August 2003 Newsletter


Association of Contemporary Church Historians


(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)


John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


Newsletter- August 2003- Vol. IX, no . 8

Dear Friends,
An Ecumenical Gesture
It is recorded that on the painted ceiling of the Chapel
“Mater Redemptoris” in the Papal Lateran University in Rome, which
depicts the heavenly Jerusalem, we see not only several Catholic martyrs of
the twentieth century, including Edith Stein, but also the Protestant German
martyr Elisabeth von Thadden, denounced to the Gestapo and subsequently
murdered in 1943, and the Orthodox Pavel Florinskij.

1) Book reviews:

a) Breward, History of the Churches in Australasia
S. and W.Emilsen, Mapping the Landscape
b) Rutherdale, Women and the White
Man’s God
c) Feldkamp, Goldhagen’s unwillige Kirche
d) V.Perica, Balkan Idols 
2) Book notes: Hew Strachan, The First World War
3) Articles
a) McNutt, Adolf Schlatter and the Jews

Book Reviews:

1a) I. Breward, A History of the Churches in Australasia, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001, 474pp, $110.00 (AUS)

Ian Breward’s recent contribution to Henry and Owen Chadwick’s seminal
series, ‘Oxford History of the Christian Church’, is a masterful treatment of
a vast topic. Breward, who is Emeritus Professor of Church History in
Melbourne’s United Faculty of Theology, was given an enormous task when
commissioned to write a general history of the Churches throughout the
Australasian region, from first contact in July 1681 when the Apostolic
Prefecture of Terra Australis was established, through to the present day.
Breward was an obvious choice to be the author – he had already written the
History of Australian Churches, which was published in 1993 by Allen &
Unwin, and is without doubt the most prolific ecclesiastical historian that
the region has produced. Nonetheless, the size of the project would have
daunted a more fainthearted historian, yet there is no doubt that Breward
has succeeded in his task, and that the finished product is a fitting addition
to the Chadwicks’ series.

The scope of Breward’s work is evident when one considers the geographic
– not to say cultural – margins of the topic: New Caledonia, Melanesia, New
Zealand, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga
and, of course, Australia, all fall within his view. But this is then
overlaid, by necessity, with the multi-denominational perspectives of the Anglican,
Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist-Uniting and Pentecostal Churches, as
well as the numerous indigenous variants of these that grew up in many of
the islander Churches. Breward takes his readers on a geographical and
ecclesiological journey that winds its way through denominational
sensitivities, the complexities of missionary engagement with local
populations and the vexed issue of what constitutes ‘missionary success’
amongst non-Western audiences, and the ever-present tension between
Church and State. Indeed, the prominence Breward gives to the Christian
orientation of many high profile political figures (not least among these
being the Aboriginal pioneers of reconciliation, Eddie Mabo and Pat
Dodson) is suggestive of a certain commitment to political engagement
within the Churches generally. There is also, naturally enough, a
chronological narrative within the book that negotiates the development
from missions to Churches, including the changing nature of the Churches
against the backdrop of evolving ecclesiastical structures, the evolution of
the Australasian societies themselves (as the loci of the Churches’ contexts),
wars and depressions, and the search for religious credibility in the
liberalizing sixties.

As a work of sociologically informed history, the book is invaluable, and
asks some important questions of both anthropology and missiology; why,
for example, did missions succeed so well amongst the Tahitians and Maori
(pp.38, 45-47), and yet not at all amongst Australia’s indigenous peoples
(pp.4ff)? Yet within all of this, Breward is able still to present the
Church as fundamentally a human institution, and not an anonymous bureaucratic
machine. The personal element is never far from the surface – again, not
surprising, perhaps, given that Breward is, first and foremost, a Christian
minister and only then and thereby a Church historian. In this light, there
are some intriguing personalities that Breward brings to the fore. Of
particular interest are the women, all too often ignored in the past from
broad ecclesiastical surveys. Mary MacKillop, for example, whose
commitment to the education of poor children led to the founding of the
Sisters of St. Joseph was – in spite of the not inconsiderable setback of
excommunication in 1871 – beatified in 1995 (pp.131-133). Similarly,
Caroline Chisolm exemplified the best of female lay influence, by using her
deep Catholic confession as a basis for urging better conditions for
impoverished – and often exploited – migrants (pp.70-71).

