December 2001 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


Newsletter- December 2001- Vol. VII, no. 11

Dear Friends,

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very blessed
Christmas season. Let us hope that it may be a message of hope
after the tumults and disasters of this opening of the new

Christmas Trees

Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell
bleached by the flares, candescent fall,
pacing out his own citadel,

restores the broken themes of praise,
encourages our borrowed days,
by logic of his sacrifice.

Against wild reasons of the state
his words are quiet but not too quiet.
We hear too late or not too late
Geoffrey Hill

1) Book reviews: a) Dudley-Smith, John Stott
b) Kertzer, The Popes against the Jews
c) D.Eman, Things we couldn,t say
2) New contemporary church history project
3) New book publications: Mark Lindsay, Karl Barth
S.Liebster, Facing the Lion
N.Railton, No North Sea
H.Marcuse, Legacies of Dachau

1a) Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott. The Making of a Leader.
Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press 1999 513 pp.
John Stott was – and is – the most prominent member of the
evangelical wing of the Church of England in the second half of the
twentieth century. For more than fifty years he served as curate,
priest-in-charge, rector and rector emeritus of All Souls, Langham
Place on London,s fashionable west side – a strategic base where he
established his enviable reputation as a preacher and
communicator, and led the revival, so his biographer claims, of the
evangelical movement in England.
This laudatory and leisurely biography, written by a close
friend, is based on a wealth of personal papers, beginning with
schoolboy letters and diaries of bird-watching trips. In addition,
Dudley-Smith has marshaled an impressive array of secondary
sources, which are used to describe the setting in which Stott grew
up and had his initial training in Christian ministry. But since his
more than 500 pages cover only the early years and stops in 1958,
we will presumably have to wait for a second volume to show how
Stott,s leadership was most fully deployed.
What we are given here is a full and discursive description
of the religious climate of the early years of the last century, and of
the limited circle of English upper middle class people who upheld
the Church of England,s evangelical traditions and its institutions,
and their methods of recruiting the young. John Stott,s father was a
leading surgeon and lived in Harley Street, the most fashionable
address for doctors in London. As was customary in this class,
John was sent to boarding school at an early age, and as a teenager
went to Rugby, one of England,s most prestigious “public schools.
It was there that at the age of seventeen, the most important event
of his life took place – his conversion to a personal faith in Jesus.
Thanks to a visiting evangelist from the Scripture Union, Rev.
E.Nash, John along with others of his age was confronted with the
challenge: What shall I do with Jesus? and given the choice of
following the narrow way to salvation or the broader path to
destruction. The imagery of Holman Hunt,s picture The Light of
the World was a powerful influence, and very soon John was
confident that he was indeed committed to Christ, and released
from the bond of sin. The approach was personal and devotional
rather than intellectual. Nor was it original, since the model was
derived from Puritan roots and extensively used by John Wesley.
But under the auspices of the Scripture Union and other
evangelistic agencies, it was taken to groups of schoolboys of John
Stott,s class and age, and was remarkably effective.
The spiritual emphasis was that of traditional
evangelicalism: reliance on Holy Scripture, with a belief in biblical
inerrancy, acceptance of salvation by faith in the atoning death of
Christ, and a commitment to personal evangelism. This
programme was fostered by a series of summer camps and house
parties, with a view to recruiting more converts, and encouraging
those who had already accepted Jesus as their Saviour. Many
young participants, like Stott, were eventually to be ordained.
While still at Rugby, Stott was drawn into the organizational tasks
of running these gatherings. His abilities for leadership and
single-minded dedication were obvious even then. But to critics,
this enthusiasm for personal holiness seemed overdone, especially
when accompanied by a narrowness of view, doctrinal rigidity, and
at times a grating self-righteousness.
In 1939, while he was still in school, war broke out. The
British government generously ruled that young men intending to
be ordinands were exempt from military service. Stott decided to
take advantage of this ruling, even though he had not yet begun his
undergraduate career, let alone a course of theology. His father,
who was quickly called to high rank in the Royal Army Medical
Corps, found John,s refusal to enlist or volunteer for national
service profoundly disturbing. The rift was not healed for many
years. John argued that his calling to prepare for God,s service as a
