December 2003 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


Newsletter — December 2003 — Vol. IX, no . 12

Dear Friends,
“I have often times and many ways looked into the state of
earthly kingdoms, generally the whole world over (as fare as it may yet
be knowen to Christian men commonly) being a studie of no great
difficultie, but rather a purpose somewhat answerable to a perfect
Cosmographer, to find himself Cosmolities, a citizen and member of
the whole and only one mysticall citie universall, and so consequently
to meditate on the Cosmopoliticall government thereof, under the King
Edgar, King of the Saxons. circa A.D. 973

With this issue, we come to the completion of Volume IX. I had no
idea when I began this venture that it would be feasible to continue for
so long. The only reason for doing so has been the encouragement
which you, the readers, have given me to do so. My thanks to all of
you in so many different parts of the world. May I once again repeat
my invitation to send me any comments, criticisms or suggestions – or
better still offers to review books for our list members. I very much
hope in 2004 to hear from many of you via my personal e-mail address

Please remember NOT to use the above kirzeit-l return address


1) Book reviews:

a) ed.D. Dietrich, Christian responses to the Holocaust
b) ed. K. Koschorke, Transcontinental Links

2) Journal articles:

a) Herder Korrespondenz, 57 (2003) no. 8, Hummel, Catholic research today (1st part)
b) Ben-Sasson, Warsaw Ghetto

List of books reviewed in 2003
1a) ed. Donald Dietrich, Christian responses to the Holocaust. Moral
and Ethical issues. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.
2003. 217pp.

These collected papers from a Boston College conference,
written by both Jewish and Christian scholars, have been fluently
edited by Donald Dietrich. They provide a more balanced and nuanced
picture than the similar collection on this topic Betrayal, edited by
S. Heschel and R. Ericksen. The introductory essay describes the
unprecedented challenges to the churches posed by the Nazi totalitarian
regime, seductively flying the national flag, but equally determined to
suppress all opposition. There follows a series of case studies, outlining
the range of churchmen’s responses to the Nazi onslaught, including
the persecution of the Jews. These varied from willing accommodation
to Hitler’s charisma on the part of idealistic priests, indulging their
wishful thinking about restoring a godly autocracy in Germany, to
eventual outright resistance by the more pugnacious defenders of the
churches’ autonomy.

We are given valuable biographical sketches of some
lesser-known figures, showing how these men and women maneuvered
between loyalty to the nation and the churches’ ethical positions. They
draw attention to the fact that a crucial factor in the churches’ response
to the Holocaust (or lack of it) can be found in the absence of personal
contacts, let alone theological encounters, with Jews in the pre-Nazi

Most thoughtful is Stephen Haynes’ analysis of Dietrich
Bonhoeffer’s attitude towards Judaism. He argues that the Nazis’
maltreatment of the Jews, particularly the Crystal Night pogrom, and
the absence of any collective church protest, was one of the main
influences for Bonhoeffer’s decision to join the covert political
resistance. On the other hand, Bonhoeffer’s eventual martyrdom
should not cover up the fact that his earlier theological opinion in 1933
followed Luther’s traditional anti-Judaic stance, which Haynes
characterizes as “Bonhoeffer’s brief role as theological bystander and
unwitting collaborator with Nazi Judenhass”. (This essay should be
compared with the evaluation given by Klemens von Klemperer in his
recent book, German Incertitudes, 1914-1945.)

Most moving is the Jewish scholar Lawrence Baron’s tribute to
the often neglected Dutch evangelist Corrie ten Boom, whose sympathy
for the Jews led to her arrest and incarceration in Ravensbrück, but
who could nevertheless find the faith to forgive her captors. Her
benevolent and continuing mission to share the love of Jesus with her
Jewish friends was a demonstration that Christian supersessionism
need not lead to antisemitism.

