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The Current Week in 2015:

August 30

August 30, 1856: The Methodist Episcopal Church founds Wilberforce College in western Ohio. It was the second American institution of higher learning established for black students (Ashmun Institute in Pennsylvania, founded two years earlier, was the first).

August 31

August 31, 1535: Pope Paul II excommunicates English King Henry VIII, who had been declared by an earlier pope as "Most Christian King" and "Defender of the Faith" (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).

August 31, 1688: English Puritan writer and preacher John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, dies at age 69. Though one of England's most famous authors even in his own day, he maintained his pastoral duties to his death, which was caused by a cold he caught while riding through the rain to reconcile a father and son (see issue 11: John Bunyan).

September 1

September 1, 256: North African bishops vote unanimously that Christians who had lapsed under persecution must be rebaptized upon reentering the church. The vote led to a battle between Cyprian, one of the North African bishops, and Stephen, bishop of Rome, who disagreed with the vote. Cyprian yielded, precipitating a longstanding argument for the Roman bishop's supremacy in the early church (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).

September 1, 1159: Adrian (or Hadrian) IV, the only English pope in history, dies.

September 1, 1836: Missionaries Marcus Whitman and H.H. Spalding and their wives reach what is now Walla Walla, Washington. The first white settlers in the Pacific Northwest, Whitman, his wife, and 12 others were killed at their mission by Native Americans in 1847. News of their massacre was largely responsible for Congress's organizing the Oregon Territory in 1848 (see issue 66: How the West Was Really Won).

September 1, 1957: At a massive rally in Times Square, Billy Graham concludes his 16-week evangelistic crusade in New York City, attended by nearly 2 million people (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).

September 2

September 2, 459 (traditional date): After spending 36 years on top of a pillar praying, fasting, and occasionally preaching, Simeon Stylites dies. At first he sat on a nine-foot pillar, but he gradually replaced it with higher and higher ones; the last was more than 50 feet tall. After his death, the Syrian ascetic—who had won the respect of both pope and emperor—inspired many imitators (see issue 64: Antony and the Desert Fathers).

September 2, 1192: The Third Crusade, which had the mission of retaking Jerusalem (it had fallen to Muslim general Saladin in 1187), ends with the signing of a treaty. Though Christians had not won back Jerusalem, Richard I (later king of England) negotiated access to the holy city (see issue 40: The Crusades).

September 2, 1784: John Wesley consecrates Thomas Coke as the first "bishop" of the Methodist church by John Wesley. An indefatigable itinerant minister, Coke crossed the Atlantic 18 times, all at his own expense (see issue 2: John Wesley and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).

September 2, 1973: Scholar, novelist, and devout Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), dies at age 81 (see issue 7: C.S. Lewis; issue 78: J. R. R. Tolkien).

September 3

September 3, 590: Gregory I ("the Great") is consecrated pope. Historians remember him as the father of the medieval papacy and last of four Latin "Doctors of the Church." He was the first pope to aspire to secular power, the man for whom Gregorian Chant is named, and one of the main organizers of Roman liturgy and its music. He was also one of the prime promoters of monasticism.

September 3, 1752: This day and the next 10 never happen in Great Britain as the kingdom adopts the Gregorian Calendar (developed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582) to replace the inaccurate calendar created by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Riots break out as Brits argue the government just stole 11 days from their lives.

September 3, 1894: American neo-orthodox theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, professor at Yale University and author of Christ and Culture (1951), is born.

September 4

September 4, 1736: Robert Raikes, an English newspaper editor who founded Sunday schools (which met from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to educate poor children, is born in Gloucester (see issue 53: William Wilberforce).

September 4, 1842: After a 284-year hiatus, construction of the Cologne Cathedral continues. And you thought road crews took long breaks!

September 4, 1965: Albert Schweitzer, German theologian, organist, and medical missionary, dies in what is now Gabon. He wrote The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1910) received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

September 5

September 5, 1888: Sensational preacher Billy Sunday marries Helen Amelia Thompson, who became his evangelistic campaign adviser. Her organizational talents helped raise him to national prominence.

September 5, 1997: Mother Teresa, winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Missionaries of Charity (now with 517 missions worldwide) dies in Calcutta, India (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).

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