minister of the Gospel took precedence, and so began his studies at
Trinity College, Cambridge, where he stayed throughout the war.
Dudley-Smith has the space to describe in full and
unflattering terms the kind of teaching Stott received in war-time
Cambridge. Liberalism was uppermost in the Faculty of Divinity.
Theology was taught purely as a secular subject, even by some men
who were non-believers. The cause of evangelicalism was upheld
by an eccentric librarian. There were, of course, very few men of
his own age with whom to trade ideas. And – as his biographer
suggests – he was too intense to establish any close relations with
women students. Indeed he never married. His education was
therefore mainly derived from the resources of the University
Library. It was here that he discovered the rich legacy of Charles
Simeon, the great evangelical who had dominated Cambridge in the
nineteenth century, and whose aura was still to be felt in his parish
church, Holy Trinity. But in every college there was also a small
group of fervent and enthusiastic students, members of the
Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU). Stott spent
much of his free time leading their bible studies, extending pastoral
care to searching individuals, and generally building up their faith
along the conservative and rather puritanical lines advocated by the
CICCU leadership. Here again the emphasis was on the
individual,s need for faith in the redeeming love of Christ. Wider
social or political issues were rigorously set aside in the pursuit of
personal holiness and piety.
At the end of 1945 Stott was ordained by the Bishop of
London and invited to serve his curacy at All Souls, Langham Place
and its daughter church, St Peter,s, where he had worshipped as a
boy. It was really a homecoming, but to a London society deeply
changed by the war. For one thing, All Souls Church had been
badly damaged by a bomb and was out of commission until 1951.
His life as an assistant curate was a busy one, since the church was
understaffed. But his duties became heavier when the Rector was
taken ill and had to convalesce for lengthy periods. Stott was then
made Priest-in-Charge. When in early 1950, the Rector died, he
was invited to succeed him at the astonishingly early age of 29.
The latter part of this book covering Stott,s first decade as
Rector is frankly disappointing. Dudley-Smith describes his busy
life, his organizational skills, and the positions of leadership he
soon took up within the evangelical wing of the Church of England.
But little or no clue is given as to what characteristics led to Stott,s
reputation rising so rapidly. To be sure, he was in charge of a
well-situated, obviously prosperous and popular church. He had and
trained a succession of like-minded curates, and he was an
attractive and hard-working minister. His strengths lay in his
expository preaching and his evangelistic zeal, which particularly in
the early years attracted hundreds of young people, especially
students, to Langham Place. But we are not told why he succeeded
more than other similarly placed clergy.
So too with his university missions during the 1950s, to
which Dudley-Smith devotes a whole chapter. He quotes numerous
glowing testimonies to these successes – along with a few critical
comments – but fails to analyze the content of the message, let
alone to make any comparative evaluations. So the effect is
repetitive as one university after another is visited, challenged and
left behind. Possibly Dudley-Smith is too close to his subject, or
perhaps such assessments will be given in the second volume.
Alternatively it may be that he presumed that readers of this
biography would all have heard John Stott for themselves. But for
outsiders, there is a regrettable absence of context and content. We
can only infer that Stott maintained a remarkable consistency in his
approach, which was – and is – a reliance on the traditional
evangelical appeal for personal dedication to Christ, acceptance of
the invitation to let Jesus enter one,s heart, proclamation of the
substitutionary theory of the atonement, and an affirmation of the
release from sin,s bondage. From the evidence here supplied,
Stott,s message seems to be the same one which he accepted at the
time of his own conversion decades before, proclaimed with
intensity and conviction, but also with an unchanging narrowness of
focus. Nowhere does Dudley-Smith seek to expound the strengths
– and weaknesses – of this doctrinal position, or to place it in the
wider context of English or evangelical church life. Perhaps we
shall be given more in Volume II, but the chatty anecdotal
reportage adopted in this first installment suggests otherwise. Too
bad, since Stott is a man of stature whose views deserve a more
thorough and defensible examination and assessment.


b) Kertzer,D., The Popes Against the Jews: the Vatican’s Role in
the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism. Alfred A. Knopf, New York,
2001, pp.358.

Reviewed by Eugene J. Fisher, Associate Director, Secretariat for
Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, USA.

