A Pastor Abroad in London

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Out of disappointment with his church’s merely tentative recognition of the inherent danger of the “Aryan Paragraph” for the confession of faith and its inability to resolve whether to split from the Reich Church dominated by German Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer took advantage of the opportunity to transfer to London as a pastor abroad at the end of 1933.

As he put it, his sense of his own isolation prompted him to go into the desert for a while. Together with his friend Franz Hildebrandt, who had followed him to London at short notice, he attempted to separate the German Protestant pastors living in England from the Reich Church.

With success: For the first time, the German Protestant pastors living in London withdrew their confidence the Reich Bishop by telegram on January 7, 1934. Pictured here is a copy from Bonhoeffer’s estate.

The renegade pastors promptly incurred a reprimand from Theodor Heckel, head of the Church Foreign Office of the German Evangelical Church in Berlin. Not even Heckel’s personal appearance on a visitation in London moved them to issue a basic declaration of loyalty. The group associated with Bonhoeffer left the room under Protest. The pastors’ vigorous protest to Heckel against the application of the “Aryan Paragraph” and their demand that no pastor in Germany who opposed the “Aryan Paragraph” be removed from office made a particular impression.

The German Evangelical congregations in England declared their formal affiliation with the Confessing Church in November 1934. Bonhoeffer immediately started negotiations on their affiliation in Berlin. At the same time, he attempted to persuade English representatives of ecumenism, most notably George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, to accept the Confessing Church as the full, indeed as sole body representing German Protestants.

Source / title

  • © bpk/Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, Handschriftenabt., Nachl. 299/Bonhoeffer, A41,2(3)

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