Tag Archives: Ecumenists

August 2 2019 – ‘Coburg’ Letter – Church Times – Richard W. Symonds

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Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral Canon of Honour Dr Dorothea Greiner [third from right]

Church Times Letters – Aug 2 2019

From Mr Richard W. Symonds

Sir, — The Church of England’s ecumenical legacy in Europe is being airbrushed out of history by the totalitarian mindset of Brexiteers.

The Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral Canon of Honour Dr Dorothea Greiner is determined that that legacy not be sidelined within the diocese of Chichester and beyond.

The next Coburg Conference will be taking place in the cathedral city this October, and the European delegates — including the Cathedral Chapter — will focus on the ecumenical vision of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell, in the light of today’s political situation.

The Bell Society
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN

April 7 2019 – The Coburg Conferences – “From Wuppertal 1934 to Chichester 2019” – Peter Crosskey

George Bell, Bishop of Chichester

“From Wuppertal 1934 to Chichester 2019” by Peter Crosskey

The end of May 2019 will mark the 85th anniversary of the Barmen Declaration, which expressed the commitment of a small but determined group of Lutheran pastors to oppose the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists.

Meeting in the Gemarke Church, Wuppertal-Barmen, more than 130 delegates including pastors, committed Christians and theologians, issued a six-part declaration opposing mainstream German Christian acceptance of national socialism.

A full account of the historic 1934 Barmen Declaration can be found on the website of the Lutheran evangelist EKD church [ https://www.ekd.de/en/The-Barmen-Declaration-133.htm ]

Half a century later, in October 1984, an ecumenical conference in Chichester brought together German church leaders from both the FRG and GDR. Alongside Anglican theologians, they gathered to discuss practical aspects of rapprochement and Christian unity.

The event also celebrated the lives and work of Bishop George Bell and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The latter had been ministering to German-speaking congregations in London at the time of the Barmen Declaration, before returning to Germany in 1935.

The 1984 Chichester conference prepared the way for the first of the Coburg conferences in 1985, which has since been established as a rolling biennial series of ecumenical conferences hosted in rotation by three German churches  and the Diocese of Chichester.

A process that started in the wake of the 500th anniversary celebrations of Martin Luther’s birth, generated both ecumenical conferences and the 1987 Meissen Statement [ https://www.ekd.de/ekd_en/ds_doc/meissen_engl_.pdf ] – a six-article ‘road map’ for Christian unity.

The first article opens with the words: “God’s plan … is to reconcile all things in Christ…” and the second article discusses the nature of communion. The third article is a call for unity: “…to fulfil its mission the Church itself must be united.” The fourth article talks about communion as a shared act of faith, while the fifth article records a number of points of agreement and the sixth sets out the next steps for mutual acknowledgement. The final paragraph concludes with the words: “We know that beyond this commitment lies a move from recognition to the reconciliation of churches and ministries within the wider fellowship of the universal Church.”

This autumn will see Chichester hosting the next Coburg conference [ https://www.chichester.anglican.org/european-ecumenical-committee/ 

At the time of writing, Chichester cathedral’s European ecumenical 

committee had this to say about the Coburg conferences:

“The first ecumenical conference held in Chichester in 1984 to celebrate Bishop George Bell proved so valuable that the regular ‘Coburg conferences’ were born. Held every other year, delegates from the Diocese of Chichester, the Evangelical Kirchenkreis Bayreuth, the Lutheran church in Berlin-Brandenburg, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg meet for discussions, lectures and workshops on a variety of topics and current issues. It is an opportunity to share and solve problems together and exchange news of parish links. A very strong bond of support, fellowship and understanding has developed.”

In his 2018 Easter sermon [https://www.chichester.anglican.org/news/2018/04/01/bishop-martins-easter-day-sermon/ ], Bishop Martin Warner talked of his conference trip to Germany in 2017, when the Lutherans were celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation. His visit was preceded by (Re)imagining Europe, a conference held in Rome and organised by churches across the EU. 

Bishop Martin observed: “They were drawing from a vision that was formed at the very moment when Europe was descending into the second world war, indeed when Bishop George Bell was seeking to support Christians who were separated from us by that conflict, but not in faith.”

The 2019 Chichester leg of the Coburg Conferences programme will open in October.

“Let This Silent Bell Ring” – Richard W. Symonds

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Archbishop Nathan Soderblom

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Bishop George Bell

With the new biography of Archbishop Soderblom (“A great archbishop-ecumenist”, Church Times, 2 Sept), we must also remember “George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958” (Calendar of Saints, Oct 3):*

The Swedish Archbishop had this to say of our English Bishop: **

“It is my opinion that nobody is more important to the future of the ecumenical revival than this silent Bell. This Bell never rings for nothing. But when it does ring its tune is silver-clear. It often seems to travel from another sphere and make itself heard. It reaches farther than our shouting voices. He never begins to speak without having something to say. The strong spirituality of his nature characterize everything he does”

 Both this Archbishop and Bishop Bell need to be well-remembered.

 Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

 Ifield Village

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_saints_(Church_of_England

** Preface to “And Other Pastors of Thy Flock” by Franz Hildebrandt (Cambridge University Press, 1942) – quoted in “George Bell, Bishop of Chichester” – ‘Church, State, and Resistance in the Age of Dictatorship’ by Andrew Chandler (Eerdmans 2016) – Page 19