Unlike the wholly discredited Hitler’s Pope by journalist John
Cornwell, with which this book is likely to be forever paired
(indeed, the publisher places a promotional blurb by Cornwell on
the back jacket cover), David Kertzer’s book is the work of a
professional historian. Kertzer has gone through the archives of the
Holy Office of the Inquisition, opened up by the Holy See for
researchers in 1998, for the 19th & early 20th centuries, and written
up his results in lively and compelling fashion. This work will be
useful to other historians for the details it brings to a story whose
major outlines have long been well known.
Kertzer narrates, for example, cases of “forced” baptisms of
infants in the House of Catechumens in Rome. If a Jewish man
decided to convert to Christianity, he writes, he would be obliged to
sign a document signing over his rights to his wife and children.
The latter then could be taken out of the Roman ghetto and placed
in the House of Catechumens. Those who were of the age of
reason were subjected to 30 days of intensive efforts to convert
them (so the law allowed). If they were still obdurate in their
Jewish faith, they were released to return to the ghetto. Children
under the age of reason were simply baptized and taken to be raised
as Catholics, since their father, who was considered to have this
legal right over his children, had so mandated by his signature.
Kertzer goes on to narrate the appallingly squalid conditions of
the Jews in the ghettos of the Papal States, their efforts to gain their
freedom, and how those efforts became symbolically linked in the
minds of the people who ran the Papal States with all that they felt
was dangerous about the Enlightenment and its ideology of militant
secularism. All of this will be painful, but ultimately healthy
reading for American Catholics, who came to terms with the theory
and praxis of religious pluralism and religious freedom in, shall we
say, 1776.
These “enlightened” theories, of course, were in fact dangerous to
the monarchical ideas behind the Papal States. And one can argue
that the loss of the papacy’s temporal power, so that it could better
understand and exercise its deeper, spiritual authority, was
ultimately one of the better things to happen to the Catholic Church
in its long history. I would be of that persuasion. And I would
offer the example of the present pontificate, with the nonviolent but
effective role Pope John Paul II played in the dissolution of the
Enlightenment’s greatest heresy, the Communist Soviet Union, as a
case in point.
The bishops of the world gathered together at the Second Vatican
Council, I believe, also saw it this way in voting overwhelmingly
for the declarations on religious liberty and on the Jews (Nostra
Aetate no. 4). Whereas before the Council, as the saying went,
“error has no rights,” since the Council the right of human
conscience has been the consistent teaching of the Church.
Kertzer’s problem, however, is that he does not see this, or perhaps
has not done sufficient homework to understand it. The useful
material, which I would hope every Catholic would read, the
material that comes out of his actual research, is contained in the
first of the three parts of his book, a bit over a hundred pages. The
rest, sadly enough, reads more like a polemic in tone and content.
Kertzer sets up his accusation of a Vatican plot to infect an
innocent Europe with anti-Semitism by misconstruing the Holy
See’s document, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. He
wants it to say that there is no relationship at all between modern
racial anti-Semitism and the Christian teaching of contempt for Jew
and Judaism that led to the institution of the ghettos of Europe. But
it does not say that. And here Kertzer’s scholarship deserts him. He
states (p. 205) that We Remember states, “The Catholic Church can
bear no responsibility for the rise of modern anti-Semitism.”
Nowhere does it say that, of course. What Kertzer has done
