Book: The Holy in a Pluralistic World
Chapter: 3. Religious League of Humanity and Universal Protestant Senate: Rudolf Otto’s Interreligious Critique of Nathan Söderblom and the Ecumenical Movement
A key development in early 20th century Protestantism was the ecumenical movement, combining missionary impulses, a striving for international peace, and interdenominational efforts towards social justice and welfare. Otto reflected on the ecumenical movement’s reach and structure especially in his correspondence with the Swedish archbishop Nathan Söderblom, one of its early, towering figures. Because of the interreligious encounters during his first world journey, Otto considered the ecumenical movement too limited and exclusive. In response, he created the Religious League of Humanity, an interreligious organization that was meant to morally complement the sprouting League of Nations. And he suggested a unique approach that Protestantism, Anglicanism, and Eastern-Orthodoxy ought to be three distinct pillars of the movement’s foundation. Otto intended to collaborate with Söderblom, but in the end failed in his overtures to the Swedish archbishop who neither shared Otto’s approach nor imagination.