Netherlands, Utrecht

The World Council of Churches in Its Political Context, 1948-2018

when 9 July 2018 - 13 July 2018
language English
duration 1 week
fee EUR 350

The World Council of Churches (WCC) celebrates its turbulent 70-year history in 2018. This course will revisit the ways in which the WCC from its inception dealt with questions of political and international order and security. Every decade has its own challenges and debates that will be addressed, such as the reconstruction of post-war Europe, post-colonialism and social justice, and nuclear disarmament. By viewing the WCC in its shifting political contexts, this summer school opens up new ways of looking at the nexuses between the histories of religion, politics, and international relations.

After 2017 remembered the quincentenary of the Reformation, 2018 celebrates the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the World Council of Churches (WCC), in 1948 in Amsterdam. Already during its prehistory of almost four decades before 1948, the WCC and its predecessors thought deeply about how political and religious developments and action interconnected. During the Second World War, the WCC in formation’s office in Geneva, led by the Dutch secretary-general Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft, became a focal point for Resistance groups throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.

In the early post-war period, quite a few ecumenists took up political positions and as such closely witnessed the two processes that came to define post-war Europe: the initiation of European economic integration and the Cold War’s East-West divide. Political and spiritual reconciliation in this post-war world was paramount for the young organization.
Post-colonial reality and the acceptance of new Asian and African member churches to the WCC (at the 1961 New Delhi Assembly) posed wholly new questions of social and economic justice. In the 1970s and 80s, the WCC was a vocal player in discussions on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, a debate in which it continues to be involved to this day – the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, ICAN, being a close partner.
This summer school looks at the way in which the WCC and its key persons have dealt with these geopolitical matters from historical, doctrinal, political, and societal angles, while revisiting the cradles where this ecumenical journey began: the Dutch cities of Utrecht and Amsterdam.
The summer school is inspired by the NWO-funded research project ‘Blueprints of Hope. Designing Post-War Europe, 1930-1963: Ideas, Emotions, Networks, Negotiations’, a Free Competition Grant awarded to Professors Beatrice de Graaf, Mathieu Segers, and Peter-Ben Smit at Utrecht University.

Course leader

Clemens van den Berg

Target group

Students who have completed their Bachelor in Humanities and are starting or have started a Master's programme, especially those with some prior academic interest in international relations, history, religion, and/or their intersections.

Course aim

At the end of this course, students should be able to:
• Demonstrate knowledge of the religious and political landscapes of early post-war Europe and how those interconnect;
• Evaluate the role of the World Council of Churches in post-war reconciliation and reconstruction processes;
• Understand the ways in which the World Council of Churches engaged and continues to engage in political debates and social justice;
• Demonstrate this knowledge and understanding in written and verbal form.

Fee info

EUR 350: Course + course materials
EUR 200: Housing

Register for this course
on course website