Archive for the ‘World Council of Churches’ Tag

Feast of Emil Brunner (April 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dr. Emil Brunner

Image in the Public Domain

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HEINRICH EMIL BRUNNER (DECEMBER 23, 1889-APRIL 6, 1966)

Swiss Reformed Theologian

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The Protestant theology of our day is in a state of rapid dissolution….The substance of Christian theology, the content of Christian faith, is in a state of compete decomposition.  Christianity is either faith in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, or it is nothing.

–Emil Brunner, in The Theology of Crisis (1930); quoted in Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, editors, A Handbook of Christian Theologians–Enlarged Edition (1984) page 410

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Emil Brunner and Karl Barth were the most influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century.  The latter, however, has become more famous than the former.  Furthermore, Willard Learoyd Sperry was openly critical of their Neo-orthodox theology.  Coincidence has caused the feasts of Brunner and Sperry to fall on the same date on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  This project of mine has sufficient breadth to include theologians who criticized each other.

Brunner was Swiss, as was his contemporary and critic, Barth.  Brunner, born on December 23, 1889, at Winterthur, drew from a variety of influences.  One early influence was pastor Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), of southern Germany.  Another influence was Hermann Kutter (1863-1931), a student of Blumhardt.  Brunner studied theology at the University of Zurich.  His professor, Leonhard Ragaz (1868-1945), taught him the works of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who influenced our saint profoundly.

Brunner traveled and lectured around the world.  He studied in Berlin for a semester in 1911; he found both the city and Adolf von Harnack 1865-1923) unimpressive.  Our saint visited England in 1913-1914 and quickly became fluent in English.  He was back home, serving in the Swiss army, in 1914-1916, before becoming the pastor at a church in Obstalden, in the canton of Glarus, in 1916.  Brunner studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, in 1919-1920.  In 1924 he became Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at the University of Zurich.  He also continued to preach in churches.  Throughout the 1920s Brunner lectured in the United States and in the United Kingdom.  The Third Reich banned his books and forbade him to teach in Germany, but he did not slow down.  From 1938 to 1939 Brunner was a visiting professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.  He was also active in the Faith and Order Movement and the Life and Work Movement, forerunners of the World Council of Churches, organized in 1948.  After World War II Brunner became a theological advisor to the Y.M.C.A.  In 1949, for the Y.M.C.A., he traveled and lectured in Asia.  From 1953 to 1955 our saint was a professor at the International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.  There he engaged in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues.  In 1955, on the way back to Switzerland, Brunner suffered a stroke, which slowed the previously vigorous pace of his scholarly work.

In 1916 Brunner married Margret Lauterberg, niece of his mentor, Hermann Kutter.  Our saint was a loving husband and father.  The couple raised four sons, two of whom they buried.

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A person literate in Christian theology can understand why one can find criticisms of Brunner from both the right and the left on the Internet.  According to certain critics from the left, he was much too traditional.  Yet, according to those who condemn our saint from the right, he was a heretic and a destroyer of faith whose insidious influence remains.

Brunner, who considered himself neither a traditionalist nor an innovator, held to a theology based to two related factors:  love and the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  He rejected fundamentalism and dogmatism on the right  and vague religious values on the left.  Brunner was, simply put, in the middle, with many critics from both his right and his left.  For example, as our saint stressed the primacy of Jesus as the Word of God and insisted upon the unique and unrepeatable nature of the Incarnation, he remained skeptical regarding the Virgin Birth.  The miracle of the Incarnation, Brunner wrote, was greater with a human father.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, one need not affirm the Virgin Birth as being essential to accepting the divinity of Jesus.

