Today in Christian History

February 16

February 16, 1497: German scholar and reformer Philipp Melanchthon is born in Bretten, Baden. He and Luther were at times allies (he defended Luther against Johann van Eck and Emperor Charles V) and at other times enemies (Luther thrashed him for his views on the Sacrament, but apologized on his deathbed). Melanchthon's argument for justification by faith alone, known as theAugsburg Confession, is now the basic statement of Lutheran doctrine (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).

February 16, 1801: The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church receives its charter. Five years earlier, black members of New York City's John's Street Methodist Episcopal Zion Church left the church over racist limitations imposed on them. They had not been allowed to preach or vote until Bishop Francis Asbury allowed them to hold their own meetings apart from the John's Street church (see issue 62: Bound For Canaan).

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February 11, 1790: The Society of Friends (Quakers) presents a petition to Congress calling for the abolition of slavery.

February 11, 1858: Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant from Lourdes, France, experiences her first vision of the Virgin Mary. By July she had 18 similar visions.

February 11, 1929: The Lateran Treaty is signed by Mussolini and the Holy See, recognizing Vatican City as a sovereign state. At a mere 109 acres, it became the smallest nation in the world.

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