George Bell's political engagement in ecumenical context

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In 1940 George Bell, bishop of Chichester, published «Christianity and World Order». Gerhard Leibholz, Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law, emphasized that Bell's «book is not only that of a Christian, but also of a politician. This is not accidental considering that, in the long run, politics and Christianity are connected with each other.» By contrast in May 1949 Bell reckoned with Bishop Berggrav's question: «How are the Churches to take a specific Christian line, on a Church basis, in international Affairs?» This implies a distinctive difference between the functions of church and state; and as Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords Bell focused his speeches on political questions without specific Christian references. As the paper shows, Bell distinguished service of the church to the common good in state and society according to the Natural Law from its proper duties of preaching the gospel and leading Christians. In preparing the first task Bell discussed the matter in question with laymen. In some cases he brought the problem into the consideration of the World Council of Churches. Apart from this public disclosure mandate stood the special ministry of the church. In cases such as supporting the Confessing Church Bell worked in touch with ecumenical churchmen. The leading line was the unity of church, the solidarity of brethren and the moulding of an ecumenical Christian ethics. One consequence of this distinction was Bell's often-criticised reaction to the Jewish victims of the Nazi regime. Whereas providing help for the so-called non-Aryan Christians was a specifically Christian duty, the fate of the Jewish people was rather a political and humanitarian challenge.

ZeitschriftKirchliche Zeitgeschichte
Seiten (von - bis)312-326
Anzahl der Seiten15
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.12.2017