A world Christian leader and past co-president (1954–1961) of the World Council of Churches, Dr. Otto Dibelius at 83 remains—for lack of a successor acceptable to both East and West—the Bishop of the Protestant United Church of Berlin, the city of his birth. As stated by Time magazine’s Henry R. Luce, Dr. Dibelius “has kept the flame of Christian hope alive for his people under two tyrannies, Nazism and Communism.”
Born in an era swept by Protestant liberalism, Bishop Dibelius’ ministry has spanned beyond two world wars to the division of his homeland. When the German government in 1933 dismissed him from his church post he became a leader of the “Confessing Church,” which opposed the Nazi-dominated church government. Then came the partition of Berlin and the hoisting of the hammer and sickle over the Brandenburg Gate. Bishop Dibelius not only deplored the totalitarian tyrants but also called the Church to renewal as the only means of hope for the future. He sees at stake in the fate of Berlin more than the outcome of the struggle between world powers; he sees at stake also the spiritual fate of humanity in our times. Communist absolutism he interprets as the extension of Nazi-Fascist totalitarianism.
Interviewed by special arrangement in the Washington offices of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Bishop Dibelius was accompanied by Dr. J. W. Winterhager of Berlin Ecumenical Seminary.
Q. Bishop Dibelius, what is the religious situation in East Germany? What of the vitality of the churches? Are the Christians able to reproduce themselves? What about the young people in the churches? Is the picture depressing or are there encouraging elements?
A. I can’t say that the overall impression is encouraging. The Communistic, atheistic attack directs ...1
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