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The Current Week in 2015:

May 24

May 24, 1089 (traditional date): Archbishop of Canterbury, scholar, and church reformer Lanfranc dies. Known primarily for his development of the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the eucharistic bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, he also educated brilliant scholar Anselm and future pope Alexander II.

May 24, 1543: Polish astronomer and cleric Nicolas Copernicus dies in Poland. His heliocentric (sun-centered) concept of the solar system was radical, though not unheard of before his time. Still, some theologians strongly criticized the theory. The Roman Catholic church never ordained Copernicus, but he participated in a religious community at the cathedral of Frauenburg (see issue 76: Christian Face of the Scientific Revolution).

May 24, 1689: Parliament passes England's Toleration Act, granting freedom of worship to Dissenters (non-Anglican Protestants). but not to Catholics and atheists.

May 24, 1738: Father of Methodism John Wesley feels his "heart strangely warmed" when he hears a reading of the preface to Luther's commentary on Romans at London's Aldersgate Chapel (see issue 2: John Wesley and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).

May 24, 1844: Samuel Morse sends the first long-distance telegraph message: "What hath God wrought.

May 24, 1854: Presbyterians found the first black college in the United States: Pennsylvania's Lincoln University.

May 24, 1878: Harry Emerson Fosdick, popular champion of liberal Christianity and often called "the most influential interpreter of religion to his generation," is born.




May 25

May 25, 735: Bede ("The Venerable"), father of English history, dies. In addition to his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731), biographies of abbots, and Scripture commentaries, he wrote our primary source for the story of how Celtic and Roman Christianity clashed at the Synod of Whitby in 664 (see issue 60: How the Irish Were Saved and issue 72: How We Got Our History).

May 25, 1535: After holding Munster under siege for over a year, the army of the city's Roman Catholic bishop breaks in, capturing and killing the radical Anabaptists who had taken control. The Anabaptists had acted on the prophecy of Melchoir Hoffman (later modified by Jan Matthys) that Christ would soon return, and only Christians in Munster would survive. During the siege, Matthys and his followers became increasingly despotic and maniacal, enjoying excesses while the people starved and introducing wild innovations such as polygamy (see issue 61: The End of the World).

May 25, 1824: The SunDay and Adult SunDay School Union in Philadelphia establishes the American SunDay School Union. It purposed to use SunDay schools as a means to instill Christian and democratic values "wherever there is a population." In 1970 it changed its name to the American Missionary Society.

May 25, 1865: Evangelist and ecumenist John R. Mott is born in New York. He served 40 years with the Y.M.C.A. (while that organization was still aggressively evangelistic), chaired the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, and was named honorary president of the World Council of Churches at its inaugural session (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).




May 26

May 26, 1521: The Edict of Worms formally condemns Martin Luther's teachings , and he is put under the ban of the Holy Roman Emperor. Those who fear for his life then kidnap Luther and hide him in Fredericks Wartbury castle (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).

May 26, 1232: Pope Gregory IX sends the first Inquisition team to Aragon, Spain.

May 26, 1647: Massachusetts enacts a law forbidding any Jesuit or Roman Catholic priest from entering Puritan jurisdictions. Second-time offenders could face execution.

May 26, 1664: Increase Mather becomes minister of Boston's Second Church, a position he held until his death 59 years later. He became one of the leading clergymen in the colonies (see issue 41: The American Puritans).

May 26, 1700: Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, founder of the Moravian church and a pioneer of ecumenism and mission work, is born in Dresden, Germany (see issue 1: Nicolaus Zinzendorf).

May 26, 1926: Church of the Foursquare Gospel founder Sister Aimee Semple McPherson disappears from a California beach. Her mother announced that Aimee must have drowned, telling the Angelus Temple congregation, "Sister is gone." However, three Day s after an elaborate memorial service on June 20, Sister reappeared in Arizona, saying she had been kidnapped. (Rumors circulated that she had eloped for a romantic tryst.) Her support base remained strong, but media coverage turned negative, and her image never fully recovered (see issue 58: The Rise of Pentecostalism).




May 27

May 27, 1564: John Calvin, French Protestant Reformer, dies. He kept writing and ministering to the Christians in Geneva nearly up to his death, telling his worried friends, "What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?" (see issue 12: John Calvin).




May 28

May 28, 1533: English reformer Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, declares King Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn valid, having earlier approved the king's divorce of Catherine of Aragon (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).

May 28, 1841: Edwin Moody dies, leaving his wife to raise 4-year-old Dwight Lyman and eight other children. D.L. Moody went on to become the leading American evangelist of his generation (see issue 25: D.L. Moody).

May 28, 1954: President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a bill adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.




May 29

May 29, 1453: Constantinople, capital of Eastern Christianity since Constantine founded it in 324, falls to the Turks under Muhammad II, ending the Byzantine Empire. Muslims rename the city Istanbul and turn its lavish cathedral, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque (see issue 74: Christians & Muslims).

May 29, 1546: In retaliation for the execution of Reformation preacher George Wishart, Scottish Protestants murder Cardinal David Beaton in St. Andrews. John Knox, who was not part of the assassination plot, went on to lead the Scottish Reformation (see issue 46: John Knox).

May 29, 1660: England's King Charles II triumphantly enters London, marking the full restoration of the monarchy. Though he promised religious liberty, he cracked down on Dissenters (including John Bunyan) following a 1661 attempt by religous fanatics to overthrow him (see issue 11: John Bunyan).

May 29, 1874: English essayist, poet, and writer G.K. Chesterton is born in London. The 400-pound man was occasionally absent-minded, but brilliant. He loved paradoxes, which he called "supreme assertions of truth," and used them often in his writing. Poet T.S. Eliot credited him with doing "more than any man in his time … to maintain the existence of the [Christian] minority in the modern world." Chesterton converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922 (see issue 75: G.K. Chesterton).

May 29, 1967: Pope Paul VI names 27 new cardinals, including then-archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla, later to be Pope John Paul II (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).




May 30

May 30, 339: Eusebius dies at age 74. Author of the 10-volume Ecclesiastical History, he is called the father of church history. In his Day , though, he was as much a maker of history as a recorder. At the Council of Nicea, he argued for peace between the heretical Arians and Orthodox leaders like Athanasius. When Arianism became hugely popular after the Council, Eusebius was one of the people to depose Athanasius. Though he wasn't an Arian himself, he strongly opposed anti-Arianism (see issue 72: How We Got Our History).

May 30, 1416: Jerome of Prague burns at the stake for heresy. When the Council of Constance arrested and tried his fellow Bohemian reformer Jan Hus, Jerome went to defend him, sealing his own fate (see issue 68: Jan Hus).

May 30, 1431: French mystic and revolutionary Joan of Arc burns at the stake for heresy. Her last words were, "Jesus, Jesus" (see issue 30: Women in the Medieval Church).

May 30, 1672: The governor of Rhode Island cordially entertains Quaker founder George Fox. "Most of the pupils had never heard of Friends before," Fox said, "but they were mightily affected with the meeting, and there is a great desire amongst them after the Truth.

May 30, 1822: A slave betrays the plans of African Methodist (and former slave) Denmark Vesey to stage a massive slave uprising on July 14. Of the 131 African Americans arrested in the plot, 35 were executed (including Vesey) and 43 were deported. Vesey's Charleston, South Carolina, church was closed until 1865 (see issue 62: Bound for Canaan).

May 30, 1934: The first synod of the Confessing Church at Barmen ends. Influenced by Karl Barth, the synod resisted the teachings of the Nazi German Christians (see issue 32: Dietrich Bonhoeffer).






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