Brunner also pondered how God and mere mortals can relate to each other.  Our saint, being himself, rejected the extremes of literalism and dogmatism on the right and of experience and feeling on the left.  He wrote that God and people meet in Jesus Christ and that only God can take the initiative to bridge the gap.  People, he argued, have the ability to reject God or to accept God.  Furthermore, the revelation of God is ongoing–via the Holy Spirit, including in the scriptures at the present time.  The reign of God on earth will become a reality also.  In the meantime, Brunner argued, there must be a point of contact in sinful human nature for one to perceive the divine revelation.  This assertion prompted Barth too write his famous rebuttal Nein! (1934), in which he argued that divine revelation creates its own point of contact ex niliho.  Brunner referred to Nein! as “that terrible book” as late as the 1950s.

For Brunner the definitive Christian virtue was love–self-sacrificing love, the kind Jesus had.  This love, our saint wrote, Christianizing Martin Buber‘s I-Thou theology, binds people to God and to each other in relationships.  The responsibility to live in community with each other and with God, Brunner wrote, is inherent in us.  Furthermore, we might be unaware of this duty or even reject it, but we can never escape it, he argued.  The basis of this responsibility, according to Brunner, was the image of God.  He criticized violations of this responsibility, wherever he saw them–in capitalism, communism, Christian congregations and denominations, et cetera.  Worse than the scandal of schisms, Brunner wrote, was the lack of spiritual brotherhood in Christian community.

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Brunner, a man well-informed in matters of theology, science, music, and painting, died at Zurich, Switzerland, on April 6, 1966.  He was 76 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted by your servant Emil Brunner,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

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Feast of Charles Henry Brent (March 27)   Leave a comment

charles-henry-brent

Above:  Charles Henry Brent 

Image in the Public Domain

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CHARLES HENRY BRENT (APRIL 9, 1862-MARCH 27, 1929)

Episcopal Bishop and Ecumenist

The Feast of Charles Henry Brent falls on March 27 in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Brent was a native of New Castle, Ontario.  He, born on April 9, 1862, studied at Trinity College, Toronto.  Our saint, ordained an Anglican priest in Canada in 1887, served first as the assistant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Buffalo, New York.  From 1888 to 1901 he lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts.  There, as the Assistant Rector of St. John the Evangelist Church, with the responsibility for the African-American congregation of St. Stephen’s Church, our saint worked in the slums and came under the influence of the Social Gospel movement.

In 1901 the Episcopal House of Bishops selected Brent to become the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, a position he held from 1902 to 1919.  There he built up The Episcopal Church, not by “stealing sheep,” but by focusing on evangelism.  He famously refused to compete with the Roman Catholic Church; he would not, in his words, “set up one altar against another.”  Brent did, however, seek to convert people to Christianity.  He also established ecumenical relations with the new Philippine Independent Church, founded by a former Roman Catholic priest.  In the Philippines Brent also became involved in the movement to oppose opium trafficking.  He served as the President of the Opium Conference at Shanghai in 1909 and represented the United States on the Narcotics Committee of the League of Nations in 1923.

From 1917 to 1919 Brent doubled as the Senior Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces.  At the request of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, he organized and supervised the chaplaincy.

In 1918 Brent accepted election as the Bishop of Western New York, with Buffalo as his see city.  He began his duties the following year and remained the bishop of that diocese for the rest of his life.

Brent was an ecumenical leader in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the modern ecumenical movement.  In 1910 he attended the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland.  The pioneering ecumenical conference increased cooperation among missionary societies.  Our saint, a convinced ecumenist, became a leader of the cause in his denomination.  Later that year the General Convention of The Episcopal Church proposed what became the First World Conference on Faith and Order (1927) at Lausanne, Switzerland.  At that gathering, over which Brent presided, representatives of about 90 denominations–from the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to Quakers and some Baptists–discussed doctrine.  The purpose of the conference was to promote doctrinal unity.  Nevertheless, doctrinal differences became apparent quickly, but the gathering did encourage subsequent ecumenism.

Brent died at Lausanne on March 27, 1929, while traveling in Europe.  He was 66 years old.

In 1907 Brent published a certain prayer, one included in his original language in Daily Morning Prayer, Rite One, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of thy saving embrace:  So clothe us in thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.  Amen.

