June 1999 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


Newsletter- June 1999- Vol.V, no. 6

Dear Friends,


Contents: 1) Renewed request for biographical and research information 2) New electronic website on theology 3) Journal for the History of Modern Theology/Zeitschrift fur neuere Theologiegeschichte contd: 4) Journal issue: Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 5) Book reviews: a) A. Nagel, Martin Rade b) Collins, Methodism in Alabama 6) Book notes 7) Personalia


1) Some months ago, we made a request to members of this List to send in information about their research interests, and possibly some biographical details, including their academic affiliation, so that other members could be aware of new developments going on,and so that we could get to know each other better. Personally I find it highly frustrating to receive an E-mail message from some anonymous numbered account, which gives no indication of the location of the sender. But I rejoice in hearing about your endeavours. So far the response to our invitation has been modest. The results can be read on http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/bytw/conway.htm


I am most grateful to Randy Bytwerk, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan for this help.


2) New electronic website on theology. Dr Charles Bellinger, Public Service Librarian, Regent College,Vancouver has compiled a comprehensive website which is now available. This is a selective, annotated guide to a wide variety of electronic resources of interest to those who are teaching or studying religion and theology at the undergraduate or graduate level. The basic principle of organization used here is the course area heading. Under these headings, one will find materials divided into types: syllabi, electronic texts, electronic journals,websites, bibliographies, listserv discussion groups, and for some pages, liturgical resources. In all the site contains several hundred pages. These material types may also be browsed on their own pages. Information is also provided on ways in which electronic resources may be integrated into teaching.The course areas listed, for example, are:Archaeology and Classics Biblical Studies Christianity; General and Historical periods Ethics, Society and Culture Philosophy and Religion:Introductory and General courses World Religions Any of these subjects can be easily traced, and the appropriate website brought to your screen. In some cases, you will find that material in print has been added electronically and can be read by this means. Under Christianity/Theologians, for example, I found an alphabetical list of theologians of all ages, with details of the various websites, listservs, and electronic documentation pertaining to each. Undoubtedly a most valuable resource to explore. Many thanks to Charles Bellinger.The route to follow is http://www.Wabash center.wabash.edu/Internet/front.htm


3) The Editor of the Journal for the History of Modern Theology,Dr Richard Crouter, asks for attention to be drawn to the Source Document section of this journal, which is one of its most distinctive features. “In this section we print hitherto unpublished collections of materials (letters, lectures, documentation) that pertain to the history of modern theology. Recent issues have included such material by Harnack, M.Dibelius, F.Gogarten and an extensive exchange of correspondence between Bultmann and Krueger. There are even some letters from D.Bonhoeffer and Albert Schweitzer. We would welcome English-language materials dealing with theological developments and connections in the twentieth century. We encourage submissions of documentation reaching beyond Protestantism to include Catholic, Judaic and secular material that bears on the history of modern theology.”


4) The latest issue of the journal Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte (ed.Prof. Gerhard Besier, Heidelberg) contains a 120-page bibliography of items in our field published in 1997-8, mainly but not exclusively in German. This is impressive of the activity going on, and we are grateful to the editors for making this listing.Unfortunately, because of cost, this bibliography will not be printed in KZG in future, but will still be available, either on their web-site, or by E-mail, or on a disk or computer off-print. If your library subscribes to this journal, perhaps you would want to alert the librarian to this new offer, which might otherwise be overlooked.This issue also contains an informative, if shocking, article by Prof B.Hamm, Erlangen, about the theological justification for German militarism and racism as seen in the work of the prominent Lutheran theologian Werner Elert during the period 1914-1945.Vera Bucker contributes a useful analysis of the various Declarations of Guilt issued in 1945 by the German and Austrian Catholic bishops, as well as the better-known Stuttgart Declaration issued by the leaders of Evangelical Church. Her comparative approach shows both the strengths and weaknesses portrayed in these documents.