In 1945, the surviving German Protestant leaders issued a
number of statements to explain – and justify – their behaviour in the
previous twelve years. Matthew Hockenos’ critical analysis shows how
the conservatives tried to claim that the church had successfully
resisted the Nazi encroachments on church autonomy. At the same time
they rejected all ideas of German collective guilt, attributed Nazi
successes to the demonic forces of secularism and totalitarianism, and
appealed for sympathy from other Christians abroad. But their more
radical critics, following Karl Barth, rightly pointed to the defects of
such apologias. More far-reaching changes in the structures, as well as
the theology, of these churches were needed. Such changes were,
however, never made, and it was decades before German
Evangelicalism fully accepted the task of coming to terms with its past.
The final stimulating chapter by Fr. John Pawlikowski calls for
the development of a new moral sensitivity through symbolic
communication in sacred ritual. What kind of liturgies can evoke
constructive moral commitment, while being fully conscious of
humanity’s destructive capacities as in the Holocaust? We need new
symbols of transcendence, acknowledging our dependence on a creator
God while clearly asserting our newly realized co-creational
responsibilities. This is a task in which both Christians and Jews should

1b) ed. Klaus Koschorke, Transcontinental Links in the History of
Non-Western Christianity/Transkontinentale Beziehungen in der
Geschichte des aussereuropäischen Christentum. Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz Verlag 2002. 344pp

As is well known, the historiography of Christian missions has
undergone striking changes in recent decades. The earlier
concentration on the careers of European and North American
missionaries, or on the strategies of their respective sending boards, has
now been largely superseded by a concern to describe the missionized
peoples of the non-western world and the inculturation of the Christian
faith among the indigenous populations. But recently a group of church
historians in Munich held a conference to explore the resultant
transcontinental links forged between the different branches of these
indigenous churches in widely separated parts of the world. These
interactions, often developed independently of missionary connections,
reveal a network of polycentric patterns hitherto unknown or
underplayed. The conference papers thus provide a new and enriching
dimension to our understanding of how non-western Christianity
developed and cross-fertilized itself around the globe.

The first group of papers discusses how ethnic diasporas
worked as networks for the dissemination of Christianity. The best
known example is the enforced transfer of Africans to America in the
slave trade. What is not well known is that many of these slaves were
already Christian and took their African version with them. Equally
significant was the reverse process at the end of the eighteenth century,
when first Sierra Leone, and later Liberia, saw the transfer of
Christianity back to Africa with the returning freed slaves. To these
families, Africa became the biblically-promised land, especially in the
ranks of the evangelical revivalists. The resulting founding of a large
number of independent African churches, and their consequent success,
has largely contributed to making Africa now one of the citadels of
modern Christianity.

In the same way, the expansion of the Korean churches through
the diaspora of Korean migrants in Hawaii, California, Mexico, Siberia
and China, has been largely unrecorded, and is here explored in outline.
So too, the transfer of Indian Christianity to South Africa, Fiji,
Tanzania, Trinidad, Mauritius and Uganda, as a result of indentured
labour schemes, is an interesting story, which brings out the dilemmas
and opportunities of such long-distance transfers. No less significant is
the impact of the revival of indigenous Christian communities which
existed before the white missionaries arrived, such as the Ethiopian
Church or the Thomas Church in India. These are now often celebrated
as having made a truly indigenous contribution to their respective
anti-colonialist and nationalist movements, and their examples are
often admired across the continents.

This kind of comparative history seeks to do more than merely
add to the total range of third world studies, by providing a church
history of Botswana, Bolivia or Bali. Rather it tries to understand how
the planting and expansion of Christian churches in the non-western
world took place with all the features of adaptation, acculturation and
indigenization through these various transcontinental linkages. This is a
bold and highly interesting experiment, which breaks new ground.
Most of the papers are in English, and the German ones have an
English summary. They all have ample footnotes, but alas! there is no

One of the problems involved in such analyses is that of
definitions. Was the Christianity first planted in the Congo at the end of
the 15th century, then transplanted to America in the 16th and 17th,
and returned to Africa in the 19th, recognizably the same? Or has the
transmutation and adaptation of such linkages only produced new
entities as the result of syncretisms which may or may not be genuinely
Christian? Or is the term Christianity to be defined so inclusively that
even rastafarianism, as the West Indian offshoot of an African
Christianity, should be acknowledged? And what about the perennial
thorny issue of polygamy, as a legitimate form of Christian family life?

