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The Ecumenical Church and Human Rights
John S. Nurser
Foreword by David Little
In this new century, born in hope but soon thereafter cloaked in terror, many see religion and politics as a volatile, if not deadly, mixture. For All Peoples and All Nations uncovers a remarkable time when that was not so; when together, those two entities gave rise to a new ideal: universal human rights.
John Nurser has given life to a history almost sadly forgotten, and introduces the reader to the brilliant and heroic people of many faiths who, out of the aftermath of World War II and in the face of cynicism, dismissive animosity, and even ridicule, forged one of the world's most important secular documents, the United Nations's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These courageous, persistent, visionary individuals—notable among them an American Lutheran Seminary professor from Philadelphia, O. Frederick Nolde—created the Commission on Human Rights. Eventually headed by one of the world's greatest humanitarians, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Universal Declaration has become the touchstone for political legitimacy.
As David Little says in the foreword to this remarkable chronicle, "Both because of the large gap it fills in the story of the founding of the United Nations and the events surrounding the adoption of human rights, and because of the wider message it conveys about religion and peacebuilding, For All Peoples and All Nations is an immensely important contribution. We are all mightily in John Nurser's debt." If religion and politics could once find common ground in the interest of our shared humanity, there is hope that it may yet be found again.
Archives and Abbreviations
Introduction: Revisiting a Myth
1. The Idea: To Universalize "Christendom"
2. The Man: Fred Nolde
3. To Write a Just and Durable Peace
4. Mobilizing Christian Forces
5. The Joint Committee on Religious Liberty
6. Preparing for San Francisco
7. The Charter of the United Nations Organization
8. An Ecumenical Instrument
9. Finding a Text
10. Declaring Human Rights
11. Conclusion: Faith and Human Rights Need Each Other
A Extracts from the Report of the WCC-in-Formation Conference "The Churches and the International Crisis"
B Extracts from A Message from the National Study Conference on the Churches and a Just and Durable Peace
C Extract from the Minutes of the First Full Meeting of the Joint Committee on Religious Liberty
D The "Six Pillars of Peace"
E Statement on Religious Liberty
F Statement on Religious Liberty, Memorandum No. 2
G Extracts from the Report of Commission II, "The Peace Strategy of the Churches"
H Letter on Human Rights in the Charter of the United Nations
I Extracts from Concluding Remarks of J.H. Oldham and John Foster Dulles at the Final Session of the Girton College Conference
J Letter from O. Frederick Nolde to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
K Extract from the Report of the Drafting Committee to the Commission on Human Rights
L Extracts from the Declaration on Religious Liberty
M Extracts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
"For All Peoples and All Nations succeeds admirably in its main objective to fill a gap in the historical record about the important role of the ecumenical movement in advancing the UN, shaping its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and authoring its protection of religious liberty. Given the current dominance of conservative religious influence within American politics, in interpreting international affairs, and in perceptions of the United Nations, Nurser reminds us of a time when progressive Christianity's leadership made a global impact and helped give the United Nations its 'soul' in human rights."—Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research
"John Nurser has put us in an incalculable debt with this book, which is a straightforward but detailed history of how in the post-1945 world human rights actually came to be enshrined both in the structure of the United Nations and in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights."—Gospel and Our Culture Newsletter
"This volume could renew the spirits of today's ecumenical Christians; renew the faith of clergy in the possibilities of making a difference in a conflicting but globalizing context; show new paths for creatively reshaping the common life to believers in other parts of the world; and remind political, military, and diplomatic leaders, plus legal scholars, of the fact that what they do depends heavily on the prior formation of a moral and spiritual ethos in civil society, which they cannot alone create.
For All Peoples and All Nations is the most important work on how religion has influenced human rights and other key developments, and what it takes beyond good ideas to make a difference. Every religious leader wonders, when they rest with the saints, what their work on earth accomplished; for most of what they do has consequence beyond the reach of a lifetime. Nurser has shown what a generation of nearly forgotten workers in the vineyard did for us all. It is an excellent tale, well told."—Max L. Stackhouse, Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life, Princeton Theological Seminary
"John Nurser has retrieved an important, nearly forgotten, part of the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His account of how Christian leaders and NGOs helped the Declaration become a document 'for all peoples and all nations' is impressive and inspiring."—Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
"This volume tells the exciting story of how a few dedicated Christians helped to incorporate guarantees of religious freedom in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a book that will be indispensable for everyone who is involved in the dramatic and ever growing acceptance of internationally recognized human rights."—Robert F. Drinan, SJ, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center
"John Nurser's impressive research has demonstrated that some leaders of Protestant and Anglican churches played a vital role in the formulation and promotion of international 'human rights' during the 1940s. The fascinating story he tells challenges conventional secularist assumptions about the separation (or even hostility) of religious convictions and public discourse."—Bishop Stephen Sykes, principal of St. John's College and professor of theology, University of Durham, UK
"A book of wonderful historical scholarship that recovers the lost story of the influence of Protestant Christianity on the origins of the United Nations and its international human rights mission. A group of Christian thinkers and activists of the 1930s and 1940s, and in particular the dynamic Lutheran Frederick Nolde from Philadelphia, promoted a global ethos and a global secular order that honoured and protected all religious belief. Their international and theological vision remains compelling in today's religiously fractious world. All interested in human rights and in religion and peace must read this work."—Kevin Boyle, professor of law, University of Essex
Winner of the 2006 Albert C. Outler Prize from the American Society of Church History for the best book in ecumenical church history
John S. Nurser is a fellow of the Human Rights Center at the University of Essex and Canon Emeritus of Lincoln Cathedral in the Church of England. He was the founding director of the ecumenical group Christianity and the Future of Europe (CAFE).
240 pp., 6 x 9
Not for sale in Europe or UK
240 pp., 6 x 9
Not for sale in Europe or UK
Not for sale in Europe or UK
Advancing Human Rights series
Sumner B. Twiss, John Kelsay, and Terry Coonan, Series Editors