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The Current Week in 2015:

March 29

March 29, 1139: In the bull "Omne Datum Optimum," Pope Innocent II grants the Templars "every best gift" and makes them an independent unit within the church. Created to protect pilgrims from bandits in the Holy Land, the Templars rose in influence and wealth and eventually earned the jealousy of other Christians (see issue 40: The Crusades).




March 30

March 30, 1533: Thomas Cranmer is consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, England's highest religious post. Believing himself subject to the king, Henry VIII, he granted the monarch's annulment ending his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This touched off the English Reformation, and Cranmer became its chief architect. He is also known for writing the first Book of Common Prayer(see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).

March 30, 1820: The first Protestant missionaries arrive at the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii, and are welcomed by King Kamehameha II.

March 30, 1858: Episcopal minister Dudley Tyne, burdened for the salvation of husbands and fathers, speaks to a rally of 5,000 men in Philadelphia. "I would rather this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God's message," he said. Over 1,000 men were converted. Two weeks later, Tyne lost his right arm in a farming accident, and he died soon after. His last words, "Stand up for Jesus, father, and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus," inspired the hymn "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.




March 31

March 31, 1146: French monastic reformer and theologian Bernard of Clairvaux preaches for the Second Crusade at Vezelay, France. He urged his audience to "take the sign of the cross," and so many responded that he ran out of cloth crosses to pass out (he ended up tearing pieces from his own habit to stitch on the shirts of would-be crusaders). When the crusade proved to be a failure, people were shocked that a venture supported by such a powerful man of God could go wrong (see issue 40: The Crusades).

March 31, 1492: After the Inquisition failed to convert Spain's Jews, monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella sign an edict giving them three months to leave the country. An estimated 150,000 Jews fled, the last reportedly leaving August 2, the traditional anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temples. The next day, August 3, Christopher Columbus sailed for America.

March 31, 1596: French philosopher Rene Descartes is born. Though more famous for his saying, "Cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am), he followed that statement with a logical argument for the existence of God. In essence, he argued that the idea of God, a perfect being, could only be caused by that perfect God. Though fellow philosopher-mathematician-scientist Blaise Pascal (an avid Christian) considered Descartes a mere Deist, "letting [God] give a tap to set the world in motion," Descartes repeatedly wrote about his devotion to Roman Catholicism.

March 31, 1732: Franz Joseph Haydn, mentor to both Beethoven and Mozart, is born in Austria. His greatest contribution to church music is probably his 1798 oratorio The Creation.

March 31, 1816: Pioneer Methodist bishop Francis Asbury dies at age 71. During his 45-year ministry in America, he traveled on horseback or in carriage an estimated 300,000 miles, delivering some 16,500 sermons (see issue 45: Camp Meetings and Circuit Riders).

March 31, 1879: Father John Veniaminov, missionary to Alaska, dies. Known as St. Innocent of Alaska, Veniaminov pioneered Russian Orthodox church plants in the Alaskan islands, and located his archdiocese in Sitka.




April 1

April 1, 1548: Parliament orders the publication of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Though Thomas Cranmer is rightly credited with the final form of the BCP, he worked with a committee of scholars, including Reformer Martin Bucer, to shape his famous liturgy (see Issue 48: Thomas Cranmer

April 1, 1745: David Brainerd begins his missionary work among the Native Americans of New Jersey, having previously worked in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The New Jersey natives showed more interest than most, but Brainerd died of tuberculosis only two years into his work there. Still, his diary, published by Jonathan Edwards, became a major force in promoting missions work, inspiring missionaries like William Carey, Henry Martyn, and Thomas Coke (see issue 77: Jonathan Edwards).




April 2

April 2, 742: Charlemagne (Charles the Great) is born. When Pope Leo III crowned him "Emperor of the Romans" on Christmas Day, 800, Charlemagne announced, "Our task [as secular ruler] is externally, with God's help, to defend with our arms the holy Church of Christ against attacks by the heathen from any side and against devastation by the infidels and, internally, to strengthen the Church by the recognition of the Catholic faith." Indeed, within his kingdom he was far more influential in church affairs than the pope. Charles appointed and deposed bishops, directed a revision of the text of the Bible, instituted changes to the liturgy, set rules for life in the monasteries, and sent investigators to dismiss priests with insufficient learning or piety.

April 2, 1877: Fundamentalist Baptist evangelist Mordecai Ham is born in Allen County, Kentucky. At the end of his ministry, he claimed one million converts—including Billy Graham, who made a declaration of faith at a 1934 Ham meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).

April 2, 1914: Three hundred Pentecostals meet at the Grand Opera House in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a ten-day conference. Though originally intended merely to organize annual conferences, by its close, the conference had birthed the Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism's largest denomination (see issue 58: Pentecostalism).




April 3

April 3, 1593: George Herbert, one of England's greatest religious poets, is born in Montgomery Castle. After shocking the country by quitting his skyrocketing political life to become rector of rural Bremerton (a post he held for three years), "Holy Mr. Herbert" died of tuberculosis. But he gained great fame after his death for two posthumous books: The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations, and A Priest to the Temple, or the Country Parson.

April 3, 1897: German pianist and composer Johannes Brahms dies at age 63. Though not employed in a official ecclesiastic position, the devout Lutheran wrote extensively for the church. His German Requiem (1868) is considered by some to be the greatest major sacred choral work of his century.




April 4

April 4, 397: Ambrose of Milan, the most talented bishop of the early church, dies. Biblical exegete, political theorist, master of Latin eloquence, musician, and teacher, he brought Roman Emperor Theodosius I to his knees in repentance after the emperor ordered a masscare of his citizens (This marked the first time the state submitted to the church). But he is perhaps best known for teaching his most famous pupil,Augustine of Hippo (see issue 15:Augustine and issue 67:Augustine).

April 4, 636: Isidore, spanish scholar and archbishop of Seville dies. His most extensive and famous work was his Etymologiae (Etymologies), an extensive encyclopedia of early medieval knowledge that, unlike other such works, used liberal arts and secular learning as the foundation of Christian education. (Isidore did remark, however, that it would be better to be without the knowledge of heretics than to be misled by their comments.)

April 4, 1507: Martin Luther is ordained a priest in Erfurt, Germany (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).

April 4, 1541: Spanish ascetic and theologian Ignatius of Loyola is elected the first General of the Jesuit Order (or the Society of Jesus), which he had founded the previous year.

April 4, 1687: James II issues a Declaration of Indulgence allowing full liberty of worship in England. The government allowed Nonconformists to meet (though justices of the peace had to be notified), forgave penalties for ecclesiastical offenses and no longer required oaths of supremacy and allegiance for those in royal service. Thus the declaration severely threatened Anglican control of church and state.

April 4, 1742: Charles Wesley preaches his famous sermon, "Awake, thou that sleepest," to the University of Oxford. The sermon soon became Methodism's most popular tract (see issue 2: John Wesley, issue 69: The Wesleys and issue 31: Golden Age of Hymns).

April 4, 1968: Civil rights leader and Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.






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