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Unity in Christ or Pan-Europeanism? Nathan Söderblom and the ecumenical peace movement in the interwar period

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In the summer of 2014 the Swedish Church is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the appointment of Nathan Söderblom as archbishop of Uppsala, and thus head of the Swedish church organisation. As a Lutheran with an enormously broad-minded and broad-reaching approach to ecumenical understanding and community-building, Söderblom shot to prominence in the interwar period not only because of his ecumenical engagement, calling for an evangelical catholicity so stand side by side with the Roman catholic and Orthodox catholic traditions, but also because of his comprehensive secular engagement for peace and understanding between peoples. In the latter context he also acquired a solid reputation as a perhaps less prominent but still noteworthy figure in the history of European integration. This article investigates how, why and to what extent Söderblom’s ecumenical and secular engagements were intertwined. The first part discusses how his biographical and academic background led to such staunch ecumenical positions, while the second part focuses on the secular engagement, which was perceived by Söderblom as necessary to make progress on the ecumenical front in the practical political realities of the 1920s. The final part, comparing and contrasting Söderblom’s views with those of Count Richard von Coudenhove-Calergi and the Pan-European Union, demonstrates why Söderblom’s engagement for Europe had to be limited: unity in Christ is by definition global in nature and therefore cannot be continent-specific.
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Keywords: Söderblom; ecumenical peace movement; interwar period; pan-Europe

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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