(unpardonable in a professional historian) is turn a both/and into an
either/or. True, the Holy See’s document does spell out at one point
the logically and historically necessary distinction between
Christian anti-Judaism and modern racial anti-Semitism. But
making a distinction does not, contrary to Kertzer’s odd logic, imply
that there is no relationship between the phenomena being
distinguished. Indeed, the entire structure of We Remember is
based on an acknowledgment of and repentance for the fact that
Christian anti-Jewish polemics against Jews and Judaism over the
centuries, teachings, as Pope John Paul II has said, by the 20th
century had so “lulled the consciences” of Christians that far too
many did not see the dangers of taking the radical step of
dehumanizing the Jews. But attempting to exterminate a whole
group of people is, pace Kertzer, a qualitatively different thing from
forced conversions and ghettos, bad as these were. The U.S.
bishops’ conference, in its document providing guidance for the
implementation of We Remember in Catholic schools, put it this
way: “Christian anti-Judaism did lay the groundwork for racial,
genocidal anti-Judaism by stigmatizing not only Judaism but Jews
themselves for opprobrium and contempt. So the Nazi theories
found tragically fertile soil in which to plant the horror of an
unprecedented attempt at genocide. One way to put the
connectedness between the Christian teaching of anti-Judaism and
Nazi antisemitism is that the former is a ‘necessary cause’ to
consider in explaining the development and success of the latter”
but not a sufficient cause. Christian anti-Judaism alone cannot
account for the Holocaust.” (Catholic Teaching on the Shoah,
USCCB, 2001). Many other historical factors, which Kertzer
studiously ignores, were involved. Kertzer, having set up his straw
person, proceeds to waste an awful lot of the reader’s time
demolishing it with great relish.
Had he done his homework, Kertzer would have realized that the
phrase he uses to title one of his chapters, “Antechamber to the
Holocaust,” was used precisely with reference to the ghettos of
Europe by Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, then president of the
Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, in a
statement made in May of 1998 clarifying We Remember. Kertzer
likewise fails to give credit to a fellow scholar, Professor Ronald
Modras of St. Louis University for the theory of why so may in the
European clergy at the turn of the last century were attracted to a
form of anti-Semitism, even while denouncing its harsher
implications (see The Catholic Church and Anti-Semitism: Poland
1933-39, Harwood, 1994.
Kertzer’s prosecutorial stance leads him to omit key facts and, at
times, to very tortured arguments. He concludes, for example, that
there was a Vatican “campaign” to popularize the infamous
Protocols of the Elders of Zion because a French priest (whom he is
sure had a close personal relationship with the pope because he was
made–are you ready?–a Monsignor!) did do just that in the 1920’s.
This is to ignore the fact that another French priest, Fr. Pierre
Charles, SJ, wrote an article in the 1930’s thoroughly debunking the
forgery which was picked up in Jesuit journals in Europe and
America. And with regard to the discussion between the Vatican
Secretary of State and the German ambassador in 1943, which
some scholars believe led the Germans to end their deportations of
the Jews of Rome, Kertzer omits the telling detail that the
deportations did stop on the day of that conversation, however it is
interpreted, and that the Jews of Rome went into hiding, in large
part in the monasteries and convents of the city, with the
knowledge of the Vatican, which regularly supplied them with food
to feed the hidden Jews.
This book may have been begun as serious scholarship, but it
ended up as anything but, which is a loss for all of us, Jews and
Catholics alike, since the author is capable of much better work
than exhibited here.
Dr. Eugene J. Fisher
Associate Director, SEIA


