From 1907 to 1925 he was a pastor (after 1915 in Berlin) and the following year he was appointed General Superintendent of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Prussia. When the Nazis came to power, Dibelius was dismissed from his post, but for the next twelve years he was a prominent figure in the Confessional Church, founded by his close associate, Pastor Niembller.
After the war he became Protestant Bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg (in the eastern zone), and from 1949 until 1961 he was Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. He was the first German to become in 1954 a President of the World Council of Churches. In 1960 he became persona non grata in the German Democratic Republic for disputing the right of the communist government.
Dibelius opposed the concept of the totalitarian State and its efforts to supplant Christian doctrine by neo-paganism or the Nazi ‘co-ordinated' German Christian movement.
In an open letter to the Nazi Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs, Hans Kerri , in 1937, Dibelius pointed out that when ‘the State seeks to become the Church and assume power over men's souls', then the Evangelical Church would be ‘bound by Luther's words to resist in God’s name'. In his conclusion. Dibelius did. however, display the parochial tendency of the church to ignore the monstrous crimes of the regime against non¬Christians, as long as its own institutional edifice was left untouched. ‘The church struggle', he observed, might be terminated in three months if only the State would cease to interfere with the freedom and independence of the church.' Dibelius was acquitted of treason by a special court and survived the war in spite of his known opposition to Nazism. Though he knew' from Kurt Gerstein the horrific details of the extermination of Jews at Belzec and other death camps in Poland, he did not publicly protest.
He was also consinced that communist government was to be considered an “Authority' (in the theological sense) for Christians, in a totalitarian order’, Dibelius declared, ‘there is no justice whatsoever as Christians understand it ... no justice at all.’