Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Week In History

August 3, 1492: Christopher Columbus sets sail from Spain for the "Indies." Though the explorer was in part driven by a quest for gold and glory, he also saw himself as a missionary. He thought, if there were a shortcut to the East by sea, missionaries could be sent there faster, thus enabling Christians to meet the provision for world evangelization before the Lord could return.

August 4, 1792: By order of revolutionaries, all houses of worship close in France.

August 4, 1892: English medical missionary Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell arrives in Labrador, Newfoundland. He labored as a physician and missionary for 42 years and was instrumental in building orphanages, hospitals, cooperative stores, and other community organizations. [What? A missionary could be a physician/scientist? He could actually perform demonstrable acts of good? That certainly doesn't fit the contemporary secular narrative, does it? -Ed.]

August 5, 642: Oswald, the king of Northumbria who first began the official establishment of Christianity in England, is "martyred" in battle against the pagan Penda of Mercia. Converted at Iona, Scotland, Oswald erected a wooden cross before one of his earliest battles and commanded his soldiers to pray. When he defeated the English king in that battle, Oswald commissioned the Irish monk Aidan to begin establishing Christianity.

August 5, 1570: Spanish Jesuits, intent on converting the Native Americans [that's what non-aboriginal Americans call American Indians], arrive in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. Six months later, the Indians massacred the group, and the Jesuits ended their work in the region. [The Jesuits' tactics for conversion were less intellectual than their reputation would suggest. Their attitude towards Indian women, for example, was found distasteful by the aboriginals. -Ed.]

August 5, 1604: John Eliot, the "Apostle to American Indians," is baptized. He succeeded in converting over 3,600 Aboriginal-Americans, publishing the Bay Psalm Book (the first book printed in America), and forming the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. [The SPG was the Church of England in the colonies, of which Christ Church's congregation would be a part. -Ed.]

August 5, 1656: Eight Quakers from England arrive in Boston, where Puritans [forerunners of today's Congregationalists] of the Massachusetts Bay Colony immediately imprisoned them without trial. They were held until the ships that brought them were ready to take them back to England. [Apparently, the Congos thought one could never be too sure about the Quakers. They might pray without Puritan permission or something. -Ed.]

August 6, 258: Emperor Valerian executes Bishop of Rome Sixtus II, who was preaching a sermon in a cemetery. The emperor originally tolerated Christians, but switched to persecuting them because he believed they were responsible for the plagues, earthquakes, and other disasters that disturbed his reign.

August 6, 1221: Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (or Dominicans), dies. He left this "inheritance" to his followers: "Have charity among you, hold to humility, possess voluntary poverty." A mere five years earlier, he had six followers. At his death, he had thousands.

August 6, 1801: Revival hits a Presbyterian camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky. Within a week, 25,000 were attending the revival services. It was the largest and most famous camp meeting of the Second Great Awakening.

August 7, 317: Constantius II, Son of Constantine the Great and Roman emperor from 337 to 361, is born. During his lifetime, he outlawed pagan sacrifice. But Constantius was also a devout Arian (a heresy his father had condemned at the Council of Nicea) and strongly opposed Athanasius.

August 7, 1409: The Council of Pisa, convened by the cardinals to end the Great Schism that had divided Western Christendom since 1378, closes. The council deposed both warring popes as schismatics and heretics, and elected Alexander V. It didn't end the schism (as there were now three warring popes), but it paved the way toward a solution at the Council of Constance in 1417. [Typical of committee work: they try to turn two popes into one and wind up creating three. This is the moment when the idea of Protestantism began to take hold. After all, anything would be better than this nonsense. -Ed.]

August 7, 1771: Francis Asbury answers the call of the Church of England's John Wesley for volunteers to go to America as missionaries; Asbury would become the father of American Methodism.