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Christian History

Today in Christian History

March 2

March 2, 1415: At the Council of Constance, convened to end the Great Schism—during which three men had legitimate claims to the papacy—John XXIII (one of the men) abdicated. Ironically, John himself had convened the council the previous year convinced that he would emerge victorious. Now he feared for his life and fled the city in disguise. It didn't work: he was brought back, condemned, and deposed. The council eventually healed the schism. It also called for the execution of Bohemian reformer Jan Hus (see issue 68: Jan Hus).

March 2, 1791: Founder of Methodism John Wesley dies in London. Thanks to his organizational genius, we know exactly how many followers he had when he died: 71,668 British members, 294 preachers, 43,265 American members with 198 preachers and 19 missionaries. Today Methodists number about 30 million worldwide (see issue 2: John Wesley and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).

March 2, 1930: The Catholic Hour, one of the oldest religious radio programs, is inaugurated.

March 2, 1938: Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, one of the founders of Germany's "Confessing Church," is sentenced to seven months in prison for opposing Hitler. "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist," he said. "Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me" (see issue 32: Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

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May 20, 325: Emperor Constantine convenes the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (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 ...

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