On the other hand, Breward highlights a number of rather more unsavoury
aspects of the Australasian Churches’ history. The fact, for example, that the
removal of indigenous children from their parents – a State-run program of
assimilation that was tacitly endorsed by the major denominations – did not
end, in Western Australia at least, until 1980 (p.246)! Or the fact that the
first Aboriginal Roman Catholic priest was not ordained until 1975. Or the
conflation of nationalism with religion in Fiji, when Colonel Rabuka – who
led successful military coups in that country in 1987 – decreed that
Indian-born Fijians had either to convert to Christianity or leave the

Materially, therefore, the book is a mine of information that deserves a
place in every library and every bookshop. The bibliographical lists at the
book’s end are, in themselves, valuable. There are a few structural flaws, to
my mind, mainly as a result of the vastness of the topic. There are, for
example, often sudden shifts in narrative direction that tend to jar in the
reader’s mind. It can be disconcerting, for example, to read about religious
nationalism in one paragraph and then in the next to be confronted with the
challenges of feminist theology. However, such disruptions to narrative and
structural flow do not in any significant sense detract from what is
otherwise an illuminating and richly-sourced volume.

Given his recent retirement, one may suspect – but not wish! – that this will
be Breward’s last major work. If it is, he could scarcely have written a more
fitting conclusion to his career.

S. Emilsen & W.W. Emilsen (eds), Mapping the Landscape: Essays in
Australian and New Zealand Christianity. Festschrift in Honour of
Professor Ian Breward, New York: Peter Lang, 2000, 368pp, US$65.95.

Ian Breward, Emeritus Professor of Church History at Melbourne’s
Theological Hall, is undoubtedly one of Australasia’s most respected
historians, in both Church and secular circles. His teaching has been
enormously influential on generations of ministerial ordinands, his
preaching has helped innumerable parishioners, and his academic writing
has been both prolific and ground-breaking. It is somewhat disappointing,
therefore, that this Festschrift, intended as are all such volumes to be due
recognition of his sterling service, is so lacklustre in quality.
Festschrifts are often problematic affairs. One has only to think of
Bonhoeffer’s anguish at not being invited to contribute to a volume
honouring Barth on the occasion of the latter’s 50th birthday in 1936. This
volume similarly falls short, and not merely because some of Breward’s
closest fellow-scholars and friends have, like Bonhoeffer, been inexplicably
overlooked. (Where, for example, are Stewart Gill, Andrew Hamilton and
Ken Manley, all Australian Church historians of note and long-time
associates of Breward’s? Where, even, is James Packer, fellow historian of

The book itself is divided into two major sections, on Australia and New
Zealand respectively, a division which in many ways mirrors the course of
Breward’s own life. Indeed, the first major article is a short biography,
which illustrates how close Breward’s involvement in ecclesiastical and
academic spheres in both Australia and New Zealand has been. Again, the
geographical motif is reflective not only of Breward’s personal journeys but
indeed very much of his pedagogical agenda, according to which he has
viewed the mapping of contours within the Church histories of his two
countries as absolutely essential (and, more to the point, still
deficient). The structure of the book thus makes a great deal of sense.

Moreover, within both sections, there are some gems of articles that deserve wider readership.
Chris Mostert’s claim for the viability and indeed necessity of
non-contextual theology that takes the epithet ‘catholic’ seriously, is a
profound piece of writing that combines a thorough awareness of the
contemporary Australian theological scene with a deep familiarity with
Moltmann. Stuart Piggin’s contribution on the existence of a uniquely
Australian Christology demonstrates the extent to which a ‘down under’
Christ may in fact be precisely the type of messiah-figure that a suffering
world needs. And John Tonkin’s article, in which he surveys the unusually
harmonious relationship between an evangelical Cathedral Dean, a
missionary Archbishop and an Anglo-Catholic precentor in 1960s Perth,
exemplifies what good Church history is all about.

