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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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 ...

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