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Interview with Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill

Shortly after the end of World War II, President Harry Truman accepted a proposal to send a delegation of American Protestant church representatives to Germany.1 The main purpose of the visit was to meet with German Protestant leaders and assess the situation of the churches in Germany. As the delegation explained in a statement upon their return to the United States, they wanted:

" ascertain the present status of the Churches in Germany; to discuss with Church leaders there, the matter of re-establishing relationships with the Churches in the United the latter [the German Churches] seek to rehabilitate the spiritual life of their nation; and to discuss problems of relief and reconstruction with the American occupation authorities and the leaders of the German Churches."2

The Living Church, a weekly periodical published by the Episcopal Church, covered the visit in several articles.3 An interview with Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill appeared on the front page in this December 30, 1945 issue. Sherrill shared his observations on the trip, often offering more candid commentary than was provided in the delegation's one-page official statement (which also appeared in the same issue).

The Bishop paints an optimistic picture of the churches in Germany, portraying them as essential in restoring morality, stability, and democracy to German society. Sherrill also voices sympathy for German civilians, citing their suffering as a result of bombing, lack of food and shelter, and forced migration following the war. Like his contemporaries—both in Europe and in North America—Oxnam did not identify the Holocaust as a tragedy that was distinct from the general destruction caused by World War II. He also remained sympathetic to the plight of civilians in occupied postwar Germany: "The fact that the Germans did similar or worse things to other peoples cannot justify this terrible procedure. It is heart-rending to see it and it is bound to breed hatred, for now and for the future. It is just plain inhumanity to man."

Accompanying the Sherrill interview, page four of the article features a photo of American Christian laypeople collecting clothing to be sent to Germany. The caption suggests that many Christians felt compelled to take part in collecting clothes for German civilians after hearing from Bishop Sherrill and his colleagues at the Federal Council of Churches.

The proposal came from the Federal Council of Churches (FCC). The delegation included Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam (Methodist Bishop of New York and president of the FCC), Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill (Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts and chairman of the General Commission on Army and Navy Chaplains), and Dr. Franklin Clark Fry (president of the United Lutheran Church in America and a member of the Department of Reconstruction and Inter-Church Aid of the World Council of Churches).

Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill, and Dr. Franklin Clark, "Statement of the Delegation to Germany Representing the Federal Council of Churches," The Living Church, no. 27, vol. CXI, December 30, 1945.

Back issues of The Living Church have been digitized and are available online.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
The Living Church, Vol. CXI, No. 27
External Website Living Church Archives
Date Created
December 30, 1945
Author / Creator
Elizabeth McCracken
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Document Type Newspaper Article
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