Within the New Zealand section, too, some of the contributions are worthy
of note. Graeme Ferguson reflects on the theological relevance to regional
identity of New Zealand’s heroic but fateful participation in the Gallipoli
campaign of 1915. Peter Matheson, also, gives a typically lucid account of
the evolution of theology in New Zealand, from the first days of missionary
contact with Maori, through to the responsiveness and creativity of
postmodern theology in more recent years.

Unfortunately, however, many of the other articles are less than satisfactory
for a volume that, in seeking to honour one of the brightest Church leaders
in the Australasian region, should really have set its benchmark of quality
higher. Denham Grierson’s piece, entitled ‘History as Narrative Fiction’, is a
more simplistic treatment of history’s inherent subjectivity than one would
wish to read from any decent Honours student. It adds nothing new, and
reads like those ‘introductions to postmodern history’ that were popular in
the early 1990s. Much the same thing could be said of the contributions
from Muriel Porter (‘Ian Breward: an Australasian life’), Roger Thompson
(‘Pastor Extraordinaire: A Portrait of Hector Harrison) and Allan Davidson’s
useful but straightforwardly bibliographical ‘New Zealand and Religious

All of this may seem unduly harsh criticism. There is no doubt that the
intent of the volume was laudable and the justification for it beyond
question. Similarly, the fact that the editors were able to assemble a good
number of eminent Church historians from both countries testifies to
Breward’s standing. However, the reputation of Ian Breward’s own
scholarship – and indeed of the contributors – makes it all the more
surprising and disappointing that the overall quality of the book was not
consistently higher. While a number of the articles are fine pieces of work,
one is left with the unhappy impression that Breward himself deserved
Mark Lindsay, Melbourne

1b) Myra Rutherdale, Women and the White Man’s God.
Gender and Race in the Canadian Mission Field.
Vancouver/Toronto: UBC Press. 2002. 224 pp. $29.95

Myra Rutherdale’s account of missionaries in
Canada’s northern and north-west territories in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries enters new ground. Previously,
such writings were by men about men; instead she seeks to
present the women’s experience. Her interest is particularly in
women missionaries, or wives of missionaries, and in the various
accommodations they made as they encountered the strange
inhabitants, the harsh climate and the difficult living conditions
of the Canadian north.

To this end, she researched the experience of over 100
women members of the Church of England in Canada, primarily
because of the excellent state of the archives of the Dioceses of
Caledonia, the Yukon and the Arctic, as well as of the Church
Missionary Society.

This is old-style missionary history with a new twist. At
no point does Rutherdale attempt to trace the responses of the
Aboriginal people, which would have required an entirely
different approach.

Missionary expansion in the nineteenth century over
the vast unknown areas of northern and western Canada was part
and parcel of European penetration and colonization. These
English missionaries brought with them the panoply of
imperialist certainty, beneficence and racial superiority, as
exhibited throughout the British Empire.

But the actual experience of association with the
Aboriginal peoples was often in conflict with the preconceived
ideas of these strangers. So too social perceptions became altered
on the mission frontier, and gender roles changed, on what was
regarded as the northernmost outpost of the Empire. Over time
there were major changes in the way in which the religious
objectives overlapped with or conflicted with the Canadian
government’s aim of assimilating these exotic Aboriginal peoples
in a gigantic nation-building and colonialist endeavour.
Rutherdale seeks to recapture the largely overlooked role of
women in this process.

This is not an attempt to glorify or romanticize these
English or English-Canadian women for their often hard, even
heroic, lives. Rather Rutherdale reflects on the meaning of their
work and the significance of their relations with their charges.
She shows very clearly that the white women’s preconceptions
were modified or abandoned by their contacts both with the land
and the people. The result was a syncretism, blending missionary
assumptions and aboriginal insights, which eventually were to be
recognized as inherently valid. It was, Rutherdale claims, a
hybrid culture which lent complexity to the evolving missionary

Throughout the nineteenth century, the missionary task
was assumed to be man’s work. The image of a hearty masculine
outdoorsman bursting with evangelical zeal was much promoted
by the Church Missionary Society, Yet, despite early opposition,
the CMS came by the 1880s to recognize the value of women
missionaries. In fact, by the turn of the century, most Anglican
missionaries in northern Canada were women. Rutherdale
explores how this fact changed gender perceptions, as women
sought to gain credit for their contributions to the Anglican
missionary enterprise.