c) Diet Eman with James Schaap, Things we couldn,t say, Grand
Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans 1994/2001 pback 392pp

The new paper-back edition of Diet Eman’s reminiscences,
first published a few years ago, provides another opportunity to
share the experiences of this young Dutch student during the years
of Nazi occupation of her homeland. She and her fiancé became
deeply involved in resistance activities, for religious as well as
nationalist reasons. Both paid the price. Diet Eman,s account of
their efforts to hide Jews, procure safe havens, and obtain ration
cards, while evading the Gestpo-led pursuit, clearly testifies to her
Christian-based commitment to the cause, very similar to that of
Corrie ten Boom. Her description of her imprisonment and
harrowing interrogations are vividly recalled. Unfortunately her
fiancé was deported to Germany and died in Dachau. The resulting
shock led her to emigrate and to suppress these dark years from her
memory. Not until fifty years later, when she met a talented writer
James Schaap, did she consent to face the painful remembrance of
these sufferings and to reopen her long-closed diary of those years.
Through their collaboration, Diet Eman and James Schaap give
today’s English-speaking audience another valuable eye-witness
account of both the heroism and the sufferings endured by the
Dutch people at the hands of the Nazis.

2) New contemporary church history project
Five European universities have been given a joint grant by the
European Commission – its first in the field of Humanities – to
undertake a collaborative study of the role of the churches in the
integration of Europe. Coordinated by the University of Helsinki
(Prof. Aila Lauha), this project will involve the universities of
Glasgow, Tartu, Lund and Münster. In Glasgow, list-member
Nicholas Hope of the Department of History is supported by his
research assistant Philip Coupland. The scope of the project is to
examine the relationship of the churches to political events of the
last fifty years from the Cold War to the present. Each university
will have its own assignment relating to the whole project. For
example, Glasgow concentrates on British archival material, and
looks at local churches and religious faiths in politics and society.
We look forward to reporting on the progress of this excellently
ecumenical initiative.

3) New book publications:
Mark Lindsay, Covenanted Solidarity: The theological basis of Karl
Barth,s opposition to Nazi Antisemitism and the Holocaust,
(Issues in Systematic Theology, Vol. 9) Frankfurt, Berne, New
York: Peter Lang. 2001.

Simone A.Liebster, Facing the Lion. Memoirs of a young girl in
Nazi Europe. Grammaton Press, New Orleans 2000 408pp
This is one of a new series of memoirs written by members of the
Jehovah,s Witnesses sect, following the pattern set by their Jewish
partners in suffering. Liebster,s account of her youth in Alsace, and
her persecution after the Nazi conquest is on familiar lines, but
brings out again the courageous obstinacy with which members of
the J.Ws accosted their persecutors.
Their witness has not been much written about in secular terms,
partly because this religious fraternity is still discriminated against,
and partly because such literary exercises does not belong in their
culture. But this glimpse of their fate is an excellent example of
how such experiences should be recorded for posterity.

Nicholas M.Railton, No North Sea. The Anglo-German Evangelical
Network in the middle of the nineteeenth century. Leiden: Brill.
2000 286pp
Although this study is limited to the mid-nineteenth century, its
subject matter will be of interest to our list members, since it
portrays a happy period of collaboration between German and
British Evanglicals in a variety of constructive endeavours. Possibly
the most striking was the establishment of the Anglo-Prussian
bishopric in Jerusalem, which is nicely described in detail. The
Pietist tradition in Prussia and the Evangelical wing of the Church
of England together believed in the supremacy of biblical witness,
and were ardent in their championing of missions. Perhaps too
literal, perhaps too dogmatic, but certainly fervent and full of good
works. Railton clearly sympathises with this stance, and it is only
too bad that he stops short just before the nationalist tensions of
later years drove these friends apart apparently irreversibly.

Harald Marcuse, Legacies of Dachau, Cambridge University Press,
2001, 590 pp

Harald Marcuse, who now teaches in Santa Barbara, is the grandson
of the eminent German philosopher. This compendious, splendidly
researched and well illustrated volume is really the story of how the
community of Dachau, near Munich, came to terms with its being
the site of the Nazis, first concentration camp, and with the
subsequent horrors which happened there. Our readers will be
particularly interested in the two chapters on “Catholics celebrate at
Dachau (p. 221-241) and “Protestants make amends at Dachau
In 1940 all the Christian clergy held in “protective custody were
consolidated in Dachau, 2579 Catholics – mainly Poles – and a very
much smaller number of Protestants. Those who survived after the
war wanted to erect a memorial. In line with Catholic practice, a
place of martyrdom and suffering could be sanctified if a shrine
was buiilt over the spot, especially if relics of the martyrs could be
found. The cult reflects Christ,s sacrifice and becomes a focus for
religious pilgrimage, not for historical commemoration. The
Catholic chapel in Dachau was finally built in 1960, largely
because of pressure from abroad, and against the opposition of the
local citizens. But again religious elements predominate over
historical references. There is no mention of the Nazi past.
By contrast the Protestants, led by Martin Niemöller, himself a
Dachau inmate, and supported by a youth group, Action for
Atonement, stressed the Church,s failings in the Nazi years. Their
chapel was named the Chapel of Reconciliation and sought to attest
Protestant solidarity with all of the Nazis, victims, even though the
record of the German Protestants, assistance to these victims after
1945 had been sparse. But the need to learn the lessons from the
past was markedly emphasized in Niemöller,s speech at the
chapel,s ceremonial dedication in 1967, when he compared his own
experience of injustice in Dachau with the United States,
aggression in Vietnam. Reconciliation had to be earned by an
active commitment to peace and justice.

With best wishes to you all at this festive season,

John S.Conway
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