Conference Looks at European Methodism After World War II
Budapest, Hungary, August 23, 2010--Methodism on the European continent in the 20 years following World War II was the theme of a mid-August conference of the European Historical Commission of The United Methodist Church.
Presentations and exhibits dramatized the situations of the small, minority Methodist communities and congregations as the European nations rebuilt from 1945 to 1965. The meeting was the fourth of the historical commission and took place in Budapest from August 10 to 15 with 80 participants from 14 countries, including the United States and Mozambique.
Exhibits included documents on the confiscation of church buildings in Eastern Europe and handwritten books by famed missionary E. Stanley Jones from Estonia, then part of the Soviet Union, where Christian literature was mostly criminalized. There were also Methodist coffee cups from Scandinavia.
Examples of Heroism
The documents and relics helped to create a mood for studying the plight of the Methodist Church following the war, when the misery of refugees and the devastation of cities were acute, and congregations were scattered or extinct.
Both overviews and country reports with specific examples of heroism were presented. Details emerged on the action of the Trondheim congregation in northern Norway that provided a kind of "underground synagogue for the Jews." In former Yugoslavia, the ministry of the Methodist Church was carried out mostly by "church sisters" led by Paula Mojzes, who gave leadership to the Methodist Church in Serbia long before the ordination of the women became a matter for discussion.
The sad summary is that the Methodist Church in most of the Eastern European countries suffered severe repressions, arrests, and various forms of discrimination and restrictions. As a result, Methodism did not survive in some places.
Even before hostilities ceased, programs of post-war assistance were under way among Methodists in the United States, Sweden, and Switzerland. The National Council of Churches in the US was one of the main channels of support for American church aid. The time for delivery and reception was extremely short for congregations in nations overrun by the Soviets.
Singing in Many Languages
In addition to lectures and exhibitions, the conference shared in song from a newly published hymnal, Singing Grace, which contains 46 songs from different countries translated into 26 languages. Dr. Ulrike Schuler, a professor at the United Methodist seminary in Germany, and the Rev. Dr. ST Kimbrough and Dr. Carlton Young of the United States edited the hymnal. Dr. Young, well-known in church music circles, served as music editor. Funds were provided by the General Board of Discipleship, the General Commission on Archives and History, and the Fred Pratt Green Trust.
Kimbrough, a specialist in Methodist hymnody, led the singing in Budapest. He is a retired staff member of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Morning devotional messages by Graham Kent of the Methodist Church of Great Britain reflected on items from the Methodist Art Collection, which draw together significant modern works. View the collection online.
Bishops Patrick Streiff of the Central and Southern Europe Central Conference and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany Central Conference presided at the sacrament of Holy Communion.
The conference was organized Dr. Judit Lakotos, the Hungarian Methodist historian, and Dr. Ulrike Schuler, the chair of the European Historical Commission from German United Methodist Theological Seminary. The paper will be published in both English and German.
Information for this article was provided by Ulrich Ziegler and Üllas Tankler.
Date posted: Aug 23, 2010