April 2002 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- April 2002- Vol. VIII, no. 4

Dear Friends,

1) Book reviews

a) T.Dudley-Smith, John Stott, Vol .2.
b) B.Christophers, Positioning the Missionary
c) E.Wolgast, Die Wahnehmung des Dritten Reiches

2) Book notes: Besier and Scheuch, Die neue Inquisitoren

3) Journal articles:
1) Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott. A Global Ministry. A
biography. The Later years. Downers Grove, Illinois:
InterVarsity Press, 2000. 538 pp
John Stott is now in his 80s, and is still active as a
leading figure in British Evangelicalism. Timothy
Dudley-Smith’s massive two volume biography will therefore
probably require at least a concluding Epilogue. In the
meantime, this second volume describes Stott’s career during
the four decades from 1960 onwards, and is rightly entitled „A
Global Ministry”‘. This is the record of how Stott’s preaching
and teaching, which had established his reputation at All Souls
Church, Langham Place in central London, came to be shared
around the world, primarily in English-speaking communities.
As in Volume 1, (reviewed in this Newsletter, December
2001), Dudley-Smith is at pains to avoid a hagiographic tone.
Stott’s achievements are allowed to speak for themselves, and
fortunately he maintained an extensive paper trail, has an
excellent memory and a most capable secretarial staff – all of
which helped his biographer immensely. But once again
Dudley-Smith’s close friendship with his subject possibly
prevents him from standing back for a more critical assessment
of all this global activity, or from investigating more intensely
the long-term impact of Stott’s remarkably consistent
missionary endeavours. But this volume presents a convincing
case that Stott made a decisive contribution to the building up
of the Evangelical community around the world, despite the
alarming spread of secularism in so many societies.
In 1960 Stott had already had ten very successful years
in central London, working with and training a whole
succession of curates and assistants. Dudley-Smith first tackles
the question of why Stott was never given preferment in the
Church of England, or selected as a bishop. He believes the
ecclesiastical hierarchy was still too much in the hands of the
Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church, and cites the Archbishop
of Canterbury, Michael Ramsay, as one of those most
implacably opposed to evangelicals. But there was also, as
Dudley-Smith admits, the issue of Stott’s seeming inflexibility,
and the difficulties he would undoubtedly have faced in
dealing with priests of other persuasions. Certainly, given the
increasing demands made on Stott’s services, particularly
overseas, these would have been hard to combine with
diocesan responsibilities. So Stott never became a bishop.
From the 1960s onwards, Stott’s frequent journeys to
conduct missions abroad, especially for the International
Fellowship of Evangelical Students, repeated the earlier pattern
developed in Britain. His addresses were thoughtful, biblical,
earnest and often successful appeals to the young to dedicate
their lives to Christ. Stott handed on the tradition he himself
had learnt in the 1930s, and now gained a world-wide
audience. But he came to see that such lengthy absences from
his parish required changes at home, and so persuaded All
Souls to appoint a Vicar to carry the pastoral load. In 1975,
after a quarter of a century, Stott retired as Rector, and so was
able to devote himself more fully and effectively to this global
ministry. Much of Dudley-Smith’s account reads like a
travelogue, as Stott journeys from mission to conference in one
part of the world or another.
It says something for the theological conservatism of
Evangelicalism that Stott and his confraternity, including Billy
Graham in the United States, were only marginally touched by
the traumatic upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, especially
among the student generations. In contrast to the more liberal
supporters of the World Council of Churches, whose
endeavours became noticeably more focused on the social and
political plight of the poor and oppressed, Evangelicals like
Stott remained convinced that Scripture, and the need for
personal conversion to Christ, was and is their fixed
point. Political change, let alone political revolution, was a
dangerous diversion. Equally the World Council’s attempts to
seek dialogue with members of other faiths seemed to be an
ecumenical trend, which could lead to a regrettable syncretistic
mish-mash, which Evangelicals could only condemn. Their
understanding of world mission remained traditional, again
looking back to the good old days of the late nineteenth century
ambition to undertake „the evangelization of the world in this
In the 1970s a considerable effort was made to give this
task a new institutional shape at the 1974 Lausanne
Conference. Although dominated by the American
Evangelicals, this conference did lead to an awareness that
evangelicals needed to find a better synthesis between personal
evangelism and social action. There was also a need to
recognize how much the previous patterns of evangelization
had been shaped as much by culture as by biblical
understanding. Stott‚s horizons were being slowly and
thoughtfully extended.