–Page 58

Morning Prayer, Rite Two, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a modern-language version of that prayer.  So does Daily Morning Prayer in Texts for Common Prayer (2013), of the Donatist (in the broad definition of that term) Anglican Church in North America.  Any form of the prayer is absent from the corresponding ritual in The Book of Common Prayer (1928).

Brent’s legacy includes not only a meaningful prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) but the World Council of Churches (founded in 1948) and The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion since 1988).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one:

Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance,

that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent,

we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 56:6-8

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Matthew 9:35-38

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 293

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Feast of Frederick and William Temple (December 22)   1 comment

canterbury-cathedral

Above:  Canterbury Cathedral, 1910

Publisher and Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a24699

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FREDERICK TEMPLE (NOVEMBER 30, 1821-DECEMBER 22, 1902)

Archbishop of Canterbury

father of

WILLIAM TEMPLE (OCTOBER 15, 1881-OCTOBER 26, 1944)

Archbishop of Canterbury

His feast transferred from November 6

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So let us set ourselves to gain a deepening loyalty to our Anglican tradition of Catholic order, Evangelical immediacy in our approach to God, and liberal acceptance of new truth made known to us; and let us at the same time join with all our fellow Christians who will join with us in bearing witness to the claim of Christ to rule in every department of human life, and to the principles of His Kingdom.

–William Temple, April 17, 1942; quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (Cincinnati, OH:  Forward Movement Publications, 1991), page 130

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The standard feast day of William Temple is November 6.  To the best of my knowledge, no ecclesiastical body lists his father, Frederick Temple, on its calendar of saints.  On this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, the two Archbishop Temples share a feast day–December 22.

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frederick-temple

Above:  Frederick Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Frederick Temple was an educator, an educational reformer, a theologian, and a minister.  He, born on November 30, 1821, debuted at Leukas (a.k.a. Santa Maura), the Ionian Islands, off the coast of Greece.  His father, Major Octavius Temple (1784-1834) was there on imperial assignment.  Our saint’s mother was Dorcas Carveth (born in 1805).  He was one of five children.  The family relocated to Corfu in 1828.  Then, in 1833, Octavius became the Lieutenant Governor of Sierra Leone, serving until he died the following year.

The death of Octavius left the family impoverished.  Frederick studied at Blundell’s School, Devonshire, from 1834 to 1839.  Then, from 1839 to 1842, he attended Baillol College, Oxford, on scholarship, studying mechanics and the classics.  He encountered Tractarians there and found himself more liberal than they were.  From 1842 to 1848 our saint worked as a lecturer then a fellow at Baillol College.  Along the way he became an Anglican deacon (1846) then priest (1847).

Frederick left Oxford in 1848.  Until 1850 he worked at the Education Office.  Then, from 1850 to 1855, he was the Principal of Kneller Hall, a training college for teachers at workhouses.  Next (until 1857) our saint inspected training colleges.  From 1857 to 1869, as the Headmaster of Rugby School, expanded the curriculum, presided over new construction, and functioned as a good example to everyone.  On the side, from 1864 to 1867, Frederick served on the Schools Enquiry Commission.

Frederick contributed an essay, The Education of the World,” to Essays and Reviews (1860), a liberal Anglican manifesto.  The volume proved to be controversial, partially because all seven authors favored freedom of inquiry in religion.  In our saint’s case, his argument irked many people and led to allegations to heresy.  He wrote of the parallels of human life (obedience during childhood, example during adolescence, and responsible freedom during adulthood) to three religious stages (the Law, the Gospels, and Pentecost).  In the last phase, Frederick wrote, humankind must be free to make decisions while drawing from all worthy sources, mainly the Bible.  Some critics accused our saint of being unduly optimistic regarding human nature and of ignoring sin and redemption.  In response to the controversy he authorized the omission of his essay from subsequent editions of Essays and Reviews.

