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Reform Magazine | August 20, 2017

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Introducing… Dorothee Soelle

Introducing… Dorothee Soelle

In this occasional feature, a contemporary writer introduces a classic thinker. This month: Andrew Francis on Dorothee Soelle

The passionate opening address of the 1983 Vancouver Assembly of the World Council of Churches was delivered by Dorothee Soelle (1929-2003), one of the late 20th Century’s great theologians. She had a rich sense of humour, the ability to communicate at many levels and a great intellect.

Soelle grew up in a notionally Lutheran, German family and her childhood wartime experience influenced her adult conversion to radical Christianity. She said: “What has been done to other people in the name of Jesus Christ by my people also affects the way in which I am a Christian… Christian anti-Judaism and modern antisemitism are part of my life.” Her 1974 book, Political Theology, set her understandings of discipleship in the trajectory of the radical reformers and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Soelle identified with the “God-from-below”, “who goes with us into torture, poverty, political powerlessness” – the God who hangs on the Cross and dies with the victims of the Auschwitzes, then and now. This same Jesus, “who shares his bread with the poor”, calls our engagement with the world, in worship, work and Word. Soelle would have been appalled by the (far-) right swing of the recent European Union elections, with its innate racism, and would be challenging us to greater political activism as Jesus’ followers…

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This is an extract from the July/August 2014 edition of Reform.

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