Lausanne was supposed to lay the groundwork to
challenge the World Council of Churches‚alleged promotion of
a sort of secular salvation, in the form of a political and social
liberation movement, and a consequent downplaying of
traditional evangelism. In fact, the evangelicals never gained
sufficient cohesion to organize any such rival structure.
Neither Stott nor Billy Graham wanted to be involved in such
organizational tasks. But whereas liberals agonized over the
increasing exploitation of the world’s poor and oppressed,
evangelicals dedicated themselves to their well-known
commitment to personal salvation. At the same time, they were
increasingly obliged to consider how best a missionary from
one culture can take a message from another to a people who
live in a third.
To undertake such a ministry of preaching and
teaching, study and writing, direct evangelism and strategic
evangelistic planning, year after year, required, to say the least,
durability. Billy Graham once wrote in admiration of all Stott
was doing, and pleaded as his own excuse for not competing
that he had a wife, five children, five in-laws and 15
grandchildren. As a bachelor, Stott had no such ties, but his
life-style was nonetheless characterized by diligence,
discipline, punctuality and orderliness. A certain formality
prevailed. His younger assistants were not encouraged to take
liberties, and eventually settled on addressing him as „Uncle
John”. His only relaxation, to be passionately pursued
whenever time allowed, was bird-watching.
Over the years, Stott maintained the hectic pace of this
global ministry. Invitations to address far-distant assemblies
flowed in constantly, as did importunate requests to add still
more engagements at each stopover. But Dudley-Smith tells us
little of what Stott actually said. The emphasis is on the
messenger, rather than on the substance of the message, on the
context not the content, which is a pity. Dudley-Smith fails to
show how Stott’s thought about the proclamation of the Gospel
evolved during these decades. He does acknowledge that in
later years, Stott’s biblical, orthodox, reasoned vision came to
be challenged even in evangelical ranks. On the one side,
there were those who sought a more direct commitment to
practical social action; on the other, many evangelicals were
attracted to a more intense spiritual experience through the
charismatic movement, which Stott had found to be
unbalanced and unbiblical. He continued to plead for standing
firm against the prevailing winds of fashion, and refused to
compromise with the allurements of novelty. To be sure, this
demanding programme of international tours fulfilled Stott‚s
inner needs, when he saw ministry to the rising generation of
Third World pastors, and building bridges amongst Christians
around the globe, as his prime calling.
David Edwards, a prominent liberal church historian,
described John Stott as „the most influential clergyman of the
Church of England in the twentieth century, apart from
Archbishop William Temple.” Timothy Dudley-Smith’s
appreciative,. if lengthy, portrait of the man and his
accomplishments goes far to substantiate this claim.
1b) Brett Christophers, Positioning the Missionary. John
Booth Good and the Confluence of Cultures in
Nineteenth-Century British Columbia. Vancouver: UBC Press
1998. 200 pp.
Brett Christophers‚ account of the life and times of an
Anglican missionary in the wilds of British Columbia a
hundred and fifty years ago is an excellent case study in the
history of cross-cultural contacts and conflicts. Christophers is
well aware of the problems of this genre of writing. For one
thing, all surviving literary records are from one side only; it
is virtually impossible to do more than speculate about the
motives and responses of the native Indians. Secondly,
missionary records are particularly weighted, not merely
because their authors knew they would likely be used, after
suitable editing, for fund-raising purposes at home in England.
But even more because the theological frame of mind of these
men, consciously or unconsciously, interpreted events through
a special religious prism, not shared by many readers today.
Most such narratives are now dismissed as being the record of
British cultural colonialism, or as attempts to justify the white
man‚s racial superiority over lesser breeds.
Christophers, however, is at pains in this short book to
dispute such a simplistic, or as he sees it, reductionist stance.
