Die Zürcher Reformation in Europa: Beiträge der Tagung des Instituts für Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte 6.–8. Februar 2019 in Zürich

Here’s  a wonderful conference volume for a wonderful conference!

Im Januar 2019 jährte sich zum 500. Mal der Beginn der Zürcher Reformation und damit der Beginn des weltweiten reformierten Protestantismus als Konfessionskultur und als kulturprägende Kraft. Am Jubiläumskongress im Februar trafen sich die führenden Reformationsgeschichtlerinnen und Reformationsgeschichtler aus aller Welt in Zürich. Die Beiträge präsentieren und bündeln den aktuellen Forschungsstand zur Zürcher Reformation und eröffnen neue Perspektiven in historischer, wirkungsgeschichtlicher und theologischer Hinsicht. Das Hauptaugenmerk der Forschenden liegt dabei auf der Rolle der Zürcher Reformation in der europäischen Reformationsbewegung.

When we all gathered in Zurich for this international Conference I don’t think any of us knew how momentous it would be.  We certainly didn’t know that our dear friend and colleague W.P. Stephens would depart this life just a few months later.  Nor did we know that all of us would leave intellectually enriched beyond measure.

The papers were first made available to the public a few months after the meeting in a series of YouTube videos many of which you can see here.  Not every session was recorded, and not every session held has appeared in the print Conference volume.  For that to have happened, there would have needed to be 2 or 3 large volumes.  But a great many lectures are available by video or print for those who wish to see them.

The present volume is available at a remarkably low price (for the quality of the work) in print or freely, thanks to the good graces of the Institute, in PDF.

I am proud to have attended the conference, presented a paper there, and had more than my fair share of stimulating conversations with many many friends.  And I’m also proud to recommend this book.  Here’s why:

First, it is expertly edited by Ariane Albisser and Peter Opitz.  I cannot imagine the amount of work they devoted to corralling and encouraging all of the contributors and then carefully working through the Himalaya of material in order to present it as a coherent, well structured whole.

Second, because the selection of essays is so fairly representative of all of those presented.  That task in itself is herculean.

And third, because the essays themselves are so very stimulating and forward thinking.  These aren’t dry as dust glances into the past.  Rather, they are learned, wise, and insight-laced academic studies which provide readers with that one thing so hard to find in these troubled times: understanding.  The essayists understand their subject and they lead their readers to understanding as well.

There are papers here that were presented in English and there are papers here that were presented in German.  Those who can only use English will find more than enough to keep their minds occupied for many years to come; and the same is true of those who can only use German (though those folk are far fewer in number than the English only tribe).

The aim of the conference, and the aim of the volume at hand, is gracefully stated by the editors in their introduction:

Ziel des Zürcher Kongresses vom 6. bis 8. Februar 2019 war es, die gegenwärtige internationale Forschung zu bündeln und zu präsentieren. Dabei sollte die Zürcher Reformation aber nicht isoliert betrachtet, sondern auch ihre Rolle im Rahmen der europäischen Reformationsbewegungen in den Blick genommen werden.

Naturally attending such a gathering means having to choose from the several parallel sessions which also means not being able to attend all of them.  Picking and choosing is also most likely how readers of this work will proceed.  Personally, the following lectures were, to me, extremely valuable.  Others were noteworthy.  And all those I attended were worthwhile.  You, dear reader, will have your own sorts of listings as well.

  • From «Zwinglian» to «Swiss» Reformation. What’s in a name?, by Emidio Campi
  • Auf dem Weg zum Reformator, von Urs B. Leu
  • Zwingli and the Zurich Catechetical Tradition, by Daniël Timmerman
  • Comparing Zwingli’s and Calvin’s Calling as Prophets, by Jon Balserak
  • «Apostel Helvetiens», von Luca Baschera
  • Bullinger’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians and the Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, by Joe Mock
  • Feier der Eucharistie, von Peter Opitz
  • Friending Zwingli: The Formation of the Swiss/South German Correspondence Network, by Amy Nelson Burnett
  • Die Wechselbeziehungen Zürich-Niederlande 1591–1619, von Herman J. Selderhuis
  • «A Heroic Tragedy»: Huldrych Zwingli in the Hands of Anglo-American Writers of the Nineteenth Century, by Bruce Gordon

Reading through these essays brings back such wonderful memories of the finest conference I have yet attended; filled to the brim with excellence.  And they were presented by a veritable who’s who of Reformation scholars.  I think it’s fair to say that anyone (living) who was anyone in the field was at that meeting.

As a sample, this small tidbit from Bruce Gordon:

Let us leave the last words to the father of American church history, the Swiss Philip Schaff, who attended the festival when the Zwingli monument was unveiled in 1885 – which he comments was made by a Catholic in Vienna. The ambiguity among Protestants about Zwingli as hero or troubled figure for the legacy of the Reformation finds expression in Schaff’s judgement: «In him the reformer, the statesman and the patriot are one. He appealed to the examples of Joshua and Gideon but forgot the difference between the Old and New dispensation.»

Obtain a copy of this book.  Sit in on lectures that will change your perceptions of so many issues related to the history of the Swiss Reformation.

NB– It would be unusual to dedicate a book review to someone, but I wish to dedicate this review to my friend and colleague W.P. Stephens.  It was in Zurich in 2019 at this very meeting that Peter, Joe Mock, and myself finalized plans to complete Peter’s ‘The Theology of Heinrich Bullinger‘ which he had largely written but which remained unfinished and unedited, in the event of his untimely passing.  Joe and I were honored to do it.  And we were equally honored to join Peter for dinner with a few others one night.   Peter, you are well remembered and highly honored and esteemed, even now.  And will be always by those privileged to know you.