Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe


2 Comments

Jan Hus and Us (600 years later)


Jan Hus (or Huss) was born around 1370 in the village of Husinci in today’s Czech Republic. Studied in Prague and became a bachelor of arts (Seven free arts) in 1393 and a master in 1396. Parallel with this study he studied theology and graduated as a bachelor. In 1401 he was elected dean of the Arts faculty and also ordained as a preaching priest. Since 1402 he was a much recognized preacher of the Bethlehem chapel in Prague.

Since his student days Hus was familiar with the work of John Wycliffe (died in 1384), a master from Oxford whose work on church reform was much supported by the Czech masters (teachers of theology) and opposed by the German ones. After additional conflict in 1409 all foreign theology teachers left to Leipzig and started a new university there.

Jan Hus Hus preaching was attracting many people from the university, nobles and members of the royal court, even the queen Sofia). When the papal decree in 1410 forbade use of Wycliffe papers even their possession, the Archbishop of Prague ordered all of his books and writings to be burned publicly at his court and also prohibited preaching about his topics and work. At that point Jan Hus requested that the papal decree would not be executed and this was the beginning of the trouble. There were numerous other issues at stake, as well.

“The custom had arisen, at celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, of distributing the consecrated bread to all Christians in good standing who desired to receive it, but restricting the chalice to the celebrant alone. Huss denounced this restriction as contrary to Holy Scripture and to the ancient tradition of the Church. He also held that Church officials ought to exercise spiritual powers only, and not be earthly governors. In 1412 his archbishop excommunicated him, not for heresy, but for insubordination. (The real problem was that Huss supported one papal claimant and the archbishop another. Huss’s candidate was ultimately declared to be the true pope.) Matters came to a head when one claimant (later declared unfit) proclaimed a sale of indulgences to raise money for a war against his rivals. Huss was horrified at the idea of selling spiritual benefits to finance a war between two claimants to the title “Servant of the Servants of God,” and said so.” – By James E. Kiefer, Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past

So, Jan was summoned to the Church Council of Constance in 1414 where he was asked to decline certain heretical doctrines of which he never held. Hus agreed to decline them but was not willing to swear an oath that he held these doctrines in the past. A matter of true conflict was that he stated that the office of pope is not established by God but by people in order to put the matters of the church in an orderly fashion. Huss shared this view with Thomas More. So, the Council found him guilty of heresy and he was burned at the stake on 6 July 1415.

15th century [general] --- Chronicles of Ulrich de Richental: Jan Hus at the Stake --- Image by © Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive/Corbis

15th century [general] — Chronicles of Ulrich de Richental: Jan Hus at the Stake — Image by © Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive/Corbis

The Roman Catholic Church 20 years later authorized the Church in Bohemia to offer the cup as well as broken bread during the Holy Communion. Luther acknowledged, a hundred years later, that Hus had been unjustly condemned, and the whole issue of papal authority was again at the centre of theological issues of the Reformation.

What has changed since? Where are Hus and Wycliffe and More of the 21st century? Apparently all is well today. We need no changes. What do you think?

Advertisements


1 Comment

The Lausanne Covenant and us [blog]


Lausanne

Exactly 40 years ago, in July 1974, the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization was held.  In his opening plenary address, Billy Graham focused on the key question of Why Lausanne? expressing hopes in four points:

1. I would like to see the Congress frame a biblical declaration on evangelism…

2. I would like to see the church challenged to complete the task of world evangelization

3. I trust we can state what the relationship is between evangelism and social responsibility…  

4. I hope that a new ‘koinonia’ or fellowship among evangelicals of all persuasions will be developed throughout the world.”

During the Congress the Lausanne Covenant was drafted by the 2,700 participants from 150 countries. The main purpose of the Lausanne Covenant was to broaden the worldview of evangelicals and facilitate partnership and unity among the body of Christ for the purpose of world evangelization.

The event lasted for 10 days and consisted of discussion, fellowship, worship and prayer. Given the range of nationalities, ethnicities, ages, occupations and church affiliations, TIME magazine described it as “a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.”