But equally remarkable are the similarities and continuities
carried across the oceans from one indigenous society to another. In
many of the diaspora communities, traditional homeland Christianity
served to reinforce and revalidate their sense of ethnic and religious
identity, as well as to develop “survival strategies” in their new
surroundings. At the same time, Christianity’s messianic message
frequently became the focus for the political aspirations of numerous
diaspora communities in exploited circumstances, such as the Indians
in South Africa or the Koreans in Hawaii or California. Such
movements were largely self-generating and often opposed by local
(white) Christian leaders. But in turn these churches provided the
impetus for reform in the homeland, as is shown in the career of
Syngman Rhee, the guiding light of his church in exile in America for
many years, then leader of the struggle against Japanese imperialism,
and later President of a liberated Korea.

The chapter by the editor, Klaus Koschorke, on the Edinburgh
World Missionary Conference of 1910, makes clear the paradox
involved here. Christianity is a missionary religion, universal in scope,
and successful in overcoming the limits of geography, race and class.
Nevertheless, its very success in the Third World stimulated local
movements revolting against the paternalism and control of the
European missionaries, and in turn having a wider political impact
against colonial rule altogether. Edinburgh marked the
acknowledgment of the just demands of the “younger churches”, even
though they were scarcely represented. The next conference in 1938
was, by contrast, overwhelmingly non-western in character. While
grateful for their origins, these younger churches were determined now
to control their own destinies. And in the years after 1945, they
increasingly did so. Institutions such as the International Missionary
Council or the World Council of Churches were to become dominated
by non-western Christians, liberated from the constraints of European
denominationalism, and often interacting with each other in
constructive ways. The ideal of self-governing, self-supporting and
self-propagating churches, whether in mid-19th century Africa or
mid-20th century China, did not advocate isolation but rather global
collaboration on the basis of equality. This is how the Christian
missionary commitment is being best understood at the beginning of
the 21st century.

The evidence provided in these essays of the variety of
non-western Christian experience shows the need for fuller treatments
of these as-yet-unexplored case studies. It is to be hoped that younger
scholars from Asia, Africa and Latin America will follow up these
leads. In particular, the wide-ranging issues of inculturation and
indigenization, the liberation from European models, the development
of international connections, and the opportunities of both
denominational and inter-faith ecumenism, should surely take a high
priority. The examples offered in this volume deserve close study, and
if possible replication and addition in the future. The multicultural
polycentric Christian Gospel is now being propagated in a vast plurality
of cultures, languages and competing ideologies. Church historians
have a gigantic task ahead of them to keep abreast and to record what
is currently taking place within the whole Christian community.

2) Journal articles:

a) Herderkorrespondenz 57 (2003), no. 8 K-J.Hummel, Facts –
Interpretations – Questions: Where is research in Catholicism heading?
(This translated article has kindly been made available to us by the
Catholic Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Bonn. The text and the
German original can be found under

We reprint two extracts, one this month, and one in the next issue)
German research on Catholicism at the moment finds itself in
an exciting, but partly unclear, phase of transition, characterized by
strongly differing demands from scholarship, the politicized world of
the historical profession (Geschichtspolitik) and the media. A recent
conference organized by the Commission for Contemporary History
(Kommission für Zeitgeschichte) and the Catholic Academy in Bavaria
(Katholische Akademie in Bayern) offered the opportunity to take stock
critically and discuss important new perspectives.

Hans Günter Hockerts’ formulation of the scholarly basis was
unambiguous and unchallenged, but was nonetheless surprising for
some people: “Religion is relevant.” 20 years ago sceptics were still
dominating the scene. The godfathers of social history
(Gesellschaftsgeschichte) such as Hans Ulrich Wehler, who were
following Max Weber in being “religiously unmusical” (“religiös
unmusikalisch”), confirmed each other in the misconception that since
the Enlightenment, religion had become increasingly irrelevant in
society, and could be suitably acknowledged in ironic half sentences. It
was the generation of their disciples, however, who re-discovered
religion as a central “focus of socialization” (“Vergesellschaftungskern”).