5a) Anne C.Nagel, Martin Rade – Theologe und Politiker des Sozialen Liberalismus. Eine politische Biographie (Religiose Kulturen der Moderne, Bd 4) Gutersloh 1996 pp 336 DM 178 (The review appeared previously in the Journal for the History of Modern Theology, Vol 5, p 317-20) Ambiguous Visions and Ambivalent Politics Martin Rade as Political Theologian In February 1934, Martin Rade wrote a letter to Wilhelmvon Pechmann, the well known representative of the Protestant church who resigned from all his ecclesiastical offices shortly after the Nazis came to power, thus protesting against the treatment of the German Jews. Referring to von Pechmann’s plan publicly to declare his leaving of the Protestant church as a way of protest, Rade stated that not being prominent enough, such a step taken by himself would not be effective. However he pointed out that an appeal to the public was necessary. In the present situation, he wrote, if “Die Christliche Welt” published such an appeal, this would lead to self-sacrifice. Perhaps there was a time to “die beautifully” – “In Schonheit sterben” (p. 291) as he put it. But, he continued, the right occasion would have to be found first. However, neither the “Christliche Welt” nor Rade .committed such a self-sacrifice. Whereas von Pechmann left the Protestant Church in April 1934, Rade remained inactive. Criticising the Protestant church and her treatment of baptised Jews in private letters, he did not entirely condemn the state’s policies towards the Jews: “Wenn nun der Staat Krieg mit Juda fuhrt”, he wrote in a later letter to von Pechmann in February 1939.”so kann man sich nicht wundern, wenn es nach Kriegsbrauch geht. Aber die evangelische Kirche durfte von ihren Gliedern die Hand nicht lassen”. (p. 292) These two letters show that Rade’s evaluation of the Nazi dictatorship was inconsistent. His faith in Christian values and his partial consent to the new German state and its order – these were the contradictory extremes of Rade’s political thinking. Anne Christine Nagel’s political biography of Rade (1857-1940) unfortunately does not focus on these extremes. Her book attempts to present the political commitment of this prominent representative of civil culture protestantism in Imperial and Weimar Germany. In ten chapters she describes the development of Rade’s political commitment, focusing on his liberal ‘Gelehrtenpolitik’ before the first World War in the first four chapters and on his democratic convictions after 1918 in chapters 6 to 9. Chapter 5 discusses Rade’s political attitude in the first World War, which she sees as an important break. In chapter 10 the author uses Rade as an example for evaluating the “Grosse und Grenzen professoralen Engagements” (p. 267). However, in writing a political biography, Nagel’s aim is to correct the image of Rade having been rather unpolitical and interested mainly in religious affairs. Instead, Nagel is more concerned with Rade’s political concepts and social visions than with his personal or academic life. But since he was an influential university theologian, a member of numerous liberal organisations and the longtime editor of the”Christliche Welt”, she shows how well Rade fits into the category of ‘Gelehrtenpolitiker’. By focusing on Rade’s social role and his political action,Nagel attempts to reconstruct his political thinking, his ‘Weltbild'(p.19) and analyses closely his political writings. She has used a wide array of primary sources, including Rade’s articles in national and regional newspapers, his special war pamphlets, and of course the weekly issues of the “Christliche Welt”. She has also made use of his papers deposited in Marburg University Library, including his correspondence with colleagues and his brother-in-law Friedrich Naumann, personal notes and official university documents. Furthermore she used archival material of the various parties of which Rade was a member, the “Fortschrittliche Volkspartei” and the “Deutsche Demokratische Partei”. Thus the book is also a contribution to the history of German liberalism. as seen through the writings of one of its most prominent men. She pays especial attention to the first World War and sees the catastrophe of Germany’s defeat in 1918 as a significant caesura.Indeed, she claims that her book can be divided into two separate parts by that event. However it is doubtful whether this rather artificial and unoriginal division is convincing. This book is not easy to evaluate. Certainly, a new biography of Rade was long overdue. Focusing on Rade’s political thought is of special interest not only for theologians but also for historians. But it is doubtful whether one can agree with Nagel’s results. Her thesis is that his career was not a success story, but that his greatness lay in his continuous aim to preserve and spread constitutional principles, his fight for the existence of universal values and his consequent demand for democratic rights. To be successful or unsuccessful – is that really the question that counts in a political biography? In the following I will concentrate mainly on two aspects crucial for an assessment of Rade’s ‘Gelehrtenpolitik’: his political stance during World War I and his role in Nazi Germany. On the outbreak of the war, Rade – who had been a member of the ‘Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft’ since 1908 and had often pleaded for international understanding – was as enthusiastic as many other academics. While pacifism was important to Rade, it was outweighed by patriotism in his political thinking. Even though in July he had criticised the German policy, in the following month he greeted the war, which he perceived as an “Umwerter aller Werte” (p.144). Convinced that his fatherland had to fight ‘um Sein oder Nicht seen’, as the Kaiser had put it, Rade used his magazine to join the ‘Krieg der Geister’. Whereas some readers complained that his articles were not patriotic enough, some colleagues, and the young Karl Barth especially, strongly criticised his statements. However, Nagel rightly stresses that Rade remained a true patriot throughout the war, but also points out his ambivalences. On the one hand he stressed the importance of subscribing to war loans right up to October 1918. On the other hand, already in 1915 he had started to plead for peace by agreement. In his war articles, Rade frequently outlined his vision of a