Today in Christian History

February 7

February 7, 1478: Thomas More, lord chancellor of England during the English Reformation, is born. Though he idealized freedom of religion in Utopia (1516), he supported the punishment of heretics and Protestants like Martin Luther and William Tyndale. He retired from office rather than acknowledge Henry VIII's divorce and was beheaded for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the church (see issue 16: William Tyndale).

February 7, 1817 (traditional date): Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland. After escaping to freedom, he became the most prominent of the black abolitionists and eventually became the first black to hold high political office, as consul-general to the Republic of Haiti (see issue 62: Bound For Canaan).

February 7, 1938: After years of being closely watched by Nazi secret police, Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller is put on trial. He was subsequently confined in a concentration camp, but he survived and went on to hold a leadership role in the World Council of Churches from 1948-1968 (see issue 32: Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

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July 24, 1725: John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace" and other hymns, is born in London. Converted to Christianity while working on a slave ship, he hoped as a Christian to restrain the worst excesses of the slave trade, "promoting the life of God in the soul" of both his crew and his African cargo. In 1764 he became an Anglican minister and each week wrote a hymn to be sung to a familiar tune. In 1787 Newton wrote Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade to help William Wilberforce's campaign to ...

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