They were especially interested in the
Catholic milieu that provided essential structural shaping at any rate for
about one third of German society from the middle of the 19th century
to the Second Vatican Council. Modern cultural history approached
religion by way of the key categories of “meaning” (“Sinn”) and
“design” (“Bedeutung”). “Religion is a prototypical product of
meaning and design. That goes for religious norms and doctrines in the
sense of central systems of interpretation as well as for individual
religiousness, i.e. the dimension of experiencing meaning and design.”

This situation could lead to a productive interdisciplinary co-operation
in modern research on Catholicism. In Germany, however, in contrast
to France, for example, this will only be likely on a limited scale.
While some secular disciplines have begun to undertake research on
Catholicism, the church historians of the Catholic and Protestant
faculties have seemed to turn to other fields of studies and ignore
contemporary religious history.

There is, moreover, a dilemma which poses great difficulties for the
historical profession. This is caused by the appearance of a number of
highly politicized and polemical interpretations of recent history,
including church history. For example, we can cite John Cornwell’s
“Hitler’s Pope”, or Daniel J. Goldhagen’s accusatory work “A Moral
reckoning. The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and its
Unfulfilled Duty of Repair”. Whereas German scholarly research on
Catholicism can pride itself upon a wealth of detailed studies and
overviews, the deplorable fact remains that success increasingly
depends upon viewing and sales figures rather than the quality of the
scholarship and of the scholarly conclusions. Goldhagen’s book has
been unanimously condemned as not being up to scholarly standards,
and Cornwell’s dismissed as a journalistic work. But the public
generously overlooked the unusual quantity of mistakes of Cornwell’s
and Goldhagen’s works. In all likelihood, this leniency will persist as
long as the authors, who confidently undercut existing scholarly
standards, continue to write what the public wants to read.
For researchers in contemporary history, this new trend spells an
unusual challenge. If the public’s ideas about history are more
dependent on a fictional text than on the results of decades of
meticulous scholarly research, the historical profession obviously has a
problem in communicating its findings to a larger audience which no
amount of scolding the media will solve. It must find a way to
popularize its findings in a society dominated by the mass media, while
not falsifying complex matters because of the need to simplify. Only in
rare cases are scholars up to this challenge of reducing complicated
results to the size of a soundbite.

The 40-year old history of Hochhuth’s “The Deputy” (“Der
Stellvertreter”) is a perfect example of the fruitless efforts of scholars
to regain the initiative in formulating an effective answer to moral
charges through scholarly editions and learned treatises. The
discussions about forced labour in Catholic institutions during the Nazi
period, or about Catholic alleged involvement with the notorious East
German secret police – the “Stasi” – are but the latest examples of this.
Historians of Catholicism have taken up the gauntlet, because there is
no alternative. Contemporary history is inevitably conflict-ridden

Today, interpreters are needed to make the findings of research
accessible to a wider public. Historical awareness is not even primarily
being shaped by historians, but rather by the manifold manifestations of
“infotainment”. If scholars are to measure their results against the
public’s widely held historical notions and to correct them, if
necessary, they must co-operate with the media that have direct access
to the public and can convey those corrections.

It is not only scholars who should influence the media, however; the
media can also give new momentum to knowledge and scholarly
investigation. During the debate on reparations for forced labour
imported from abroad by the Nazis to work in war-time industries, for
instance, the TV magazine “Monitor” on 20th July 2000, suddenly
charged the Catholic church with having profited from this forced
labour as well. Prior to this broadcast, the issue of forced labour
working for the church had not been dealt with by either Catholic
researchers or other historians who had been working on foreign
labour. Therefore the accusations caught Catholic researchers totally
off guard and made it obvious that, in spite of an abundance of
scholarly literature, the question of how the Church and Catholics fared
in the Third Reich had not yet been fully researched.

