Today in Church History
07 August 317 Birth of Constantius II, Son of Constantine “the Great” and Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. Under Constantius, pagan sacrifices were outlawed in the Roman empire. Constantius was a devout Arian (a heresy condemned at the Council of Nicea, which had been called by his father–it’s not clear whether Constantine ever understood the theological issues at Nicea or just backed the faction he thought could best help him unite the empire!). As a devout Arian, Constantius was a major foe of St. Athanasius, the tireless champion of Nicene orthodoxy during a time when it seemed that Arianism would become the dominant form of Christianity forever! (Politicians usually make lousy theologians, but they seldom realize this!)
07 August 1409 Close of the Council of Pisa. This Council had been called by cardinals and bishops to end the schism in Western Christianity (since 1378) which had two rival popes–one in Rome and one in Avignon, France! The Council of Pisa’s solution was to excommunicate both popes (as schismatics and heretics) and elect their own, Alexander V. This didn’t work–there were now three warring popes! But this situation was so intolerable to all of Western Europe that it led to the Council of Constance in 1417 which finally ended the schism and saw a return to one pope. (In official Catholic history there is only one “true” line of popes and the others are called “anti-popes.”)
07 August 1771 John Wesley’s call for volunteer Methodist missionaries to North America is answered by Francis Asbury, who becomes the “Father of American Methodism.”
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