But white women, no less than white men, brought with
them the stereotypes of European superiority and Aboriginal
backwardness. The natives’ superstition and ignorance needed to
be replaced by the Christian gospel, while for many women
missionaries “cleanliness was next to Godliness”. Physical
squalor was often linked to spiritual or moral deficiency. All the
more need for Christian instruction.

Rutherdale is naturally critical of the imperialist
attitudes of the dominant discourse of missionary women, but
also draws attention to the increasing ambivalence expressed in
later years, which paved the way for the new relationships of

Considering the limited number of missionary women
in the north, Rutherdale has compiled a remarkable treasure trove
from both public and private sources. Of course, the missionary
journals and appeals for funding, often written by or about these
women and their work, present a positive picture. But so do
private letters and journals. They depict clearly the prevailing
commitment to duty and service, and even the glamour of their
experiences. In most cases, Christianity, motherhood and
morality were inextricably mixed, as Rutherdale shows in her
various case studies.

At the same time, she places these experiences in their
wider, imperial setting, since these women’s attributes were
much the same “from Baffin’s icy margin to Afric’s sultry

In retrospect, however, a less favourable judgment has to
be taken to the misguided policy of forcible assimilation of
aboriginal children in residential schools. Missionary women were
frequently involved in disciplinary measures, deeply and long
resented by the pupils. So too Rutherdale skirts around the
damage done by the dogmatic rigidities of these
earnest Evangelical women, whose eagerness for large-scale conversions to
their brand of English Christianity was constantly frustrated.

It took a long time for these missionaries to see that
the aboriginal people took only those elements they wanted from
Christianity and then blended them into their traditional cultures.
It took even longer to overcome the missionaries’ racialism and
paternalism or to accept aboriginal peoples as equals. In
Rutherdale’s view, “the transition from a remarkable intolerance
for things Aboriginal to one of accommodation is probably the
most interesting aspect of the history of Anglicanism in the

Certainly, she is right to suggest that the Aboriginal ministry has
been crucial to the survival of the Anglican church in northern
Canada. The verdict on its early history is still out.
Recently the Anglican Church officially decried the
misplaced benevolence of colonizers who tried too hard to
deliver the message of Christianity. But Rutherdale’s
vignettes of the lives of the women involved points to the
more fluid and conflicting dynamics between the servants
of the White Man’s God and the Aboriginal people. In fact
the relationships were often, on both sides, seen to be
helpful and creative. Her findings therefore help to
present a more positive picture of the past than has recently
been propagated in the wider Canadian society.

c) Michael F.Feldkamp, Goldhagens unwillige Kirche. Alte und neue
Fälschungen über Kirche und Papst während der NS-Herrschaft.
Munich: Olzog, 2003. 178 pp ISBN 3-7892-8127-1

Michael Feldkamp has undertaken the thankless task of refuting the
numerous falsifications of history which have appeared in a recent series of
books dealing with Pope Pius XII, the Vatican and the Catholic Church,
culminating in Daniel Goldhagen’s A Moral Reckoning. The Role of the
Catholic Church in the Holocaust and its unfulfilled Duty of Repair, which
was published at the end of 2002. Much of this genre of writing arises
from some prior political or ideological interest, which then uses, or
misuses, history for its purposes. Nevertheless, in Feldkamp’s view, if these
distortions remained uncorrected, they could come to be accepted as
accurate versions of the truth, and poison the atmosphere for years. Hence
his involvement. His qualifications to do so are based on his own
researches and his two books on the topic. He is now a research historian
employed by the German Parliament in Berlin.

Attacks on the character and policies of Pope Pius XII began already
in the war years, principally by communist authors. But the criticism
became much more vocal a few years after Pius’ death in 1958. A young
Swiss German playwright produced a striking play The Deputy, castigating
the Pope for his alleged failure to support the Jewish victims of the Nazi
Holocaust. Almost all subsequent critiques follow the same line as
Hochhuth, and there is a great deal of recapitulation, and even direct
overlap from one critical author to another. But as Feldkamp rightly points
out, lies don’t become truth just by being frequently repeated (p.24).

