Johann Christoph Arnold, Bruderhof leader and writer, dies

Johann Christoph Arnold and his wife, Verena. (Photo: Dan Barton)

Johann Christoph Arnold, senior Bruderhof pastor and author of books on conflict resolution, marriage and death anxiety, died today after a months-long battle with cancer, according to a letter from Bruderhof Elder Paul Winter on the group’s website. He was 77.

“He will be missed greatly by the members of the Bruderhof around the world and by the thousands whom he inspired to a way of selfless service and dedication to Jesus through his words and example,” wrote Winter.


Christoph was a pastor in the church community for 43 years, including the 18 years up to 2001 in which he led the Bruderhof as elder. Since then, according to elder Paul Winter, he carried on his ministry with his wife Verena, guiding and encouraging many.

An internationally known peacemaker and trusted advocate for children and family, Christoph authored a dozen books, with over two million copies in print in more than 20 languages. His peacemaking efforts – whether with the Breaking the Cycle program he founded, or in his role as chaplain for the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, brought him in contact with many.

In an interview coinciding with the release of his 2013 book on death and aging, Rich in Years, Arnold summed up life thusly: “We are all hiking on a trail towards a goal and we need to help one another. The more we help one another, the more it enables us to get to that goal. … This walk starts at our birth and ends at our death. … The value of our lives will be determined by how did I help my neighbor when he stumbled, when he was not able to continue. Did I reach out a hand and reassure that person that he was going to be OK?”

The Bruderhof are an international church founded  in Germany in 1940 by Johann Christoph’s grandfather, Eberhard Arnold with a strong presence in the mid-Hudson region, including in the Rondout, Rifton, Ulster Park, Walden, Chester and Elka Park.