The statement of faith of the Lausanne Covenant includes the following topics:

  • The purpose of God
  • The authority and power of the Bible
  • The uniqueness and universality of Christ
  • The nature of evangelism
  • Christian social responsibility
  • The Church and evangelism
  • Cooperation in evangelism
  • Churches in evangelistic partnership
  • The urgency of the evangelistic task
  • Evangelism and culture
  • Education and leadership
  • Spiritual conflict
  • Freedom and persecution
  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • The return of Christ 

The Lausanne covenant acknowledges the failure of many contemporary churches caught up in the prosperity gospel and in bondage to culture rather than Scripture. It is for these reasons that the church today can greatly benefit from the Lausanne Covenant.

Since Lausanne I, two subsequent congresses have been held: Lausanne II in Manila in 1989 and Lausanne III in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2010.

The full text of the Lausanne Covenant can be found at the following link: http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/lausanne-covenant.html

Where do we stand today, as evangelicals, 40 years from that event?


1 Comment

Can a Protestant in Serbia Do Anything Good? [Blog]


In early June 2014, the President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic spoke at the occasion of a centennial of the Archibald Reiss’ arrival to Serbia, where he died in 1929. Nikolic stated that ‘he was one of us…born in Germany, lived in Switzerland, but died, we are convinced in it – as a Serb, in Belgrade, Serbia.”

Reiss, Rodolphe Archibald (1875-1929), forensic photographer, born in Hausach, in Baden province. As an 18 years old he moved to Lausanne where he studied natural science, and in 1899 became head of the university’s photographic laboratory. Received a doctorate in chemistry when he was 22. Later he received a doctorate in law.

In 1903 he published La Photographie judiciaire, in 1906 became professor of judicial photography in Lausanne, and in 1909 founded the Institut de Police Scientifique, which he directed until 1919.

Reiss also did pioneering work in medical radiography and became a leading international authority in the field. Shortly afterwards Reiss went to Serbia to investigate war crimes committed by the Habsburg army, upon the governmental invitation. He published a number of reports in this issue.

He participated as a member of the Serbian Government delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. After the war, Reiss helped establish the first police academy in Serbia and teach forensic sciences. He was one of the founders of the Red Cross of Serbia. Reiss is remembered as a world renowned scholar, war reporter, soldier, investigator, honorary officer of the Serbian reserve association and transformer of the Serbian police (investigative work especially) after the Great War. My elementary school in Belgrade bears his name.

Interestingly, Reiss was a Protestant. This is a rhetorical question for you: can a Protestant do any good in Serbia?

rajs-drustvo


Leave a comment

The Hutterites (Habans) of Slovakia [blog]


Habans originated in Switzerland, but under the threat of persecution moved from their home country and in 1526 settled in the area of Mikulov in todays’ Czech Republic. Their leader was a doctor of theology and a former pastor at Waldshut in Bavaria, Balthasar Hubmaier. From there, as being persecuted later, they moved further south, to Slovakia. It was the year 1588. Their courts are today found in Velke Leváre, about 45 km north of Bratislava. The village was then called Neuhof (New Court).

Apparently, recent research shows that the word Habans (Slovak habáni, Hungarian habánerek, habánusok, Russian Chabani, English Habans and also French les Habans) is derived from the Hebrew ha – Banim, which indicates the true children of God.

They appeared for the first time in 1524 in Switzerland as a distinctive religious and also social movement – as a branch of Protestantism. Their founders expressed their dissatisfaction by claiming that the Reformation, resulted in a loosening in the matters of faith and the church, but no social liberation from material oppression of feudalism.

Image

Fraternal courts

Their “court” it is not a term for a house, but rather a designation for a small settlement, which themselves have built and lived in it as one community politically and economically independent of the local population. They addressed each other as brothers and sisters and their settlements were called fraternal courts.