Our saint became the Bishop of Exeter in 1869 and served until 1885.  Frederick encouraged secondary education.  he also worked hard to implement the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which expanded the reach of elementary school access and improved attendance.  Also during his tenure Frederick oversaw the creation of the Diocese of Truro from his diocese.  And, on October 15, 1881, our saint and his wife, Beatrice Blanche Lascelles, welcomed their second son, William, into the world.

During his time as Bishop of Exeter our saint published The Relations Between Religion and Science (1884).  He accepted both science and religion, acknowledging the reality of Evolution.  He had already covered much of that material in a sermon, The Present Relation of Science to Religion (1860).

From 1885 to 1896 Frederick was the Bishop of London.  During that time he advised the Archbishop of Canterbury, his friend, Edward White Benson, whom he succeeded in 1897.  When our saint became the Primate he was already going blind.  Yet he labored faithfully, attempting to settle ritualistic controversies and refuting the Papal bull (literally) regarding the invalidity of Anglican Holy Orders.  Frederick died at London on December 22, 1902.  He was 81 years old.

Another published work of our saint was “The Church’s Message to Mankind,” included in The Church’s Message to Men (1899).

Volumes about Frederick, at least in part, included the following:

  1. Archbishop Temple, Being the People’s Life of the Right Hon. and Most Rev. Frederick Temple, P.C., D.D., LL.D., Primate of All England, and Metropolitan (1903), by Charles Henry Dant;
  2. Six Great Schoolmasters (1904), by F. D. How;
  3. Memoirs of Archbishop Temple by Seven Friends (1906), edited by E. G. Sandford–Volumes I and II;
  4. Frederick Temple:  An Appreciation (1907), by E. G. Sandford, with a biographical introduction by William Temple; and
  5. The Exeter Episcopate of Archbishop Temple, 1869-1885 (1907), by E. G. Sandford.

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william-temple

Above:  William Temple

Image in the Public Domain

William Temple entered the world on October 15, 1881, when his father, then the Bishop of Exeter, was 60 years old.  Young William grew up in a financially comfortable and artistically rich family.  When his father was the Bishop of London our saint learned to play the piano and the organ.  He also attempted to learn to play the oboe and the French horn and came to consider Johann Sebastian Bach to be

the supreme master  who more than any other enables us for a few moments snatched from the passage of time to enter upon the experience of eternity.

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (1991), page 114

The bookworm suffered from various illnesses, such as gout, throughout his life.  He, like his father, had eye-related problems; William became blind in one eye, due to a cataract, in 1921.

William was also a natural intellectual.  He, educated at Rugby School (1894-1900) and Baillol College, Oxford (1900-1904), was a fellow and lecturer in philosophy at Queen’s College, Oxford, from 1904 to 1910.  Ordained to the diaconate in December 1909 and the priesthood in December 1910, our saint served as the Headmaster of Repton School, Derbyshire, from 1910 to 1914.

The priesthood had once been far from William’s mind, but it was his vocation.  Allegations of heresy had delayed his Holy Orders, but our saint became a simultaneously relatively orthodox and heterodox figure after his ordination.  The Incarnation occupied the center of his theology.  The Incarnation, William argued, had made the universe sacramental.  This understanding informed our saint’s opinion that one cannot properly divorce Christian doctrine from social justice.  Thus he served as the President of the Workers’ Educational Association from 1908 to 1924 and joined the Labour Party.  Christian disunity weakened the witness of the Church in the world, William knew.  Therefore he supported ecumenism in general and the Life and Work Movement (1925f) and the Faith and Order Movement (1927f), predecessors of the World Council of Churches (1948), in particular.  Our saint also favored the process that led to the formation of the Church of South India (1947).  William also supported the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood as early as 1916, but struggled with the fact that the ordination of women at that time would become an obstacle to ecumenism.