new German state. From August 1914 onwards, he was convinced that it would be possible to build a ‘Volksstaat’ that would integrate all classes (p.124). He therefore pleaded for domestic reforms. However, at that time, he did not aim for democracy; his political vision was for a constitutional monarchy,a state in which everyone would be able to fulfil his ‘Pflicht zur Politik’ for the sake of the community. But after the collapse of the Empire in November 1918, he accepted the new order and joined the newly founded Deutsche Demokratische Partei. In the Weimar Republic Rade took part in the discussions about important reform projects, i.e. for reforming the Protestant church and the university system. He commented on political scandals. However, he also took a nationalist stance on Germany’s future international position, or on the need for internal renewal. He critically reviewed Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ – but not until 1932. When the Nazis took power in 1933 Rade reacted optimistically and saw a new beginning (p.247) He eventually excused the SA’s brutality saying that a “Revolution” [sic] (p.248)was always brutal. Though he himself became a victim being dismissed in November 1933 – aged 76 -, Rade concluded”Wir konnten den Rad nicht in die Speichen fallen” (p.254) and remained politically inactive. Being unable to let “Die Christliche Welt” ‘die beautifully’, he evaluated the political situation in private letters. Condemning antisemitism and helping Jews secretly, he nonetheless considered them to be a social problem.Protestants in general aimed at helping to find a solution to what was called the ‘Judenfrage’. They pleaded for a re-christianisation of society to have a more perfect ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ and thus legitimised cultural exclusion of minorities. Rade greeted the Nuremberg Laws as a legal regulation that was long overdue. Now the ‘Loesung der Judenfrage’ (p.257) finally had a legal basis However, given the fact that these laws applied only to Jews, Rade considered it necessary to point out that the problem arose when ‘our baptised Christian children’ were forced to attend Jewish schools. Regarding the ‘Judenproblem’ as solved, he invented the’Halbjudenproblem’ and quickly offered the solution: Emigration. It becomes obvious that – contrary to Nagel’s contention – Rade was actually more concerned with the ecclesiastical than with political affairs. Equality before God – for Rade the sine qua non -and inequality before the law could exist in parallel. Rade did not question the Nuremberg Laws at all. Writing in this sense to von Pechmann in 1935, Pechmann in his answer stated his ‘schmerzliche Uberraschung’ (p.259) about Rade’s rather naive and uncritical attitude. The reader may be painfully surprised too, after noting Nagel’s conclusion that Rade continually aimed at spreading democratic ideas. According to her, Rade was a ‘republiktreuer, aber gleichwohl kritischer Publizist’ (p.265) who did not, however, see the danger arising in the Nazi movement. Having presented so many examples of his partial opposition and partial support of the regime, i.e. for the ‘Ambivalenz’ (p.149) of his thinking and actions, Nagel unintelligibly tries to save morally what cannot be saved objectively and ought not to be saved scientifically: the ‘good’ Rade. But whether he was good or not is as unimportant as whether his biography was ‘successful’ or not, because such criteria do not apply here. It has long been proved that, referring to Protestants especially, one cannot clearly distinguish between supporters and opponents of the Third Reich. Years before Nagel wrote her biography, it had already been stressed that the three basic elements of Protestant concepts of culture – the emphasis on the individual personality, the longing for cultural homogeneity and the ideal of the state as the guarantor of cultural values(“Kulturstaat’) – were important factors explaining the ambiguity of the Protestants varied attitudes towards Nazism and thus towards the ‘Judenfrage’. As F.W.Graf has noted, Protestants shared a paradoxical and simultaneous proximity and distance to the Nazi state.Characteristic was the combination of partial opposition to the racist parts of the Nazi ideology and a partial support of the new and strong state. Because they saw the state as the end-product of all values and the guarantor of the people’s unity, many liberal Protestants found it impossible to defend human rights against the state when they became endangered. Given that the basic elements of cultural Protestantism demanded resistance as much as forbidding it, only individual case studies could lead to further knowledge about how far liberal protestant mentalities were translated into social action. Being such a case study, Nagel’s book would have been more convincing if she had focused on this specific ambiguity.Instead she aims at giving a definitive interpretation where definite statements can hardly be given and thus misses that chance that writing an analysis of Rade’s multi-dimensional political views offered. Her political biography is an interesting and partly very detailed presentation of this academic’s political life. However, by neglecting the question of ambiguity, her book does not quite match the new research. If Nagel had had a look at war pamphlets in general, she would have noticed that academics in general, and Protestant theologians especially, were open to integrative anti-capitalistic and corporative ideologies. Indeed: Socialism and war-Socialism became common terms during the war, and the combination of nationalism and socialism was a widespread subject. This is why liberal Protestants, irrespective of their political views, were so susceptible to Nazism, because of their specific openness or adaptability to ideologies that offered an integral community. Based on collective devotion to the common good, such ideologies promised to overcome the scorned modernity. Being torn between his liberal values and his longing for a renaissance of a strong and powerful Germany, Martin Rade, as a political theologian, represents the ‘Gelehrtenpolitiker’ whose ambiguous visions and ambivalent politics marked ‘the decline of the German mandarins’ .(F.K.Ringer)                                                                           Steffen Bruendel, University of Bielefeld


