Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Farewell, Pastor Barth

Karl Barth pastored a church in Safenwil, Switzerland between 1911 and 1921, and was the secretary of the church administration (imagine an elder's board, except a bit more engaged with other local administrations). Recently I read an account of some of Barth's meeting minutes from that time period, and they were interesting to say the least. The following quotes are not from those minutes, but from newspaper editorials at the time of Barth's departure from that church to go and teach in Göttingen (Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt did a great job digging all this up.) They give a good picture of what a polarizing figure Barth must have been in that community.

The Zofinger Tagblatt was scathing in sum of Barth's legacy, claiming that it his social meddling and academic affairs ‘prevented him from working together with the bourgeoisie.’ The Zurzacher Volksblatt did not think much different. They concluded with the following:
"So, since he was not good as pastor, he became a professor, in order to make other incapable pastors."
How do you like that for a farewell? Other newspapers responded more favourably, however, although the following quote is from an undisclosed source:
“Pastor Barth practiced his office inspired by the principles of a genuine social effectiveness. He did not care about reputation or class position. He taught genuine Christianity ... When Pastor Barth now leaves our village, threatened by the donkey kicks of this caste, a great part of the population is genuinely saddened at his leaving and remembers with gratitude his sacrificial care for the poor and the oppressed. We wish him all the best for his future work.”
- Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, "The Secretary of the Church Administration: From
Barth’s Pastorate," Theological Audacities: Selected Essays (2010), pp. 170-171.

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