William entered full-time ministry in 1914.  That year he became the Rector of St. James’ Church, Picadilly, London.  On the side he also served as honorary chaplain to King George V and to Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  In 1916 our saint married Frances Anson; the couple had no children.  From 1919 to 1921 William was Canon of Westminster.  Next he served as the Bishop of Manchester (thereby becoming a successor of James Prince Lee) for eight years.  As the Bishop of Manchester our saint offended cotton magnates by seeking to resolve a general strike peacefully in 1926.  From 1929 to 1942 he was the Archbishop of York.  Then he succeeded Cosmo Lang as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

William was perhaps the most renowned Archbishop of Canterbury since the English Reformation.  He exercised the duties of the office during difficult times–World War II.  Our saint advocated for aid to Jews fleeing the Nazis, visited soldiers and sailors, broadcast sermons to soldiers and sailors, led prayer services at factories, preached on Sundays when Germans were bombing, and supported a negotiated settlement to the war.  He had to travel to and from his final public appearances in an ambulance and had to stand on one foot while speaking.

Wiliam died at Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, on October 26, 1944.  He was 63 years old.  Reinhold Niebuhr reflected:

Dr. Temple was able to relate “religious insights and social order” more vitally and creatively than any other modern Christian leader.

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (1991), page 113

Major published works by our saint included the following:

  1. The Nature of Personality:  A Course of Lectures (1911);
  2. “The Divinity of Christ” and “The Church” in Foundations:  A Statement of Christian Belief in Terms of Modern Thought (1913);
  3. The Faith and Modern Thought:  Six Lectures (1913);
  4. Christianity and War (1914);
  5. Theology:  The Science of Religion (1914);
  6. Studies in the Spirit and Truth of Christianity (1914);
  7. Our Need of a Catholic Church (1915);
  8. Church and Nation (1915);
  9. Plato and Christianity (1916);
  10. Mens Creatrix:  An Essay (1917);
  11. The Universality of Christ:  A Course of Lectures (1921);
  12. Life of Bishop Percival (1921);
  13. Christus Veritas (1924);
  14. Personal Religion and the Life of Fellowship (1926);
  15. Christianity and the State (1928);
  16. Nature, Man, and God (1934);
  17. Readings in St. John’s Gospel (1939 and 1940); and
  18. Christianity and the Social Order (1942).

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Understanding Frederick Temple increases one’s comprehension for his famous son.  The apple, I contend, did not fall far from the tree.  Although William Temple overshadows his father, nobody should minimize the importance of the elder.

As both Temples understood well, an excessively personalized Christianity divorced from social justice is heretical.  They were good Anglicans and therefore men rooted in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  As I have learned, the Anglican emphasis on the Incarnation (as opposed to the Lutheran emphasis on the crucifixion) lends itself to reading John 1:1-18, especially the part about God dwelling among us, and seeking to serve God in those around us.  This point of view has led to ecclesiastical involvement in social justice movements.  This has always been orthodox; turning away from the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself has always been heretical.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CASPAR MATTES, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servants Frederick Temple and William Temple,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life..

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Nathan Soderblom (July 11)   Leave a comment

Nathan Soderblom

Above:  Nathan Soderblom

Image in the Public Domain

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LARS OLOF JONATHAN SODERBLOM (JANUARY 15, 1866-JULY 12, 1931)

Swedish Ecumenist and Archbishop of Uppsala

Archbishop Nathan Soderblom‘s name came to my attention via the calendars of saints of The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), where his feast day is July 12.  I have moved his feast one day, however, for I have booked July 12 fully.  According to my rules for the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, the maximum number of observations for one day is four.

Lars Olof Jonathan “Nathan” Soderblom debuted at Trono, Halsingland, Sweden, on January 15, 1866.  His mother was the Danish-born Sophie Blume Soderblom, daughter of a medical doctor.  Our saint’s father was the Reverend Jonas Soderblom (1823-1901), descended from farmers.  The Lutheran priest was a Pietist.  Young Nathan studied at Hudiksvall then at the University of Uppsala, starting at the latter in 1883.  He graduated with degrees in Oriental languages (1886) and theology (1892).  Soderblom, who had grown up with a strict form of Lutheranism, liberalized during his postsecondary education.  This fact disturbed his father, who feared that our saint was becoming a freethinker.

