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, 1818 (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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May 20, 325: Emperor Constantine convenes the first Ecumenical Council in Nicea (now Iznik), Bithynia, to discuss Arianism, a heresy arguing that Christ was subordinate to God the Father. "I entreat you," Constantine said at the opening of the Council of Nicea, "to remove the causes of dissension among you and to establish peace." The council attempted to resolve the bitter conflict by anathematizing Arius (Arianism's founder) and ordering the burning of all his books, but the conflict continued ...

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