices had come to dominate at Kirchentag gatherings, as evidenced in prominent discussions of German guilt and Jewish-Christian relations. By the middle of the 1960s, this self-critical perspective was giving rise to a new, international sense of German Protestant identity founded on the promotion of world peace and social justice.

Finally, my dissertation examines Protestant efforts to understand and promote democratic political activity. In the early 1950s, these efforts revolved around the ideas of "Christian Democracy" and the "public responsibility" of the churches. While Protestants found themselves divided on a number of political issues, nearly all agreed that the churches needed to overcome their tradition of political passivity, playing a bigger role in public and political life. As the 1950s progressed, this unity began to recede, as prominent Protestant leaders took opposing positions on major issues such as inter-German relations and West German rearmament. Forced to come to terms with these irreconcilable political differences, Protestants in the late 1950s and early 1960s gradually began to accept and promote the ideal of liberal democratic political pluralism. Although threatened by the emergence of the radical youth movement in the late 1960s, this liberal democratic consensus was able to survive. Indeed, Kirchentag leaders enjoyed considerable success in their efforts to reach out to the representatives of the New Left, laying the foundation for future cooperation.

By demonstrating the important role played by the churches in the postwar transformation of West Germany, this dissertation asserts the continued relevance of religious categories of analysis in the history of the Federal Republic. Drawing attention to competing voices for change within the churches, focusing on the diversity of lessons drawn from the Nazi past and the variety of prescriptions offered for the future, it offers a complex and multi-dimensional view of West Germany's postwar transformation. Looking at the diversity of political opinion within the Protestant churches, it argues that the Christian Democratic politics of the early 1950s were neither as monolithic nor as one-sidedly reactionary as they have often been portrayed. At the same time, by tracing the changes in Protestant religious and political discourse across the 1950s and 1960s, it highlights the process of democratization not only on the Protestant Left, but also in more conservative circles of the Federal Republic. Finally, this study re-evaluates the impact of late-1960s Protest movements in West German society. Rather than seeing the emergence of these movements as a radical break with Germany's "fascist" past, it places them within the context of gradual liberalization across the 1950s and 1960s. It argues that their major contribution to postwar democratization did not lie not in exposing the lack of true democracy in West German society, but in prompting more moderate, liberal figures in the older generation to work within the existing system to promote a new set of social and political values.

Benjamin C. Pearson@gmail.com

4) Journal issues

a): Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte/Contemporary Church History. The latest issue of this journal continues the steps taken to make it a bilingual production, including the provision of black-and-white illustrations for the first time.. This bi-ennial is now in its 20th year under the editorship of Professor Gerhard Besier of Dresden, which is a most impressive service. The focus of this issue are the papers from a conference held in Budapest in October 2007 as part of the European Union’s Project: “Overcoming Dictatorships - an Encounter between Poets, Artists and Writers”. Among the articles in English is the notable contribution of Andrew Chandler, director of the George Bell Institute in Chichester, Sussex. This was the paper he gave at the Bell memorial conference outlined above, and outlined the support given by Bishop Bell to the arts during the 1920s and 1930s, particularly by his sponsorship of the revival of religious drama with such plays as T.S.Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” which was first performed in Canterbury Cathedral. For Bishop Bell, as Chandler states, the Church needed to learn from the artist in order to see again the gift of its gospel and to enhance its own power of proclamation. This was a task which had acquired a new urgency in the age of rival ideologies and fanatic dictators. Bell found encouraging support in the poems of W. H. Auden and Edith Sitwell, and for his part, gave commissions to artists.such as Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell or Hans Feibusch to paint murals in churches in his diocese. It was all part of a search for a new unity between religious faith and artistic expression in the context of Europe’s disastrous decline into dictatorship and war.

Another of Bishop Bell’s contributions is outlined in the article by Charlotte Methuen on the Anglo-German theological conferences 1927-1931. These were clearly intended to be part of the attempt to find a basis for international Christian reconciliation and to overcome the still virulent public antipathy between Germans and Britons. Bell brought together some of the most distinguished theologians to discuss finding possible agreement on basic doctrines of the Christian faith, such as on the Kingdom of God, Christology and the Holy Spirit. But the debates only revealed that the differences were not so much between the nations, as between different doctrinal traditions within each nation. Nor did this series of meetings prevent Gerhard Kittel or Paul Althaus giving their enthusiastic support to National Socialism.

With best wishes
John Conway
jconway@interchange.ubc.ca
website: www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/akz