Soderblom became a Lutheran priest.  He, ordained in 1893, served first as a hospital chaplain in Uppsala.  In 1894 he married Anna Forsell (1870-1955).  The couple had twelve children, eleven whom survived to adulthood.  Each of the three surviving daughters married a future bishop of the Church of Sweden, and one of the eight sons entered the ordained ministry.  From 1894 to 1901 Soderblom was the chaplain to the Swedish legation in Paris and pastor to Swedish seamen at Calais and Dunkirk.  The busy clergyman also earned his doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1901.  The focus of his study was comparative eschatology.  His dissertation was La vie future d’apres le Mazdeisme, about Persian religion.

Soderblom combined support for foreign missions with advocacy for studies in comparative religion.  He was a Christian, of course–a Lutheran, to be specific–and he thought that more people should convert to Christianity.  Our saint also affirmed the proposition that missionaries should understand and not destroy the cultures in which they worked.

This point might seem obvious to you, O reader, but, as many people who train missionaries know well, a host of missionaries (in successive generations) destroyed cultures and functioned as more effective agents of earthly principalities than of the Kingdom of God for centuries.  Thus they harmed the cause for which they professed to labor.

Soderblom, an expert in Oriental religions, became a professor of theology at the University of Uppsala in 1901.  In Gudstrons uppkomst (1914) our saint argued that the fundamental concept of religion is the idea of the holy, not the concept of God.  For Soderblom, a pacifist, religion was properly a means of making peace.  Our saint, a professor at Uppsala until 1914, taught in Leipzig, Germany, in 1912-1914.  Then he received a major promotion.

From 1914 to his death in 1931 Soderblom served as the Archbishop of Uppsala, the primate of the Church of Sweden.  His appointment proved controversial for more than one reason.  For years our saint had to contend with allegations of heresy.  They continued to follow him.  Furthermore, Soderblom was not a bishop prior to becoming archbishop.  That was not unprecedented in Christian history, but, as a matter of practice, most archbishops have been bishops first.  Certain Swedish bishops thought that they were more qualified than Soderblom.  Our saint performed his duties ably and continued his studies, including with regard to the original teaching of Martin Luther, as opposed to subsequent developments in Lutheran theology (such as Pietism).

Soderblom was also an ardent ecumenist.  He had a great interest in liturgy and in burgeoning liturgical renewal in Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Roman Catholicism.  He also favored Christian unity, but not as any cost.  Soderblom coined the term “evangelical Catholicism,” meaning, in his words:

It would be ungodly to sacrifice anything essential in our faith and our divine heritage for the cause of unity.

The author of Christian Fellowship (1923) emphasized Christian unity as a method for working toward global peace.  He organized the first World Council on Life and Work in 1925, inviting leaders of Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican/Episcopal churches to attend.  This gathering began the process that culminated in the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948.  For his ecumenical work Soderblom, who had officiated at the state funeral of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.

In 1931 the ailing Soderblom delivered the Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The published version of these lectures was The Living God:  Basal Forms of Personal Religion (1933).  Our saint died at Uppsala on July 12, 1931.  He was 65 years old.

The article on Soderblom in the 1968 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica concluded:

A saintly man, a scholar, and a great ecclesiastical statesman, he had a remarkable personal influence on those who knew him.

–Volume 20, page 825

His influence continues to this day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR; AND BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF DAMIEN DE VEUSTER, A.K.A. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

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Almighty God, we bless your Name for the life and work of Nathan Soderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala,

who helped to inspire the modern liturgical revival and worked tirelessly for cooperation among Christians.

Inspire us by his example, that we may ever strive for the renewal of your Church in life and worship,

for the glory of your Name; who with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Kings 22:3-13

Psalm 133

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

John 13:31-35

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 159

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