Habans were trying to live according to the principles of primitive Christianity. Their communities had common ownership (no private property), so the functioning of the entire community involved all, each according to their capabilities. They were following the written principles collected in their “Ordnung.”

Family as a part of community

Young man married as soon as the village leadership would announce they are ready. The leadership would choose for a young man three single girls and then they would have to choose a bride. After the wedding, a family did not operate as a separate entity, but as a part of a larger community. All would continue to work and carry out with what they were doing. Men most often did trade or farm work in which they were skilled while some were in administration of Justice. Women were in charge of cooking, teaching, manufacturing clothes, and even some would be working outside of the community as wet-nurses and mid-wives.

Hutterite courts were spacious and large, built to suit a shared community life. On the ground floor are common areas: workshops, classrooms, prayer rooms. Food was prepared in a communal kitchen and shared in a common dining room four times a day. Under the roof in the attic there were little rooms, designed especially for married couples, while other rooms, on a middle floor were reserved as a bedroom for child, youth or journeymen. In 1595 they had 16 courts in addition to fields, gardens, plants and vineyards. The record says that they had 700 sheep, 100 goats, 60 milk cows and 100 oxen. In their workshops they manufactured knives, ceramics, they also had a brewery and a large bathroom. Soon enough, in 1601, the village was recognized as a center for manufacturing knives and drinking jars, so they were asked to pay higher fees to the landlords.

Child Rearing

The children stayed with their mothers only as long as they were nursed until about two years. They would then be included in the Community. The children were cared by educators in a “small school,” and as 5-6 years old they would enter the “big school,” where they learned to write, read and count. In schools the kids studied not only the doctrine, but the teachers took care of the health and hygiene of children. If a child would be found ill with a disease it would be isolated from other kids. All children were in a need of comfortable shoes and clean clothes.

Children did not go to school only during the day but spent with educators their free time and slept in common small dormitories. At the end of education each child would have a trade in hands and go on working in a field that they liked. The Habans’ educational system was quite unconventional and modern, even to some of today’s criteria.

During the times of re-Catholization of Slovakia in the 18th century (especially during the reign of the Empress Maria Theresa who ruled from 1740-1780) they were forced to give up their religion. Those who remained in Slovakia, 170 of them, converted to Catholicism. Over the centuries assimilation occurred so the German speaking and Slovak speaking village joined together as a one community in 1880. By the beginning of XX century most of the distinctive was lost.Image

Those who did not want to convert had to leave to Russia and some also to Transylvania and further to America. Quite a story on these special Anabaptists from Switzerland who lived in Slovakia peacefully for more than two centuries.

Resources:

  1. Michaela Vargova: Habani, rodina a vychova deti from (www.rodinka.sk);
  2. Milan Hromnik: Habani a habanski dvor (www.velkelevare.sk);
  3. Ondrej Poss: Die Habaner in der Slowakei (Karpatenblatt, 11 Nov 2000);


Leave a comment

Righteous among the Nations – Pavel Chorvat recognized 44 years after his death [blog]


Image

 

“Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe” (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5)

There was a day of celebration in Slovakia when five Slovaks last night (11 February 2014) received the recognition Righteous among the Nations from Israel. Two couples for their exceptional acts, and one Lutheran pastor, long gone, but not forgotten. Pavel Chorvat was recognized with commemorative citizenship in recognition of his actions saving at least three persons of Jewish background from certain death.

Born in 1905, he became a Lutheran priest after his theological studies in Bratislava and later served in Vrbovo, Zilina, Stara Tura and since 1935 in Slatina nad Bebravou.

During the WW2 he actively helped people who desired to move out of Slovakia, or out of the protectorate of Czech and Moravska, mostly toward Hungary. Since 1942, he was also helping Jews as the persecution and deportations took place. For the three documented cases he was providing false birth certificates and connections in other parts of the country, even school enrollments, so the kids could hide with false identities.

After the war he served more than two years in prison, since 1950, as he opposed the Communist rule. After the sentence he was forbidden to be a priest and had to retire. Pavel lived simply and in 1962 moved closer to his sister in Turcianske Teplice where he died in 1970.

