Nolde legacy to be celebrated at seminary by human rights expert David Little

< Faculty Publications | PS Portions home page |

Imagine being dean of a seminary graduate school and at the same time working to frame the religious freedom article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), serving as a diplomat to help facilitate peace talks to end the Korean War (1953), or working behind the scenes on Paris Peace Talks negotiations to end the Vietnam Conflict (1968).

That is a legacy The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) has inherited from the late Dr. O. Frederick Nolde, a 1923 LTSP alumnus, and both professor of Religious Education at LTSP (1943-62) and Graduate School Dean. Nolde, a resident of Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, played a key role in establishing the World Council of Churches, was founding director of the Council’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1966), and worked closely with U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, United Nations General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold and Eleanor Roosevelt on international concerns of the day.

Dr. David Little

His legacy today is carried on by the Nolde family in underwriting opportunities for seminarians to engage in field work at the United Nations. The seminary community and the public will have a special opportunity to re-engage with Nolde’s historic contributions on Tuesday, October 1 at LTSP when the Nolde Lecture is delivered by Nolde admirer Dr. David Little, whose academic and professional career has focused on the same interests Nolde had -- human rights and peace-building . The title of Little’s lecture will be “The Legacy of Ecumenical Protestantism: Nolde’s Contribution.” Little will describe the efforts of Nolde and his fellow Protestants, working in the post-World War II period, to overcome religious, economic, racial, and political divisions, both at home and abroad. He will suggest some of the lasting effects of those efforts despite the precipitous numerical decline, in the 1960s, of the movement with which Nolde was associated. (in the photo: Dr. Little doing research using the Nolde collection in the Archives at LTSP)

Little served from 1989-99 as senior scholar in religion, ethics and human rights for the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, DC, where he now resides. From 1999 to 2009 he was the T. J. Dermot Dunphy Professor at the Harvard Divinity School, focusing on the practice of religion in the areas of Ethnicity and International Conflict. At the time he was also a Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, and taught at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

“Fred Nolde was an exemplar of the ecumenical spirit that was riding high in our culture from the late 1940s to the 1960s,” Little noted in a recent Washington, DC, interview for the seminary about Nolde’s legacy . The interview will be part of the 150th LTSP anniversary web-based history, to debut in 2014. “He represented so well intellectually and practically the bridge-building spirit both in and outside of the church that was happening at that time. There was a readiness in the culture of that day for Protestant theology to have an important influence in secular political life. But it was also the man who made the difference. Fred Nolde was high energy, with gifts of intellect and memory for the events he was a part of. He could engage people easily, without notes.”

Little’s remarks will take place at 11:30 on Tuesday, October 1 at Thhe Brossman Learning Center on the LTSP campus, 7301 Germantown Avenue in the Mt. Airy setion of Philadelphia, followed by observations of seminarians who have taken part in field work underwritten by the Nolde family.

Excerpts from the interview with Dr. Little: