Hildebrandt, Franz

German theologian, born in Berlin on 20 February 1909. He entered the Lutheran ministry in 1932, served as assistant to Martin Niemöller and was a close friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He joined the 'Confessing Church' which led the opposition to Hitler within the German Evangelical Church. After leaving Germany he became pastor of the refugee German Lutheran congregation in Cambridge and was transferred to the Methodist ministry in 1946. He was in the Cambridge Circuit 1946-1951 and at Nicolson Square, Edinburgh 1951-1953. In 1953 he went to Drew University, where he established himself as an authority on Wesleyan hymnology and the relationship between the Wesleyan and Lutheran traditions. His major works were From Luther to Wesley (1951), Christianity according to the Wesleys (1956) and I Offered Christ: a Protestant study of the Mass (1967); and he was an editor of the 1780 Collection of Hymns for the new edition of John Wesley's Works. He was a Methodist observer at Vatican II.

Back in Britain, he opposed the Majority Report in the Anglican-Methodist Conversations rather than appear to repudiate the ordination of his Lutheran friends Niemoeller and Bonhoeffer. He resigned from the ministry when he felt Methodism was abandoning its principles and worked with several Presbyterian congregations in Edinburgh. He died on 26 December 1985 after a severe stroke.

  • Methodist Recorder, 19 Dec. 1985, 18 Feb 1999, 26 February 2009
  • Frank Baker in Methodist History, July 1986
  • Amos Cresswell and Max Tow, Dr. Franz Hildebrandt, Mr Valiant-for-Truth (Leominster, 2000)


Entry written by: DJC
Category: Person
Comment on this entry