No one really knows just how many people Pavel helped during his life of service, whether during the war or after it, during the Communist era, and this is, I think, not so important. For several of these he was an important man so they worked hard to make his name stand on the wall among other 24,000+ names of Righteous Gentiles. What caught my attention was that he is one among 28 Lutherans in addition to 19 of Confessing Church and other 99 Protestant Evangelicals who did not think of their own lives to help others. I was proud today to learn of Pavel Chorvat, a Lutheran pastor from Slovakia who was recognized as one of the Righteous Gentiles of this unrighteous world.

Righteous among the Nations is the title that Israel is bestowing on the non-Jews who risked their lives during the WW2 to save Jews. This title cannot be suggested by non-Jews and a decision is made after a meticulous study and high standard criteria is met, including testimonies from survivors and eyewitnesses, with the evaluation of the risk to the one who helped the victims.


2 Comments

The Edict of Milan and Us [blog]


Edict of Milan is a name of  a proclamation that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire. It was the result of a political agreement made in Milan between the Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius in February 313. The proclamation granted all persons freedom to worship whatever deity they pleased, assured Christians of legal rights (including the right to organize churches), and directed the prompt return to Christians of confiscated property.

359492_nis-beta-2_fToday, on 6 October 2013, there will be a central ceremony in Niš, Serbia, of this great anniversary. Niš is a city where Constantine the Great was born around 280 A.D, roughly four centuries before the Slavs came from the north-east and settled at the Balkan peninsula. Great leaders of the Orthodox churches are there: the Russian patriarch, the Ecumenical patriarch, the Serbian patriarch and a number of metropolitans from various lands and countries. The Catholic church is represented by the Milan archbishop Scala, Belgrade archbishop Hocevar and also a number of bishops and monsignors from neighboring countries. There seems to be great declarations of Christian unity.

Even the citizens of Niš organized last night a candle vigil. Five thousand of them created a human cross. Great symbolism in the days when more than 50 countries in this world still persecute Christians for their beliefs, forbid conversions and arrest and jail their leaders. This world seems to need another proclamation from its political leaders, but we will never see it again.

What is also noticeable here, that there are no representatives of the protestant churches, or evangelicals. Apparently, they did not exist in the days of Constantine the great. But the same could be argued for the Orthodox and Catholics, right? And what we will do about constantinism?359494_nis-beta-1_f

Constantine’s achievement was greatest in social and cultural history. It was the development of a Christianized imperial governing class that entrenched the privileged position of Christianity. Encyclopedia Britannica states that it was: „this movement of fashion, rather than the enforcement of any program of legislation, that was the basis of the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Emerging from it in the course of the 4th century were two developments that contributed fundamentally to the nature of Byzantine and Western medieval culture: the growth of a specifically Christian, biblical culture that took its place beside the traditional Classical culture of the upper classes; and the extension of new forms of religious patronage between the secular governing classes and bishops, Christian intellectuals and holy men. Constantine left much for his successors to do, but it was his personal choice made in 312 that determined the emergence of the Roman Empire as a Christian state“.

50 Years of Christianity 1970-2020 by the eyes of Center for the Study of Global Christianity [blog]

Leave a comment


When reading the latest survey done by Gordon Conwell, I was especially interested in Eastern Europe. Well, it seems that there is a hope for the ‘marginalized groups’ which are the evangelicals in the research language. Growth is expected at a rate of 1.2% annually.

EE affiliation At the height of Communism in 1970, the region of Eastern Europe was only 57.2% Christian, the lowest percentage of any region in the global North for that time period. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, droves of agnostics and atheists came into to the churches. By 2010, the region claimed 84.0% Christian adherence, similar to the situation in 1910 (89.6% Christian). Looking toward 2020, Christian gains are likely to be more modest, with a 0.02% average annual growth rate between 2010 and 2020.

The whole document (92 pages) can be found at the following link of Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
EE statistics