He shows that Rev. John Good, in taking up his mission to the
Indian people in the canyon of the Fraser River, was part of a
special Anglican world-wide movement, which drew its
inspiration from St. Paul and St. Augustine. Its aim was not
subjugation of the native peoples, but transformation. These
missionaries believed in the redemptive power and grace of
their message, which would lead the heathen out of
superstition and darkness, and make them equal to all other
Christians in the faith. To be sure this faith was to be lived
within the parameters of nineteenth-century English manners
and morality. Like other missionaries, Good aimed to establish
settled pastoral and self-supporting communities, linked by a
common devotion to the church. This was all part of that great
destiny which had brought the Gospel to such far-distant
places, where its champions were filled with the anticipatory
hope that the Christian message would be accepted by all.
As such, Anglican thinking did not concur with the dominant
white settlers‚ ideas about racial differences and the imperial
This imagery clashed violently with the actual events
on the ground. The Fraser Canyon was the only access route
from British Columbia‚s coast to the remote gold fields in the
interior. Thousands of itinerant white miners passed through
with scant regard for the natives, and usually with explicitly
racist attitudes. Their behaviour and total disdain for moral
decencies made them the worst examples of the white man’s
so-called civilization. It was hardly surprising that the native
Indians were quick to point out the discrepancy. The
missionaries were therefore obliged to defend the white man’s
religion, despite the conduct of their fellows. Anglicans of
this period were also increasingly conscious of the earlier
crimes committed against colonial peoples. They saw
themselves as expiating these sins by repairing the damage in
these newer mission fields. Theirs was far from a jingoistic
To carry out these aims, Anglican strategy called for the
replication of the familiar English parish structure with a
resident priest, whose influence would serve to create the basis
of a morally harmonious society. But the geography of British
Columbia was too vast; the terrain too formidable; the
missionaries were too few; the Indians were too reticent and
their languages too complex; the viability of these settlements
too dubious. The mobility of the white population, especially
miners, prevented any lasting impact on such a recalcitrant
audience. The migratory habits of the natives also hindered the
plans for a sedentary agricultural life-style. And the recurrent
clashes between the whites and natives placed the missionary
in a constant dilemma.
Despite all these obstacles, when John Good
established St. Paul’s Mission in the village of Lytton, he
succeeded in attracting a considerable following amongst the
local Indians. Christophers rightly does not attempt to elucidate
the natives‚ motives, but infers that Good’s presence was seen
as helpful at a time when the Fraser Canyon became the scene
of highly disruptive railway construction and settlers‚
incursions. Good was torn between a desire to assist his
charges and an unwillingness to draw in recruits to his church
for the wrong, i.e. non-spiritual reasons. In the event he proved
to be an impotent advocate. The British Coluimbia authorities
were totally on the side of the settlers, and actively sought to
dispossess the natives. The policy of establishing reserves left
the Lytton bands with minimal, infertile land without adequate
water or fishing access. The Church failed them, and soon
enough they deserted the Mission.
In addition, Good and his bishop made their acceptance
more difficult by rejecting the existing habit of polygyny, and
insisting that baptism could only be conferred on those natives
who were monogamous. Such a ruling caused a moral crisis
amongst those who were anxious to follow the Christian path
but not to cast aside their multiple partners. It was a cruel
dilemma, here as elsewhere. The widely-held view that
missionaries played a cushioning role between natives and
settlers is therefore only partially true. In fact, Good’s mission
in Lytton, as here described, demonstrated most of the
weaknesses of Anglican strategy. The cultural and linguistic
barriers were too immense, and the intrusive impact of the
settler society too great, for any church agency to provide an
effective defence of native interests. Christophers‚ account is
well-researched, and in this regard persuasive.
1c) Eike Wolgast, Die Wahrnehmung des Dritten Reiches
in den unmittelbaren Nachkriegszeit (1945/1946).
Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C.Winter. 2001. 360pp
How, in the immediate post-war years, did the
surviving leaders of Germany’s churches and universities, and
subsequently of the re-established political parties, come to
terms with their Nazi past? This is the question capably
researched and examined in Eike Wolgast’s doctoral
dissertation from Heidelberg’s Department of History. The
widespread failure to recognize the enormity of Nazi crimes
has often been noted. Reasons such as entrenched nationalism
and anti-Semitism, or alternately a psychological „inability to
mourn”, have been put forward as a general explanation. But
Eike Wolgast examines the contemporary statements made by
the leaders of these institutions to demonstrate the various
strands of opinion, and thereby discloses a suitably
differentiated picture.
