Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Today in Church History

05 July 1439  Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics had been separated since the Great Schism of 1054.  On this day, at the Council of Florence, representatives of the Eastern and Western Churches signed the Decree of Union which officially reunited the sundered Churches.  However, popular sentiment in Constantinople opposed the Decree of Union (since it did solve the issues dividing the respective Churches) and when the Turks captured Constantinople the union ceased again.  However, in 20th Century dialogues between Catholics and Orthodox, the Council of Florence’s definition of doctrine and framework of church union (unity in faith, diversity in rite) have proved useful in furthering the dialogue.

05 July 1865   William Booth(1829-1912) founds The Christian Mission to work with the poor and unchurched in London.  This mission will evolve into The Salvation Army.

05 July 1962 H. Richard Niebuhr(1894-1962) theologian, philosopher, ethicist, and Yale Professor, dies at the age of 67.  The younger (and more reserved) brother of Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard may have made the more lasting impact.  His 1951 book, Christ and Culture remains a staple textbook in many Christian ethics courses (despite many criticisms, some of which I share) and has never gone out of print. His The Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929), and The Purposes of the Church and its Ministry (1957) are landmark works in sociology of religion.  The Meaning of Revelation (1941) is one root of the narrative theology movement.  H.R. Niebuhr was a driving force in the American ecumenical movement and in Protestant dialogue with Judaism.  He was an eclectic figure influenced by John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Walter Rauschenbusch, Ernst Troeltsch, Immanuel Kant (HRN constantly tried and failed to exorcise a “Kantian residue” from his thought), Martin Buber, and Karl Barth.  The diversity of his work means that his followers usually followed one part of his legacy–almost no one followed him everywhere.  (H.R. Niebuhr influenced figures as diverse as James Gustafson, Hans Frei, Stanley Hauerwas, the African-American ethicist Darryl Trimiew, Diane M. Yeager, and Glen H. Stassen!) I confess that portions of his thought have influenced me far more than I usually acknowledge–while I am in full revolt against other dimensions!


July 5, 2007 - Posted by | church history

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