4 th International Bonhoeffer Colloquium
2. The Church’s Relation to Politics
Philip G. Ziegler Christ’s Lordship and Politics: Visser ‘t Hooft and Bonhoeffer Introduction: the Biographical and Historical Setting The personal and professional connection between Bonhoeffer and Willem Adolph Visser ‘t Hooft is well-documented in the history of 20th century ecumenism and theology. Their initial encounters were literary: Bonhoef- fer read Visser ‘t Hooft’s published doctoral thesis on The Background to the Social Gospel in preparation for his ﬁrst venture to America in 1930; also, Visser ‘t Hooft was deeply moved by Bonhoeffer’s 1935 essay, “The Con- fessing Church and the Ecumenical Movement.”1 They ﬁrst met in person in the Spring of 1939 in London when Bonhoeffer was en route home from his second brief American sojourn. Writing in 1945, Visser ‘t Hooft spoke of the quick ease and frankness they acquired with one another as they talked on the platform of Paddington Station.2 After the outbreak of the war, the two met face to face on the few occasions Bonhoeffer travelled to Switzerland. Visser ‘t Hooft proved an invaluable contact through whom Bonhoeffer could communicate along ‘the Swiss Road’ with the wider ecu- menical world, including Bishop Bell.3 The German theologian and the 1 Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Minneapolis: Fortress 2000, 645. Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Memoirs. London: SCM 1973, 107, 28: “As early as 1931 he had used my book on the Social Gospel for his own studies of American Chris- tianity.” 2 See Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Das Zeugnis eines Boten. Zum Gedächtnis von...
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