In the ruins of defeat, the churches were unique in
emerging with their structures and leading elites virtually
intact. As such, they were inevitably drawn to fill the role of
being spokesmen for their fellow countrymen, now deprived of
any political representation and impacted on by the exigencies
of the military occupation. But, while these churchmen could
claim to identify with their parishioners, their credibility was in
question. As Konrad Adenauer pointed out in February 1946,
the Catholic bishops had not resisted the Nazi government.
They had even supported it. „Much might have been achieved
if the bishops had taken a stand on a particular occasion from
their pulpits against the misdeeds of the regime. But this did
not happen. If the bishops had been taken off to concentration
camps, this would only have done good. But it didn’t happen,
and therefore they should be silent.”
How to resolve this dilemma? The first issue was to
come to terms with the institution’s own behaviour. The
Catholic bishops, for example, as early as August 1945, issued
a pastoral letter, justifying their conduct. They depicted
Catholics as the victims of Nazi excesses, saw the 1933
Concordat as a necessary attempt to preserve legally binding
arrangements and praised their parishioners for their loyalty to
the Church and its doctrines. No mention at all was made of
the mass murder of the Jews, or of the crimes committed
against other nations during Germany’s aggressive war. The
bishops were also at pains to avoid any suggestion of collective
guilt for all Germans. The whole tone owed much to a similar
pronouncement made in Rome in June by Pope Pius XII, who
also praised German Catholics and avoided any wholesale
condemnation. In the short run, these pronouncements served
to preserve the Catholics‚ sense of patriotism and to dispel the
Nazi charges of disloyalty to the nation. But they also
encouraged a convenient amnesia about the past. In the long
run they were to prove an embarrassment. Adenauer’s
proposed silence would have been better.
For their part, the Protestants were more aware that
Germany, and their churches, were on trial. As a result, the
surviving Confessing Church leaders, who had staunchly
resisted the Nazi encroachments on the churches‚ preserves,
were prepared, in October 1945, to issue the well-known
Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. Its strongest wording, however,
which condemned Germany’s external aggressions, was only
inserted after pressure from Pastor Martin Niemöller who had
endured seven years in a concentration camp. Even so, this
statement aroused fierce opposition within the ranks of the
Evangelical Church. Its leaders were accused of selling-out to
Germany’s enemies and the Allied Military occupation. Few
recognized that this admission of guilt, though couched in very
general terms, did have the result of enabling the German
Protestants to be received back into the wider ecumenical
fellowship, and eventually into the World Council of Churches.
But, even such leading figures as the senior bishop
Wurm of Württemberg could publicly accuse Germany‚s new
rulers of engaging in a campaign to starve Germans to death,
comparable to or worse than Hitler‚s misdeeds. In the Stuttgart
Declaration and similar statements, Germany’s victims were
never mentioned. It is clear that none of these clerics had the
imagination or the sensitivity to rise above a preoccupation
with their own alleged sufferings. They too, like the Catholics,
were only too ready to avoid facing the concrete details of the
past – particularly their own past. Instead they readily likened
the rise of Nazism and its ill-fated conduct of affairs, to the
onslaught of a demonic force which had seized power and
misled the people. The Church too had been misled into
giving support to this chimera of a triumphal Germany based
on racism, which could be seen as the culmination of the
dangerous secularization process of the previous 150 years.
Only by upholding the truth of the Christian gospel had these
satanic tempters been resisted. After their overthrow, the way
was now open for a re-Christianization of the nation.
This mystification of the past had an obvious
exculpatory function, and did little to enable church people to
come to terms with the nation’s past. By seeking to lay the
blame on Hitler personally, or at most on a small handful of his
criminal associates, such explanations fitted in well with these
church leaders‚ conservative and nationalist views. Thus
Hitler‚s rise could be blamed principally on the Treaty of
Versailles, or on the foreign-induced Depression, or on the
communist or even the Jewish threat. Such themes resounded
all too frequently in 1945 and 1946. Naturally this led to a
virtually unanimous and strident repudiation of the Allies‚
denazification attempts. Even Martin Niemöller showed his
nationalistic colours in his intemperate outbursts against Allied
policy. Other clergy intervened frequently for convicted war
criminals, again in defence of the national honour. This
one-sided pleading on behalf of Nazi activists, rather than on
behalf of their victims or the persecuted, remains one of the
most notable and reprehensible features of the churches‚
post-war stance.
