|Assessment Report / Dpt of Church History|
RESEARCH ASSESSMENT OF THE FACULTY OF THEOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
On the proposal of the Scientific Board the Rector of the University of Helsinki appointed the following professors to be members of the research panel of the Faculty of Theology:
Professor Svend Andersen, Aarhus
Professor Jürgen Becker, Kiel
Professor Gustav Björkstrand, Åbo
Professor Hermann Michael Niemann, Rostock
The Research panel decided to give the chair to Professor Gustav Björkstrand.
The Faculty of Theology is a small faculty within the University, but one of the largest in the world in its field. It is the only Finnish-language Faculty of Theology in Finland, but there is a Swedish-language Faculty at Åbo Akademi University and a Department of Theology at the University of Joensuu.
The Faculty has about 1 800 students and over 70 teachers and researchers. The total personnel is 129. The number of postgraduate students it extremely high in almost all departments of the Faculty. In 1997, the Faculty produced 159 Masters Degrees and 16 Doctoral Degrees.
The Research Assessment
The research assessment is based basically on the selected bibliography compiled by each department and also on discussions during site visits to the departments of Biblical Studies, Church History, Systematic Theology, Practical Theology and Orthodoxy and East European Studies. In our discussions with the Departments we have touched upon themes such as:
- The choice of research subjects
- Important contributions to research
- Research funding
- Policy for publication
- Mobility of researchers
- Plans for future development
- Self-evaluation of strengths and weaknesses
The evaluation of each department contains a short description of the unit, qualitative evaluation of the publications and the research activities, rating with explanations of the reasons for the rating and some recommendations for the future.
The Department of Church History
The Department of Church History is a rather large institution with 14-19 researchers, among them three professors, three assistants and many highly qualified postdoctoral researchers. The department´s teaching personnel consists of 7 lecturers, many of whose main occupation is outside the department. During the assessment period, 8 doctoral theses have been approved.
The department studies Churches and religious movements as a part of history of humanity from Early Christianity until modern time. The department deals with two subjects: General Church History studies the global effect of Christianity, while Finnish and Scandinavian Church History concentrates on the ecclesiastical and religious development in Finland and other Nordic Countries. The subject divisions within the department are not strictly observed, and all three professors have studied themes of general as well as domestic church history.
In practice, the research has traditionally concentrated on e.g. the Reformation and the history of Christian missions. Research on Finnish and Nordic revivalistic movements has also been extensive. Lately the emphasis of research has clearly moved towards modern times. This is due to the fact that the department has got money from the Academy of Finland for two different projects in the area. The first one is called Religion and National Identity in Baltic and Eastern Europe (1995-1997) and it is continuing in Religion and Church during the Transition Period of National Identity in Baltic and Eastern Europe (1998-1999). It has already produced some monograhps on a good international level and there are dissertations in progress concerning Estonia, the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. The other project is titled The Significance of Religion and the Nationality Issue in Russia and the Soviet Union in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It has produced monographs about e.g. the Soviet policy on religion in the 1930`s and a doctoral thesis is upcoming on the Finnish parish of St. Mary in St. Petersburg in the years 1917-1938. The opening of the archives in Russia and the Baltic states has created new research opportunities in the domain of Church History and the department has, in an excellent way, been taking care of the new possibilites. A lot of high-class scientific articles have also been published.
Another important area in research has been done on the history of Reformation with several monographs on the developments in both Germany and Finland. These reports are published partly in Finnish, partly in German and are of a good international quality. To this group belongs to some extent an excellent doctoral thesis on Finnish Study abroad before the Foundation of the Royal Academy of Turku in 1640.
During the last decades the department has had a lot of cooperation with the other departments of Church History in the Scandinavian countries, especially in the field of Contemporary Church History. At the moment they are taking part in a joint Nordic project financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers (1997-2001) called Folk Church - National Identity, International Reorientation. The Transition in the Nordic Countries in Folk Church Tradition in the Period 1945-ca. 1960). The Department is also preplanning a research project on Churches and the Cold War, which could be of great international interest.
The research project ”Philosophia obscura” has three years of funding from the Academy of Finland and is concentrating on a Finnish folk movement known as Ostrobothnian mysticism. This project belongs to the ongoing studies of revivalist movements in Finland. In the future the problematics of the church-state relations, religious freedom and those of the interaction between church and politics will continue to form an important theme of research within the department.
If you look at the submitted list of main scientific publications 1994-1998 you can find that the Finnish language is rather dominant. There are about 13 monographs, three of them in English, one in German, one in Swedish and the others in Finnish language. Of the 22 articles, 15 are in Finnish and six in English. For the international research community it is important that the department has chosen English as the main language for the research projects on Soviet Union, Russia and the Baltic states. The results are so fare very impressive. Even if it is natural that studies about Finnish religious life is written in Finnish, it is of considerable value that there are research available also in other languages for the international audience. There is a clear development in this direction in the studies in progress.
It is not possible for one department to cover church history from the foundation of the church until the eve of the third millennium and in a worldwide perspective. The research themes are well chosen. There is originality, depth and breadth in ongoing research and the research themes chosen for the future are important. The department is cooperating with departments in Church history in e.g. Germany, the United Kingdom, North America, Russia, the Baltic States and with the Nordic Countries. There is interdisciplinary work being conducted with institutions in Finland and in Russia and the Baltic States especially in history but also in other fields. The education and training on young researchers is good and the department has a lot of young researchers involved in the activities. However, only a few of the monographs are published in international languages. Young researchers should be exhorted to go abroad to a greater extent. There are very good works in many fields, but the visibility in an international perspective could be higher. The department is in an excellent way, taking care of the research needs within the field of Finnish Church History.
The majority of the submitted works are at least at a good internationel level. There is also research at a high internationel level, but not enough to give a higher rating. The research activities are impressive and the education and training of young researchers is good. International languages could be used more in articles and publications.
Concluding remarks on the research activities within the Faculty of Theology
The research activities of the Faculty of Theology cover the whole range of theology. This is possible on account of the number of professors and postdoctoral researchers and especially the impressively high number of doctoral students in all areas. The supervision is well organised through the Graduate school and the higher seminars in all subjects. The quality of the research is of a high international standard in two of the departments and of a good international standard in the others. There could perhaps be more cooperation within the departments and at the level of the Faculty as a whole. This is important especially when plans for future research are discussed. The national and international contacts with other research centres are well established. The publication policy is internationally oriented with some exceptions. The overall impression of the research activities in the faculty is very convincing concerning both the depth and the bredth of research.