As a result of Hochhuth’s attack, the Vatican authorized the
publication of a lengthy series of 11 documentary volumes for the war
years, reproducing the telegrams and memoranda between the Vatican and
its various diplomatic representatives around the world. Despite this
unprecedented move, critics still demanded more. They accused the papal
authorities of suppressing or not publishing evidence which would reveal
the Vatican’s policies to be deficient. They demanded that the archives be
opened to all comers, even though the material had still to be properly
catalogued. In the 1990s these charges were again advanced, and resulted
in a new move by the Vatican, designed to be conciliatory. They appointed
a joint Catholic-Jewish Commission to look at the published volumes again,
and to see how best their findings could be more widely spread. But the
result was only to encourage renewed demands for the archives to be fully
open so that nothing could remain hidden or suppressed.

All these stages are well described by Feldkamp. Despite the
discreditable behaviour of the above-mentioned Commission, the Vatican
yielded by opening the archival holdings of part of the controversial
aspects, i.e. those covering its relations with Germany from 1922 up to
1939, when Eugenio Pacelli was first Nuncio in Germany and then Cardinal
Secretary of State. Feldkamp does not expect these papers to reveal much
that is new, though they will fill in the details of already published
accounts. But at the same time they are unlikely to put a stop to the
kind of unbridled criticisms by such authors as Goldhagen.

Feldkamp’s analysis of Goldhagen’s new book can be described as a
hatchet job. He points out the frequency with which Goldhagen indulges in
sweeping generalizations, rehearses stereotypical anti-Catholic prejudices,
relies for his information solely upon authors who agree with his thesis, and
dismisses as irrelevant evidence to the contrary. His determination to
defame Pius XII’s actual conduct of affairs, and to claim a moral superiority
for his own version of how events should have happened, is a characteristic
fault noted by others as well as Feldkamp. Numerous examples are here
provided of Goldhagen’s manipulation of facts and opinions, such as his
allegation that “Catholic antisemitism hardly differed in its demonization of
the Jews from that of the Nazis”, or his claim that the “silence” of Pius XII
was a principal cause for the mass extermination of the Jews. And
Feldkamp naturally pounces on the mistake in one of the book’s
photographs, wrongly identifying a German cardinal, which he sees a proof
of Goldhagen’s incompetence and maliciousness. In short, in Feldkamp’s
view, he is not a serious historian at all.

Nor, finally, can much be said in favour of Goldhagen’s
theologizing. His attempts, for example, to prove the constancy of
Christian antisemitism, or his demand that the Catholic Church should now
undertake a massive course of reparations, starting with the excision from
the New Testament of all antisemitic references, are hardly scholarly. For,
as Feldkamp notes, his exegetical skills are as meagre as his historical.
Equally to be regretted are Goldhagen’s denigratory comments on the more
recent developments in Christian-Jewish relations as undertaken by the
Vatican over the last forty years. The only reason for this book’s flagrant
publicity would seem to be the publisher’s belief that a polemical assault on
the Catholic Church would sell well. Luckily this seems to have been a
miscalculation ˆ to the satisfaction of such as Feldkamp, whose desire is for
an objective and accurate treatment of the subject, rather than this rehashed
and superficial account as provided by Goldhagen.

d) Perica, Vjekoslav. Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav
States, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Vjekoslav Perica’s masterfully written and extensively researched book fills
a important gap in the historical scholarship on the twentieth century
southeastern Europe. By carefully examining and defining the political role
and influence of religion, the author argues that none of the main ethnic
religions, the Serbian Orthodox, the Roman Catholic “Church of the Croat
People,” or the Yugoslav Islamic community, ever fully endorsed the idea
of multiconfessional and multiethnic Yugoslav state. For Perica Yugoslavia
did not implode and disintegrate into a bloody civil war in the early 1990s
solely because of the deep seated nationalistic intolerances or because of a
clash of civilizations. Powerful ethnoclericalism prevented full
legitimization of both the inter-war Yugoslav monarchy and of the post-war
socialist Yugoslavia. The politically active clergy fused religious
intolerance with nationalistic animosity to create “ethnic churches” in form
and nationalistic parties in substance. The clergy departed from their
original purpose and became hypernationalistic, antiliberal, and antisecular
leaders who lacked the accountability of their secular counterparts. Perica
skillfully differentiates between the idols the religious establishments
disseminated from the secular ones the socialist regime imposed and
suggests that the civil religion of Titoist “brotherhood and unity” was a far
better solution for the South Slav complex landscape: “nothing better than
Titoism has been seen in this part of the world” (226). Perica correctly
concludes that the Myth of the Three Evils of the Twentieth Century,
namely Nazism, fascism, and communism, is an imbalanced
oversimplification that could not explain the complexities of the Yugoslav
J.Mocnik, Bowling Green, Ohio

