A Week in Church History: 23-29 July
Since I will be absent and not blogging during 23-28 July (as previously stated, I will be at the summer “peace camp” of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America) and will be busy blogging on peace camp when I return, I am posting these historical notes Sunday 22 July 2007.
23 July 1373 St. Birgitta of Sweden dies.
23 July 1742 Susanna Wesley, mother to Methodist founders John and Charles Wesley, dies.
24 July 1725 John Newton (1725-1807), former slave trader turned Anglican priest and, eventually, abolitionist, is born. Newton wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace. Unfortunately, the myth that it reflects his own journey to abolitionist views is false. Newton wrote that hymn while still involved in the slave trade.
25 July 325 Close of the Council of Nicea which gave Christianity the Nicene Creed (the 2nd most widespread confessional summary of orthodox Christian belief, right after the so-called “Apostle’s Creed”) and condemned the Arian movement (which denied the full divinity of Christ) as heretics.
25 July 1593, King Henry IV of France, raised Protestant, converts to Catholicism. For some time, this was seen as a political move, but most historians now view Henry’s conversion as genuine, pointing to his statement that “religion is not changed as easily as a shirt.” However, he continued to give protection to French Protestants, promulgating the Edict of Nantes in 1598 which granted French Protestants freedom of worship.
25 July 1918, Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), Baptist minister, church historian, and strongest theologian of the Social Gospel movement, dies. Though not without a few serious flaws in life and thought, he remains a personal hero and very large influence.
26 July 1833 Having previously (1807) abolished the slave trade, this day the British Parliament officially abolished slavery throughout the British empire. William Wilberforce is said to have cried, “Thank God I have lived to witness this day!” He died three days later. When the news reached British Baptist missionary to Jamaica William Knibb, a strong abolitionist, he gathered his congregation at the shore, threw chains in the water and cried, “The monster is dead!”
28 July 1148 Too weak to recapture Edessa from Muslims, the armies of the Second Crusade lay seige to Damascus. They are forced to retreat within five days, ending the Second Crusade. Western “Christendom” is shocked that a crusade preached by a mystic leader of the Church (Bernard of Clairveaux) and led by royalty (France’s King Louis VII and “the Germanies'” Emperor Conrad III) could fail. Unfortunately, the shock does not lead to a rejection of crusades and religious wars.
28 July 1727 Jonathan Edwards, Congregationalist preacher and theologian (sometimes called America’s greatest theologian), who is stiff and moody and painfully shy, marries Sarah Pierrepont, a lively, vivacious 17 year old. The marriage proves very happy and produces 11 children, 6 of whom were born on Sunday (a 7th missing this by an hour). This was a bit of a scandal since Colonial New England superstition said that the day of the week a child was born was identical to the day of the week said child was conceived–and Sunday was supposed to be strictly observed as a Sabbath. O, blessed day of rest–give many such! 🙂
28 July 1881 Conservative Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), intellectual leader of the U.S. Fundamentalist movement of the early 20th C., founder of Westminster Theological Seminary (as a breakaway from Princeton Theological Seminary, now perceived as “too liberal”) and of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is born.
29 July 1030 Olaf Harroldsson, the Viking King and patron saint of Norway dies on a battlefield. His conversion to Christianity slowly paved the way for the acceptance of Christianity and end of the worship of the Norse gods in Scandinavia. It is ironic that a warrior king is the patron saint for Norway, today one of the most peaceful and peacemaking nations on earth–and home of the Nobel Peace Prize.
29 July 1794 Richard Allen (1760-1831), a former slave who had been humiliated in a white dominated Methodist congregation, gathers a group of African American Christians in a converted blacksmith’s shop in Philadelphia. This is the founding of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the mother congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination.
29 July 1833 Death of British abolitionist William Wilberforce, three days after slavery was abolished throughout the British empire.
29 July 1912 Birth of Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), Baptist minister, New Testament scholar, radical pacifist and leader in opposing poverty, wealth, racial injustice, co-founder of Koinonia Farms (now Koinonia Partners), an interracial intentional community founded in Americus, Georgia in 1942(!), and author of the “Cotton Patch” paraphrases of the New Testament writings, in Talbotton, Georgia.
29 July 1968 Pope Paul VI, first post-Vatican II pope and usually seen as a progressive leader, nevertheless issues the encyclical Humanae Vitae which rejects almost all of the theological, pastoral, and scientific testimony the pope had asked for, and condemns all methods of artificial birth control and any form of sexual activity (even between married persons) which does not leave open the possibility pregnancy. Initially believed to be strange by every variety of Protestant, decades later this view is promoted by U.S. fundamentalist leaders like Al Mohler.
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