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The Current Week in 2015:

November 29

November 29, 1898: Christian writer and scholar C.S. Lewis, one of modern Christianity's best-loved writers, is born in Belfast, Ireland (see issue 7: C.S. Lewis).

November 29, 1530: Thomas Wolsey, cardinal and Lord Chancellor to England's King Henry VIII, dies. Known as "a statesman rather than a churchman," Wolsey dismantled monasteries to fund Oxford University and devoted his life to king and country (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).

November 29, 1847: Missionary physician Marcus Whitman, his wife, and 12 others are killed by American Indians in Washington's Walla Walla valley. Whitman had recently returned from a 3,000-mile journey to convince the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions not to close down one of his three mission stations. He was successful, and returned with a fresh group of immigrants—and the measles virus. Many Indians died of the disease, some of them because Whitman gave them vaccinations. The Indians accused Whitman and other missionaries of black magic and murdered them (see issue 66: How the West Was Really Won).

November 29, 1223: Pope Honorius III formally confirms the "Regula bullata," which organizes the Franciscan Order. The Franciscans are marked by complete poverty and a mission of itinerant preaching (see issue 73: Thomas Aquinas).

November 29, 1780: The Congregational Church of Connecticut licenses Lemuel Hayes to preach, making him the first black minister certified by a predominantly white denomination. Hayes later became the first black minister to pastor a white church (see issue 62: Bound for Canaan).

November 29, 1950: The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States is founded in Cleveland, Ohio, by 27 Protestant and seven Eastern Orthodox denominations. It has been one of America's strongest religious voices for social justice.

November 30

November 30, 1554: Recently crowned Queen of England, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, restores Roman Catholicism to the country. Nearly 300 Protestants would be burned at the stake by "Bloody Mary," including Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley. Nearly 400 more died by imprisonment and starvation (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).

November 30, 1725: Martin Boehm is born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A Mennonite bishop, he was excluded from the Mennonite communion because of his liberal views and association with persons of other sects. He later joined with Philip W. Otterbein and others to form the United Brethren in Christ Church.

November 30, 1979: John Paul II attends an Eastern Orthodox service, the first pope in 1,000 years to do so (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy).

December 1

December 1, 1170: Banished earlier by king Henry II because he sided with the church against the crown, archbishop of Canterbury Thomas a Becket returns, electrifying all of England. Henry orders his former friend's execution, and Becket is slain by four knights while at vespers December 29. (T.S. Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral is a fascinating exploration of the event.)

December 1, 1521: Pope Leo X, enemy of Martin Luther (whom he excommunicated in 1520), dies. Though sincere in his faith and morally stronger than some other medieval popes, Leo squandered much of the papal fortune for his own pleasure (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).

December 1, 1917: Father Ed Flanagan founds Boys Town, a home for orphaned or delinquent children, in Omaha, Nebraska.

December 1, 1989: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II meet at the Vatican, announcing an agreement to reestablish diplomatic ties. Gorbachev also denounced 70 years of religious oppression in his country (see issue 18: Russian Christianity).

December 2

December 2, 1697: St Paul's Cathedral in London, designed by Christopher Wren, is dedicated. It replaced a medieval cathedral at the site that had burned in the Great Fire of 1666.

December 2, 1859: Militant messianic abolitionist John Brown is hanged at Charles Town, (West) Virginia, for his attack on Harper's Ferry. He was convinced that only violent action could end the horrors of slavery (see issue 33: Christianity and the Civil War).

December 2, 1980: Three American nuns and a lay churchwoman are killed by death squads in El Salvador. Some 70,000 Salvadorans are estimated to have died because of terrorists or civil war during the 1980s, including many Catholic clergy.

December 3

December 3, 1552: Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, one of the founding members of his order and one of the greatest missionaries ever, dies awaiting admission to China. Before that, he had converted 700,000 people in Portugal, India, Indonesia, Japan, and elsewhere.

December 3, 1833: Ohio's Oberlin College, the first coeducational college in the United States and one of the first to offer education to blacks, opens. Its unique character was formed as a result of the revival movement of Charles Finney, who later served as president of the school (see issue 20: Charles Finney).

December 3, 1846: Presbyterian widow Leslie Prentice leads a pro-life rally outside the home of New York City's foremost abortionist, Anna Lohman, a.k.a. Madame Restell.

December 4

December 4, 749: Greek Orthodox theologian and poet John of Damascus dies near Jerusalem. The last great doctor of the Greek church, he wrote comprehensively on the theology of Eastern Christianity and fought against those who wanted to rid the church of icons (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy and issue 74: Christians & Muslims)

December 4, 1093: Anselm, called "the founder of Scholasticism" and the greatest scholar betweenAugustine and Aquinas, is consecrated archbishop of Canterbury.

December 4, 1584: Colonial American preacher John Cotton is born in Derby, England. Sometimes called "the father of New England Congregationalism," he was colonial Massachusetts's most eminent minister. People regarded him so highly they "could hardly believe that God would suffer Mr. Cotton to err" (see issue 41: The American Puritans).

December 4, 1674: French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette erects a mission on Lake Michigan—the first building in what would become the city of Chicago.

December 4, 1930: In response to the Anglican Lambeth Conference, which cautiously approved birth control, Pope Pius XI issues the encyclical "Casti connubii." Though the document condemned any human effort depriving sex of "its natural power of procreating life," it tacitly legitimated the "rhythm method.

December 5

December 5, 220 (traditional date): Clement of Alexandria, the first early church theologian to show an extensive knowledge of pagan and Christian writings (in his refutations of pagan criticisms), dies.

December 5, 532: Sabas, a monk since childhood, dies at age 91, five days after returning from a diplomatic mission to Constantinople. Though his primary desire was always for solitude with God, he founded a monastery in Palestine, Mar Saba, that still stands today (see issue 64: Antony and the Desert Fathers).

December 5, 1484: Innocent VIII issues a papal bull giving two German inquisitors jurisdiction over witchcraft. He probably didn't mean for it to be a major change of policy, but the Germans used it to promote their book, Hammer of Witches. Its publication led to the (often-exaggerated) witch-hunting from the 1500s onward.

December 5, 1862: C.T. Studd, pioneer missionary, is born in England. Originally famous as a cricket star, he converted at age 21 under the preaching of D.L. Moody, and he dedicated his life and considerable inherited wealth to Christ. In 1885 he and six others, the "Cambridge Seven," sailed to Asia to serve with the China Inland Mission. He later ministered in India and Africa as well (see issue 52: Hudson Taylor).

December 5, 1933: Prohibition comes to an end as the twenty- first amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. The ban on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages had been fervently sought by fundamentalist Christians in the social reform movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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