b) Donald E.Collins, When the Church bells ran racist. The Methodist Church and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama.Macon,Georgia: Mercer University Press 1998 xii +178 pp. As a young Methodist minister, Donald Collins served in southern Alabama during the height of the anti-segregation conflict in the 1950s and ’60s. He has now set down his personal recollections, aided by interviews with several former colleagues,in order to describe the attitudes and actions of the Methodist Church, and the agony and tragedy in which they were all involved. Collins’ stance is one of repentance for the failure of the Methodists of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to take a stronger stand earlier in the cause of justice for all. In particular he is critical of the church hierarchy for its absolute determination to defend the status quo and the supremacy of the dominant white group. The Methodist Layman’s Union, closely parallelling the White Citizens’ Council, opposed any relaxation of segregation and sought to prevent either the sudden or gradual integration of Negroes and whites. Interestingly, however, they did not try to defend this stance on theological grounds. The white clergy were, of course, in a difficult and exposed position. Their views and actions were subject to intense surveillance, and any hint of sympathy with the blacks could and did bring down immediate threats to have them evicted, or the loss of salary. Intimidation of such “nigger-lovers” was openly practised.It took immense courage to persevere, and Collins admits that many of his colleagues preferred to keep silent. The most active -including the author himself – were often quickly exhausted and opted to leave the ministry and take up secular jobs. Not even knowledge of overwhelming support from other sections of the church and the rest of the world could sustain them for long. Most congregations, however, accepted the tradition of injustices suffered by the black community as beyond contention. Even when lawless mobs brutalized the freedom riders in Birmingham and Montgomery, the church was silent. Its leaders expressed no outrage, and made no call for respect of law and order. The church bells rang racist. Collins describes the tense events of 1963-4 when education facilities in Alabama were finally integrated, and Methodists at last got round to removing the structures of segregation which had long prevailed in the church. But in Alabama-West Florida, Methodists remained bastions of resistance. Not until 1972 was the Alabama Methodist Church finally de-segregated. But even today, no black minister has ever been appointed to a white congregation. And racial integration has led to difficulties for both black and white members. The loss of qualified black ministers to more friendly conferences, the flight of white congregations to all-white suburbs and the closing of inner-city churches where inter-racial partnerships are most needed are disturbing features of the present scene. Although no longer serving as a Methodist minister,Collins writes with insight and sympathy for those who upheld the cause of reform at the most crucial time. His reportage and his witness as a Zeitzeuge are both insightful and valuable. But he continues to fear that in Alabama the church bells still ring racist.JSC