Did the leaders of the universities do any better in
facing the facts? Wolgast rightly points out that virtually all
the professors who survived the war had been at least passive
non-resisters to the Nazification of their institutions. Their
speeches on the re-opening of the universities in late 1945 had
therefore to be particularly circumspect. Virtually all
concentrated on the future. Their students who had served in
Hitler’s armies were now to be excused as having been filled
with idealism but then misled. National Socialism was treated
in general, but now pejorative, terms, as a betrayal of
Germany’s enlightenment traditions, and as the expression of a
fanatical barbarism unworthy of the nation’s history. Rarely
were the actual Nazi crimes mentioned. Even more rarely was
the universities‚ obligation outlined to engage in any public
process of information, clarification and analysis about the
Nazi past. In such a climate, the failure of the historians to
take up such a task was noteworthy. It was left to isolated and
often heavily criticized individuals like Karl Jaspers to
undertake to examine the moral dimensions of Germany‚s fate,
or like Friedrich Meinecke, belatedly, to seek for the roots of
the „German Catastrophe”.
The tone of lamentation in these speeches was echoed
in the memorial services held to honour those who had „fallen”
– exclusively German soldiers, but not their victims – which
painfully avoided examining the cause for which these young
men had so wantonly died. At the same time, the universities
were seen to have been at fault for failing to teach their
students a better set of values than those so stridently
propagated by the Nazis. But now a new beginning had to be
made, and for the most part this meant a return to the rational
goals and ideals of Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Humboldt.
The emphasis on such a legacy was preferable to any critical
examination of the universities‚ sinister participation in the
Nazi debacle or support for its perverted ideology.
Only in the ranks of the newly-established political
parties was a more critical tone to be heard. These were
necessarily formed from outspoken opponents of the previous
regime. Yet even here, with the exception of the members of
the Communist Party in the Soviet Zone of occupation, the
necessity of gaining popular support among the population led
to a toning down of any radical examination of the Nazi past.
Instead, politicians, clergymen and professors alike came to
give credence to the idea that the German people had been the
first victims of racial fanaticism. Conservative and nationalist
overtones were still heard, and the spirit of the „true” Germany
could be contrasted with the regrettable and jacobinical
mobilization of the masses under Hitler and Goebbels. From
such a perspective it was easy to absolve one’s own group from
guilt. All became adept in looking elsewhere for the source of
Germany’s misfortunes and Nazi successes. It was only in later
years that Germany’s elites began the demanding and still
unfinished task of coming to terms with this horrendous
Wolgast’s indictment, following the lead already given
by G.Besier, M.Greschat and C.Vollnhals, is well-deserved,
and yet, nonetheless, serves to show that in the last fifty years,
a remarkable ideological recuperation has taken place. For that
we can all be grateful.
2) Book notes: ed. G.Besier and Erwin K.Scheuch, Die neuen
Inquisitoren. Religionsfreiheit und Glaubensneid, 2 Vols.
Zurich: Edition Interform 1999. 535 and 495 pp
These two volumes are a collection of essays on the subject of
the threats to religious freedom, especially in Germany, and
particularly from the activities of the State and the established
churches. Written from a sociological point of view and with
considerable indignation, these are informative about the
controversies in which minority religious groups are involved.
3) Journal articles: Michael Kellogg, Putting Old Wine into
New Bottles.The East German Protestant Church’s desire to
reform State Socialism, 1989-90 in Journal of Church and
State, Autumn 2001, Vol. 43, no.4, pp.747-72.
A highly critical analysis of the main East German Protestant
Church newspaper Die Kirche and of the views of its editor
Gerhard Thomas during the pivotal years 1989 and
1990.Kellogg shows how the editor’s opinions, in seeking to
reform the existing Socialist regime, were increasingly out of
touch with the majority of the population. This lost cause is
here skillfully dissected.
With best wishes for a blessed Easter season
John S.Conway