Friday, January 2, 2015

Jürgen Diestelmann, R.I.P.

Pfarrer Jürgen Diestelmann
29 May 1928-29 December 2014


Within hours of his demise this past Monday, the electronic news service of the SELK announced the death of Pfarrer Jürgen Diestelmann, pastor emeritus of the famous Brüdern Sankt-Ulrici church in Braunschweig. Although on the roster of the VELKD (United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany), Diestelmann was strongly aligned with the orthodox wing of our German sister church, enjoying a special closeness to Bishop emeritus Jobst Schoene. He will surely rank as one of the last pastors to carry on Hermann Sasse’s protest against the EKD, the German union church of 1948, from within.

Diestelmann’s congregation, where he discharged his vicarage in the mid-1950s and later served as pastor from 1975 till his retirement in 1990, has long been a bright light amid the darkness of the German “Lutheran” territorial churches, noteworthy for its orthodoxy in doctrine and liturgical life. Diestelmann’s personal blog, which he updated even in the past month, offered an orthodox Lutheran perspective on the local and global scene, and also served as the website of the Brüderngemeinde: http://www.luther-in-bs.de/ . Diestelmann’s Brüdernrundbrief, whose last issue appeared in October of last year, was a much appreciated source of news and encouragement for orthodox Lutherans in Europe.

A faithful and energetic parish pastor with every ounce of his being, for more than half a century Diestelmann was highly active in academic research and publishing, focussing sharply on the sacramental doctrine and practice of Martin Luther and his faithful followers in the Reformation period. An 84-pp. book published by Diestelmann in 1960 on Luther’s understanding of the Consecration proved useful in my own doctoral researches more than thirty years ago. Diestelmann untiringly hammered home the doctrinal truth and liturgical-practical implications of the Reformer’s scriptural understanding of the Consecration, publishing a series of volumes culminating in a book issued in 2014 with a view to the impending Luther jubilee of 2017. Luther oder Melanchthon: Der Bruch einer historischen Freundschaft und die Folgen für die heutige Ökumene und das Reformationsgedenken 2017 (= Luther or Melanchthon: the break of an historic friendship and its consequences for contemporary worldwide Christendom and the Reformation commemoration of 2017) must head toward the top of my to-read list. I note from Diestelmann’s website that he recently received a courteous thank-you letter from Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger, to whom he sent a copy.

I last corresponded with Pfarrer Diestelmann in 2009, when he had me review for Logia his Usus und Actio: Das Heilige Abendmahl bei Luther und Melanchthon. A glance at this appraisal of his work will demonstrate how much we shall remain in Diestelmann’s debt: http://www.luther-in-bs.de/Rezension%20Stephenson.pdf

Diestelmann was co-editor of Einträchtig Lehren, the festschrift published in honour of Bishop Schoene in 1997.

Pfarrer Diestelmann leaves behind his widow, Leonore, four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

His funeral will take place in the Brüdernkirche on the festival of the Epiphany of our Lord, with interment following the next day.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

John R. Stephenson, PhD
Professor of Historical Theology
Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary
St. Catherines, Ontario


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