WHILE far-right author and broadcaster Eric Metaxas falsely invokes anti-Nazi theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (left) to “stop the steal” in the US, genuine Bonhoeffer scholars are calling for the immediate removal of Donald Trump from office.

The executive board of the International Bonhoeffer Society made a strong statement on 11th January, following the events of the storming of the Capitol and growing concern about the misuse of Bonhoeffer by Trump supporters – and the extraordinary decision of publishers Simon & Schuster to allow Metaxas to write a foreword to  a new edition of the classic ‘The Cost of Discipleship’.

Among the prominent signatories is the Rev Keith Clements, former General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches.

The full statement reads as follows:

In light of the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and Congress of the United States of America, fueled and facilitated by white supremacy, invigorated by false narratives about what was a free and fair election, and incited by President Trump himself, the Executive Board of the International Bonhoeffer Society – English Language Section calls for the immediate removal of Donald Trump from office by the invocation of the 25th Amendment or impeachment.

In February of 2017, the IBS-ELS Board of Directors expressed our grave concerns about the rise of hateful and divisive rhetoric, violence, and distrust that came in the wake of Donald Trump’s election (February 2017 Statement). In January of 2020, we leaned into Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s legacy to see the world from the perspective of those who suffer, and expressed our concerns about threats the Trump administration posed to the most vulnerable among us, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, immigrants, and the poor. We called for “ending Donald Trump’s presidency” (January 2020 Statement). In both statements, we offered theological and ethical insight from Bonhoeffer on discerning responsible actions in times of crisis. The threat posed to American democracy by this insurrection amplifies the need for immediate action.

On the day of the baptism of his godson, in May of 1944, Bonhoeffer speaks into a context much like our own, where the dominant church, consumed by the pursuit of its own power and preservation, has not only tolerated but supported authoritarian leadership. Bonhoeffer argues that given this troubling reality, Christians have lost their ability to proclaim a life-giving word to the world. Because “the words we used before must lose their power … we can be Christians today in only two ways, through prayer and in doing justice among human beings.” We call on Christians to band together with all persons of conscience and all institutions dedicated to truth and justice to fight for the preservation of democracy and seek justice for all human beings by holding accountable the leaders who have threatened American democratic foundations.

Jennifer M. McBride, President IBS-ELS
Lori Brandt Hale, Vice President IBS-ELS
Gaylon Barker, Treasurer IBS-ELS
John Matthews, Secretary IBS-ELS
Christian Collins Winn, Board Member
Michael DeJonge, Board Member
Stephen R. Haynes, Board Member
Matthew K. Jones, Board Member
David Krause, Board Member
Michael Mawson, Board Member
Keith Clements, Emeritus Board Member
Clifford J. Green, Emeritus Board Member
Barry Harvey, Emeritus Board Member
Michael Lukens, Emeritus Board Member

* Source: International Bonhoeffer Society.

Ekklesia has written to Simon & Schuster, asking it to withdraw the edition of ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ with the foreword by Metaxas, which we believe insults the memory of a great theologian and anti-fascist figure, and to use instead a reputable scholar or church figure to introduce a fresh edition.