PFARRER* DIETRICH BONHOEFFER: A PASTOR TO PASTORS
Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt the call to Christian ministry when a teenager. While there were clergy in his family line, including a well-known theologian, his announcement of vocational choice did not meet with full parental—or even sibling—approval. The Bonhoeffer home was religion-friendly, but not particularly churched. Professor Karl Bonhoeffer, Dietrich’s father, was essentially an agnostic, and his mother, Paula, a God-fearing, but largely non-observant Protestant. Still, they eventually supported their son in his pursuit of the will of God for his life.
After achieving his theological degrees, Dietrich was ordained at age 25. He served congregations in Spain, England, and Germany, before he returned to his homeland to assume leadership of a break-away seminary opposed to the politicization of the Protestant churches in Germany. When Hitler’s Nazi government ordered the school to close, Dietrich continued its work underground.
When the threat of arrest and draconian punishment finally forced the seminary to disband, Dietrich kept up a vigorous correspondence with his aspiring preachers, many of whom had scattered throughout Germany, while others were conscripted and deliberately placed on the front lines of battle. His famous Christmas letter to his ministerial charges, “After Ten Years,” ** reads like a modern-day apostolic epistle.
If Dietrich Bonhoeffer was anything—and he was so many things to so many people—he was first a “pastor to pastors.” His seminal works, Discipleship (known for years as The Cost of Discipleship) and Life Together, were built on his work of forming future preachers. “Pastor Bonhoeffer,” as he was affectionately known by so many, has much to say to pastors today.
The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute is committed to presenting and examining the pastoral side of Bonhoeffer’s life and work, and using it as an aid to pastors today in their own, personal discipleship, and their formation of Christians under their pastoral care. On this page you’ll find suggested reading, online helps, and interviews with pastors who have benefited from Bonhoeffer’s pastoral legacy.
*The title for an ordained member of the clergy in the Germany of Bonhoeffer’s day was “Pfarrer,” or, “Minister.”
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