2) Book notes:

Hew Strachan, The First World War. Volume 1:To arms,
Oxford University Press 2001. This vast and compendious history seeks to
present a comprehensive picture of all sides of this conflict in its
multifarious aspects.

Of interest to readers of this Newsletter will be the concluding chapter on
“The Ideas of 1914”. Here the role of the churches in assisting the
transition from a local territorial squabble to a “war to end all wars” is
mentioned. Just some quotes: “The destruction and hatred which the war
unleashed seemed, to Ernst Troeltsch, to make Christianity itself an alien
message from an alien world. . . .Church-State relations in many of the
belligerent countries were increasingly fraught. Societies had become
sufficiently secularized in their pursuit of material progress for church
leaders to be tempted to see the war’s advent as divine retribution. For
them, the war could be welcomed as a necessary and God-given process of
cleansing and rejuvenation..

Paradoxically, therefore, optimism trod hard on the heels of pessimism. The
response of many on mobilization was to turn to religion for guidance and
comfort.. . . Much of the rhetoric of holy war delivered from the pulpits of
Europe in 1914 opted to regard the war as a punishment of God’s chosen
people’s foes, . . .which, in turn led to the identification of church with
state.. . . Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, for instance, in his Christmas 1914
message told his flock that “The religion of Christ makes patriotism a law:
there is no perfect Christian who is not a perfect patriot. . . . Joan of
Arc and Martin Luther were recruited a suitable models for strengthening
nationalist sentiments amongst Christians. . . . In Germany, the fusion of
Evangelicalism and propaganda. . .helped redefine the church’s mission in
political and cultural as well as religious terms. The result was a new
theology. The war enabled orthodox Lutherans and liberal theologians to
converge. Both saw victory as the means to the application of the kingdom
of God within an ethical community; Protestantism could be confirmed as
the religious bedrock of the German cultural state. . . . God, therefore,
became an active participant in the historical process. As the Court
Preacher Ernst Dryander said on August 4th: “We march to the fight for our
culture against unculture, for German morality against barbarity, for the
free, German, God-fearing person against the instincts of the uncontrolled
mass. . .We know we fight not only for our existence but also for the
existence of the most holy of possessions we have to perpetuate”.
It is to be hoped that Strachan, in his subsequent volumes, will take up the
question of how Europe’s churches had later to come to terms with such
disastrous pronouncements.

3) Articles:

James McNutt, Adolf Schlatter and the Jews, in German
Studies Review, Vol. XXVI, no. 2, May 2003, pp. 353 ff.
Adolf Schlatter was a very distinguished New Testament scholar in
the first thirty years of the 20th century at Tubingen University. He upheld a
conservative orthodoxy, but was also affected by the ideas of the movement
for volkisch theology. McNutt’s fine evaluation of his writings about
Judaism shows how much Schlatter could draw from the New Testament a
pejorative view of Jews, as legalistic and/or materialist opponents of the
Saviour Christ. In his opinion, a true spiritual life in Christ could
easily lend itself to the belief that the Jew was the enemy of the true German spirit.

While Schlatter openly opposed the Nazi heresies of race and blood, or the
Fuhrerprinzip, his influence nonetheless was considerable in the more
pietistic circles, especially in Württemberg. McNutt could have made more
of the fact that such theologians effectively prevented the possibility of any
philosemitic attitudes arising in the German Protestant churches. They had
no prophylactics against the Nazis’ virulent antisemitic prejudices, amply
watered by suitable quotations from Luther. McNutt rightly assesses
Schlatter as an effective conduit for such inflammatory perceptions of Jews
in Germany.

With best wishes to you all,
John S.Conway