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The Current Week in 2015:
May 3, 1512: The Fifth Lateran Council, the last attempt at papal reform before the Lutheran revolt, opens in Rome.
May 3, 1675: A Massachusetts law goes into effect requiring church doors to be locked during services. Officials enacted the law because too many people were leaving before sermons were over.
May 3, 1738: English preacher George Whitefield, the most famous religious figure of the 1700s, arrives in America for his first of seven visits. In his lifetime, Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers (see issue 38: George Whitefield).
May 3, 1814: Thomas Coke, the first English bishop of the Methodist Church, dies. John Wesley sent him to oversee the American branch of Methodism in 1784; he later handed that responsibility to Francis Asbury (see issue 45: Camp Meetings and Circuit Riders, issue 2: John Wesley, and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).
May 3, 1861: The Southern Congress approves a bill installing chaplains in Confederate armies. The American military did not normally employ chaplains, but they became a permanent fixture during and after the Civil War. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Union soldiers and approximately 150,000 Confederate troops converted to christianity during wartime revivals (see issue 33: Christianity & the Civil War).
May 4, 1923: Sir W. Robertson Nicoll, editor of the British journal The Expositor (which included articles by many leading scholars) and of a 50-volume Expositor's Bible (published 1888-1905), dies.
May 4, 1493: In the bull "Inter caetera," Pope Alexander VI sets the boundary between Spanish and Portuguese lands in the New World.
May 5, 553: The Second Council of Constantinople convenes under the presidency of Eutychius, the city's new patriarch. The council, loaded with bishops from the Eastern church, attacked Nestorianism (a "heresy"—many have questioned that anathema—that overemphasizes Christ's dual nature as God and man). Nestorian Christians exist to this Day (see issue 51: Heresy in the Early Church).
May 5, 1525: Frederick III, the elector of Saxony also called "Frederick the Wise," dies. An avid collector of relics and a supporter of modern scholarship (he founded the University of Wittenberg), Frederick protected Martin Luther after the Diet of Worms condemned the reformer (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).
May 5, 1813: Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard is born in Copenhagen. The Danish philosopher believed no philosophical system could explain the human condition; the experience of reality was what mattered, not the "idea" of it. His most famous and his first book, Either/Or, sought in part to explain why he suddenly broke off his engagement.
May 5, 1816: The American Bible Society (ABS) organizes in New York to distribute the Bible throughout the world. The organization has distributed hundreds of millions of Bibles in thousands of languages worldwide.
May 5, 1925: Day ton, Tennessee, teacher John Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution in his classroom. (He volunteered to admit violating a recent statute prohibiting such teaching so that the law could be tested in court.) The resulting trial—the first "trial of the century"—led to public mockery of fundamentalist Christians, driving them into a more self-contained subculture (see issue 55: The Monkey Trial and the Rise of Fundamentalism).
May 6, 1527: An army of barbarians who had been sent—but were no longer controlled—by Emperor Charles V sacks Rome. Many Protestants interpreted the attack as a divine rebuke, and some Catholics agreed: "We who should have been the salt of the earth decayed until we were good for nothing," wrote Cardinal Cajetan, Luther's adversary. "Everyone is convinced that all this has happened as a judgment of God on the great tyranny and disorders of the papal court.
May 6, 1638: Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, who inspired a reform movement in the Roman Catholic Church, dies. Jansen opposed the teachings of the Jesuits and of Thomas Aquinas, urging the church to rediscover Augustine's doctrine of irresistible grace. For his views on grace and predestination, the church prohibited Jansen's teachings.
May 7, 1274: The Second Council of Lyons convenes with the goal of reunifying the Roman and Greek churches. Orthodox delegates agreed to recognize the papal claims and recite the Creed with the filioque clause, but the union was fiercely rejected by the majority of Orthodox clergy and laity fiercely rejected the union (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy)
May 7, 1605: Russian prelate Nikon, patriarch of Moscow and the head of the Russian church, is born in Valdemanovo. When he tried to reform the church in 1642, a schism erupted, and the church deposed and banished him (see issue 18: Christianity in Russia).
May 7, 1833: German pianist and composer Johannes Brahms is born in Hamburg. Intensely religious, he wrote many works for the church though one never officially employed him. He even compiled the biblical texts for his "German Requiem" himself.
May 7, 1839: Hymnwriter and pastor Elisha A. Hoffman is born in Pennsylvania. His songs include "I Must Tell Jesus," "Down at the Cross," "Are You Washed in the Blood?" and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.
May 8, 1373: English mystic Julian of Norwich receives 15 revelations (she received another the following Day ) in which she saw, among other things, the Trinity and the sufferings of Christ. She recorded her visions and her meditations on them 20 years later in her book The Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (see issue 30: Woman in the Medieval Church).
May 8, 1559: The Act of Uniformity receives Queen Elizabeth I's royal assent, reinstating the forms of worship Henry VIII had ordered and mandating the use of the Book of Common Prayer (1552).
May 8, 1603: The University of Leiden appoints Jacob Arminius, Dutch founder of an anti-Calvinist Reformed theology, professor of theology.
May 8, 1828: Henri Dunant, founder of the Red Cross and the Young Men's Christian Association, is born in Geneva. He won the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
May 8, 1845: The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest denominations in America, organizes inAugusta, Georgia.
May 8, 1895: Roman Catholic archbishop and broadcaster Fulton J. Sheen is born in El Paso, Illinois. With his ABC shows "Life is Worth Living" and the "Bishop Sheen Program," he became the most prominent American Catholic of broadcasting's golden era.
May 8, 1915: Henry McNeal Turner, the first black army chaplain in the United States, dies in Windsor, Ontario, embittered toward America for its racism. Many consider him to be the precursor of black theology for his statement, "God is a Negro.
May 9, 1760: Count Nicholaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, founder of the Moravian Brethren and a pioneer of ecumenism and mission work, dies in Herrnhut, Germany. By his death the Moravians (which themselves only numbered in the hundreds) had sent out 226 missionaries around the world (see issue 1: Nicolaus Zinzendorf and the Moravians).
May 9, 1983: Pope John Paul II reverses the Catholic Church's 1633 condemnation of Galileo Galilei's Copernican heliocentric theory of the universe.
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