The question of the relationship between political Catholicism in
Germany and modern democracy (with the example of the Center Party
1930-1933) was the immediate cause for the foundation, in the early
1960s, of the “Commission for Contemporary History at the Catholic
Academy in Bavaria” (“Kommission für Zeitgeschichte bei der
Katholischen Akademie in Bayern”). Hochhuth’s provocative play
occurred subsequently. The initiators were the director of the academy,
later Secretary to the Conference of the German Bishops, Prälat Karl
Forster, and two young historians, 35 year old Rudolf Morsey and 40
year old Konrad Repgen. The Munich conference of 2003 was held in
honour of these two distinguished scholars. It was, however, more than
a satisfying retrospective on an impressive life’s work. It served as a
forum to consider the challenges posed by both the politicized
historical profession and the media, to assess the results and omissions
of current research and, finally, to point the way to future topics and
fields of research.
(to be continued).
Karl-Josef Hummel is Director of the Research Department of the
Kommission fur Zeitgeschichte.

b) Yad Vashem Studies, 31, 2003.

Havi Ben-Sasson contributes a remarkable article to this latest volume
of the Yad Vashem Studies on “Christians in the Ghetto: All Saints and
the Holy Virgin Mary Churches, and the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto”.
This describes the fate of the group of Christian Jews who were
incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto after the Nazi conquest of Poland.
The author makes clear that this small minority of Christians in a larger
minority of Jews were doubly discriminated against. Many of them
had left the Jewish community earlier, were relatively wealthy, and
looked to the Catholic Church to give them support. Interestingly, two
Catholic parishes functioned during the period before the ghetto
inhabitants, both Christian and Jewish, were deported. Unfortunately
relations between the two groups were strained, with faults on both
sides. Despite the paucity of surviving sources, this essay shed light on
this dark chapter of recent Polish church history.

May I send you all my very best wishes for the Christmas season, and
wish you every success in your endeavours during 2004.
John S.Conway

In Thanksgiving for our Blessings at this Christmas tide
Oculi omnium in te sperant Domine,
et tu das illis escam in tempore opportuno:
aperis manum tuam et imples omne animal benedictione.
Et mihi sitienti et mihi esurienti deese poteris?
Venite sitientes, venite esurientes,
comedite panem meum et bibite vinum
quod miserim vobis.
O nos felices filii, O nos beati,
qui ad mensam patris coelestis
tam amanter invitamur.
Ibi panis angelorum copiose fangitur
Ibi vinum electorum copiose bibitur
O nos felices, O nos beati.

List of books reviewed in 2003:

  • Alvarez, David, Espionage in the Vatican July
  • Breward, Ian, A history of the churches in Australasia August
  • Brouwer, Ruth, Modern women modernizing men September
  • Brown Callum, The death of Christian Britain July
    Dam, Harmjan, Der Weltbund für Freundschaftsarbeit der Kirchen
  • Denzler, Georg, Widerstand ist nicht das richtige Wort:
    Katholische Priester, Bischöfe und Theologen im
    Dritten Reich September
  • Dietrich, Donald ed., Christian responses to the Holocaust December
  • Emilsen S. & W., Mapping the Landscape: Essays on Australian and
    New Zealand Christianity August
  • Feldkamp, Michael, Goldhagens unwillige Kirche August
  • Gallo, Patrick, For Love and Country. The Italian Resistance October
  • Goldhagen, Daniel A moral reckoning. The role of the Catholic
    Church in the Holocaust and the unfulfilled duty of repair March
  • Griech-Pollele, Beth, Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and
    National Socialism February
  • Hesse, Hans ed., Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses
    during the Nazi regime October
  • Jenkins, Julian, Christian Pacifism confronts German nationalism
  • Kirby, Dianne ed, Religion and the Cold War September
  • Koschorke, K, Transcontinental Links December
  • Kreutzer, Heike, Das Reichskirchenministerium im Gefüge
    der nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft July
  • McNally, Vincent, The Lord’s Distant Vinyard: The Oblates
    in British Columbia January
  • Moltman-Wendel, Elisabeth, Autobiography January
  • Perica, Vjekoslav, Balkan Idols. Religion, nationalism and
    the Yugoslav states October
  • Rutherdale, Myra, Women and the White Man’s God: Gender,
    race in the Canadian mission field August
  • Steigmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich September
  • Voigt, Klaus, Villa Emma: jüdische Kinder auf der Flucht February
  • Wood, David, Poet, priest and prophet -Bishop J.V.Taylor March
  • Woolner, D and Kurial, R, FDR, the Vatican and the Roman
    Catholic Church in America, 1933-1945 October