History of the Schwenckfelders

A.) Kaspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (1489-1561)

Born into a family of (Catholic) Silesian nobles, he entered a diplomatic career which ended when his hearing deteriorated. He was keenly interested in Luther's writings and learned to read Greek and Hebrew. While Schwenckfeld agreed with Luther on many points, he disagreed with him over the topic of communion. In 1526 Schwenckfeld stated that he could not attend the Lutheran communion, an event, referred to as STILLSTAND (standstill). Silesia converted to Lutheranism; King FERDINAND of Bohemia ordered Schwenckfeld, because of his stubborn resistance against the eucharist, banned from Silesia. Schwenckfeld went into exile and published theological treatises outlining his view.

B.) The Emergence of a Schwenckfelder Community

Schwenckfeld established an incomplete reform(ation); his interpretation rejected the Lutheran view of the eucharist, but failed to establish a formal church organization for his followers, nor a catechism respective church ordinnance containing a Schwenckfelder canon of beliefs.
The Schwenckfelders attended Catholic or Lutheran religious services, until in consequence of the AUGSBURG CONFESSION of 1530, participation in the eucharist was enforced. Schwenckfelders refused to comply and suffered repression (expulsion, imprisonment etc.). As Silesia was predominantly Lutheran, the Schwenckfelders suffered repression from the Lutheran church; the community, although protestant, developed a stronger aversion toward Lutheranism than toward Tridentine Catholicism.
Under difficult conditions, Schwenckfelders held on to their belief in Silesia and Moravia. In the late 17th century, with repression continuing in Silesia/Moravia, Count NIKOLAUS VON ZINZENDORF, a Lutheran pietist, established a pietist community at HERRNHUT in SAXONY, which attracted many Schwenckfelder refugees. In 1734 the Schwenckfelders emigrated to PENNSYLVANIA.

B.) The Schwenckfelders joining the Anabaptist Movement

The Schwenckfelders placed even less emphasis on rites than the purist Anabaptists; the small Schwenckfelder community did not practice baptism until the community in 1895 decided to join the Anabaptists; then they introduced both baptism and the communion.
The Schwenckfelders celebrate GEDÄCHTNISTAG (memorial day) to commemorate the landing of the first Schwenckfelders in Pemmsylvania.

The Schwenkfelders, from about the UCC
Biography of Caspar Schwenckfeld, from Philisophengalerie, in German; from BBKL, in German; by Douglas Wiegner
Schwenkfelders - Struggle in Europe, by Douglas Wiegner
REFERENCE Mark Greengrass, The Longman Companion to the European Reformation c.1500-1618, Harlow (Essex): Longman 1998, pp.112f, KMLA Lib.Sign. 374.06 GB 121

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First on January 15th 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

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