A bell from the Second Vatican Council has been given to the Divinity School by Tom Cushman, son of Robert Earl Cushman, former dean of Duke Divinity School and professor of systematic theology (1958-1971). In 1964, Dean Cushman served as the official Methodist observer at the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). The cast bronze bell, which features the symbols of the Four Evangelists cast in deep relief, was created by the Vatican and given by Pope John XXIII to each of the Council observers as recognition of their presence. An ordained Methodist minister, Dean Cushman was actively involved in ecumenical affairs, serving as a delegate at the World Conference on Faith and Order in 1952 and 1963. During his tenure as dean, Cushman was committed to building a Roman Catholic faculty at the Divinity School and was also at the forefront of efforts to bring racial desegregation to Duke.
The bell is being displayed in the Divinity School Library. Geoffrey Wainwright, Robert Earl Cushman Professor Emeritus of Christian Theology, has also contributed some of his personal items from Vatican II for exhibit. Along with the photograph of him and Pope Paul VI, Wainwright has loaned the Divinity School Library two prints, Pontifical Garden, at the Quirinale and Papal Residence of Pope Julius III.
Dean Richard Hays accepted the gift of the bell, noting, “This bell symbolizes the theological and intellectual heritage that Robert Cushman bequeathed to Duke Divinity School. His ecumenical vision has significantly shaped the direction of our community in subsequent decades. We’re delighted to have this important item here on campus as a tribute to Dean Cushman and a reminder of our distinctive commitment to embodying a faith, shaped by the Wesleyan tradition, that is simultaneously evangelical and catholic.”