Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

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First International Congress for Pietist Studies in Halle

Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg's Interdisciplinary Center for    the Study of Pietism organized its First International Congress for Pietist    Studies in Halle, held in conjunction with the Francke Foundations of    Halle from August 28 to September 1, 2001.

The Center, located on the historical site of Pietism in Halle, was founded    in 1993 for the purpose of researching Pietism's structures, organizational    forms, its social and academic reforms, as well as its global influences and    international relations. The center also seeks to promote academic exchange and communication    among international scholars of Pietism. In keeping with these goals, the First    International Congress aimed to provide such scholars an opportunity to present    and discuss their recent work. The Congress covered not only Pietism itself,    but also its relationship to similiar theological, religious and social-historical    movements, such as Puritanism, Quietism, Jansenism, and the Nadere Reformatie,    as well as its effects on Awakenings and Neo-Pietism. Such interdisciplinary    cooperation promises to yield many new and fruitful insights and to promote    historiographic clarity in the study of Pietism and pietist movements.

The Congress was opened with an introductory lecture held on the evening of arrival.    In addition to this and to a number of other public lectures, presentations    and discussions were organized into the following seven thematic sections:

  • Pietism as a theological and religious movement
  • Pietism's relation to state and society
  • Pietism and the arts
  • Pietism in Education, Psychology and Medicine
  • Pietism's international relations
  • Pietism, mission and global exploration
  • Accessibility of Pietist source materials

1. Pietism as a theological and religious movement

The turn of the 17th to the 18th century in Europe was marked by a widespread    desire for reform in theology and religious practice. The activities and movements    arising from that desire are not always linked to confessional entities and    are frequently complex and convoluted. In addition to French Jansenism, Spanish    and Italian Quietism, and the Dutch Nadere Reformatie, such movements include    a wide variety of territorially and confessionally disparate Lutheran, Reformed    and Separatist Pietists in Germany, their precursors and concomitant groups.    No less convoluted are the vast array of historical currents emanating outward    both in space and time from those volatile beginnings, whether they involve    English Puritanism or even contemporary movements. Finally, much remains to    be learned about the many and multifaceted attempts by such groups to formulate    a distinctively pietist theology and to apply such to religious practice.

2. Pietism's relation to state and society

Different political, social and ecclesial conditions have yielded differing    versions of Pietism. Pietism has aligned itself with different social classes,    assumed a variety of societal forms and displayed a full spectrum of political    allegiances. Unlike the Quietists, most Pietists exhibit a marked desire to    engage in and influence political life. Their political and social interests    often begin with views on family life and childrearing, include educational    philosophies and their corresponding institutional realization, and extend to    the formation of distinct social groups involved in the highest levels of power    politics. One thinks, among other things, of Pietist's efforts to influence    church and school appointments and hiring practice, or, for example, of the    many expressions of Pietist social ministry, such as care for the poor, the    sick or for orphans.

3. Pietism and the art

To this day, Pietism has a reputation for treating the arts with suspicion,    if not outright rejection. Such assessments find fuel in Pietists' well documented    distaste for frivolity, entertainment and the sensual. The many treatises that    Pietists admittedly wrote in such a vein largely pertain to literary fiction    such as novels, romances, or those coupled with music, like operas and oratorios,    or even concertante church music. An interesting exception, though, is made    for the song, which combines music with poetry. Furthermore, Pietist influences    on the visual arts and architecture (e.g. orphanages, schools, Herrnhut settlements)    appear to reveal aesthetic sensibilities that call for reassessing Pietism's    relation to the arts. To do so in a more rigorous way would seem to pose an    interesting challenge to historians of art and architecture.

4. Pietism in Education, Psychology and Medicine

Under the banner "Changing the world by changing people" (Weltveränderung    durch Menschenveränderung), Pietists developed paedagogical,    psychological and medical conceptualities early on. They tended to ground these in a    specific view of humanity that took up various elements of diverging philosophical    and theological anthropologies and quite frequently sparked heated controversy.    Central to such views was the notion of a sinful human "heart" requiring renewal.    The heart, in this sense, serves as a metaphor for the physical and spiritual    totality of the human person. Paedagogues, psychologists and physicians joined    arms against this pathogenic evil, not infrequently causing pathologies of their    own through their draconian therapies and provoking melancholia, hypochondria    or hysteria in their "patients".

5. Pietism's international relations

Pietism showed a great interest in developing international relations. This    was certainly a consequence of its theological outlook, but also involved political    and economic motives. In order to implement their religious and social-political    programs, Pietists needed to establish a national and international network    of communication and information. That network utilized several media, including    letters, hand-delivered circular correspondence, as well as variety of literature    printed by the Pietists' own publishers and disseminated their own bookstores,    all aimed at consolidating a global religious community. In order to maximize    the influence of their teaching, Pietists translated key texts and particularly    the Bible into countless languages; conversely, they also translated foreign-language    texts into German. On a related note, this communication complex also involves    Pietist and anti-Pietist polemic.

6. Pietism, mission and global exploration

Pietists travelled voraciously. Their desire to promote their views and to    effect improvement on a global scale spured missionary excursions to the Americas,    Eurasia and Africa. Once there, they discovered foreign peoples, cultures and    languages which comprised, worlds of, at times startling independence and fascinating    richness, inspiring them to document their experiences in letters, travel descriptions    and diaries. They also assembled considerable ethnographic and natural-history    collections which in turn benefited scores of scientists and scholars in various    fields. Following in the missionaries' footsteps were ethnologists, linguists    and natural scientists, but also merchants and diplomats, all of whom were,    thanks to the Pietists' efforts, able to find access to previously unknown lands    and cultures. The fact that today there remain countless church communities    worldwide who, while culturally distinct, find their roots in Pietism, testifies    to the energy and scope of that missionary activity.

7. Accessibility of Pietist source materials

Making manuscript and other unpublished source materials available and accessible to scholars is essential to further research on Pietism. New scholarly editions of source material not only benefit those researchers and disciplines traditionally involved in the study of Pietism but also garner involvement of specialists in other disciplines, thereby furthering interdisciplinary exchange and facilitating new perspectives  on Pietism as a whole. This thematic section provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of editorial and bibliographical issues and projects, addressing new methodological approaches and ongoing or future research plans.

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