6) Book notes:a) ed. Frank J.Coppa, Encyclopedia of the Vatican and Papacy,Westport,Conn: Greenwood Press 1999 483pp ISBN 0-313-28917-4 US $99.50. This is a useful reference work, particularly good for its up-to-date biographies of all the Popes, each entry having an attached bibliography.


b) Peter Beier, Missionarische Gemeinde in sozialistischer Umwelt. Die kirchentagskongressarbeit in Sachsen im Kontext der SED-Kirchenpolitik (1968-1975) Gottingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht 1999 514pp DM 128


c) Last December the World Council of Churches celebrated the 50th anniversary of its establishment in 1948 during its 8th Assembly, held in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Assembly’s setting and deliberations have been incisively described in a 65 page booklet,entitled Journey Together Towards Jubilee, written by Martin Conway, who is distributing this from 303 Cowley Road, Oxford,U.K., price GBP 2.50, tel and fax +44(0)1865-723085.


d) eds. Gunter Brakelmann, Norbert Friedrich, Traugott Jahnichen,Auf dem Weg zum Grundgesetz. Beitrage zum Verfassungsverstandnis des neuzeitlichen Protestantismus.(Entwurfe zur christlichen Gesellschaftswissenschaft Vol.10)Munster: LIT Verlag 1999. 281pp ISBN 3-8258-4224-x This collection of essays describing the inter-relationship between the German Evangelical Church and the various successive constitutions since 1789 will be of interest primarily to church legal historians. Others will find the two essays by G. Brakelmann on the 5th article of the 1934 Barmen Declaration,and on the 1942 Freiburger Denkschrift, as well as Friedrich and Jahnichen’s essay on Gerhard Leibholz and Gerhard Ritter to be helpful in bringing out the atmosphere of the war and immediate post-war years. Like most such collections, the reader will need a good indexing system to remember and find the gold nuggets contained herein.


7) Personalia On April 25th, in Berlin’s French Cathedral, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Prize in recognition of his work for human rights and his leadership of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.In his acceptance speech, Tutu spoke of the power of reconciliation and pointed out that many of the victims of apartheid had chosen to forgive their oppressors, despite the terrible atrocities reported by the 20,000 victims interviewed. * **The first woman to hold a professorship in Catholic theology at a German university, Frau Uta Ranke-Heinemann, is being proposed as a candidate for the next Presidential election by the Party of Democratic Socialism. Since the era of the Vietnam war, she has been a prominent anti-war activist and a leader of Germany’s pacifist movement. Her father Gustav Heinemann served as German President from 1969 to 1974, having earlier been a leading lawyer for the Confessing Church in Essen during the Nazi period.


With very best wishes


John Conway