Tribute to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Bishop George Bell on 3 October 2008

Article excerpt

Bishop Wolfgang Huber, chairperson of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany 3 October 2008

The Evangelical Church in Germany remembers with gratitude Bishop George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester.

This great ecumenist, a friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and ambassador of reconciliation, died fifty years ago. His commitment to peace, his readiness to make a new beginning and his unshakeable friendship with Christians in Germany, even at the darkest of times, deserve respect and gratitude.

"In the history of the German church, your work will never be forgotten," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1937 to his fatherly friend who was 23 years older than him.

That was not something that was easy to say at the time, but there was a good reason for this statement. Few other church leaders outside Germany had followed the fate of churches and Christians in Germany since the beginning of the 1920s so intensively, sympathetically and yet critically as George Bell. He was a fighter for peace and for the truth, and never shied away from using the authority of his office and person to uphold his convictions, even in the political arena. He always heeded the fact that the church is not there for itself but to bring the message of reconciliation into the social and political arena.

He helped the victims of the Hitler regime who had fled from Germany to England and provided them with opportunities to find employment. The "Christian Fellowship in Wartime" was founded at his initiative.

Bell regularly published articles in "The Times" about the political and church situation in Germany; from 1933 onwards he was well informed through Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and later through Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law Gerhard Leibholz, who because of his Jewish background had sought refuge in England.

Particularly as chairperson of the Life and Work movement, Bell supported the Confessing Church and campaigned for it to obtain the recognition of the ecumenical movement.

George Bell resolutely condemned the carpet bombing of German cities as being strategically pointless, and above all for bringing suffering and death to innocent people.

In him the German resistance found a courageous supporter. At a secret meeting in Sweden in 1941 Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave him the request of the German resistance for support from the British government.

Bell's advocacy for the "other Germany", especially in the House of Lords, earned him much criticism in the church and public opinion of his country. …