Jan Hus (1369-1415), Czech priest convicted of heresy, died at the stake. He preached the reform of the Church and the return to evangelical poverty. This pre-reformer strongly influenced Martin Luther: a century before Luther, he translated the Gospel into Czech and condemned indulgences.
From technological progress to a new era. The development of the typographic printing press had a considerable impact on the diffusion of ideas: it was this which made the rapid diffusion of the Reformation possible.
Notice : The revolution of printing
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses against Indulgences. This was the origin of the schism in the Church, which gave birth to the Reform. Luther’s ideas spread very quickly in Europe and France.
Article : The Lutheran Reformation
Calvin published “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” in Latin, preceded by an Address to King Francis I. The work, published in Basel, presents the theological and biblical foundations of the Reform and their consequences. He bases himself on Luther’s theology – justification by faith; salvation through grace – not without assigning it consequences that are often quite different, particularly concerning the organization of Churches, the liturgy, the relationship with the world. Other editions in French followed.
Article : Jean Calvin’s doctrine
This clandestine meeting of Protestants met in Paris and adopted the first Protestant Confession of Faith in France. Largely inspired by Calvin, this confession of faith was slightly modified to become the La Rochelle Confession of Faith (1571), which remains in our day one of the major texts of the French reform movement.
The massacre, on March 1st, by the Duke de Guise’s troops of some hundred Protestants attending religious services in a barn located inside the ramparts of the city of Wassy (Champagne) and not outside as stipulated by the Edict of January 1562, is considered the event that triggered the first War of Religion.
Article : The massacre of Wassy (1562)
This is the emblematic event of the French Wars of Religion. On August 24, after the marriage of Henry of Navarre (the future Henry IV) and Marguerite de Valois (daughter of Catherine de Medici and sister of the king), most of the Protestant leaders present in Paris at time were assassinated by the Duke de Guise’s party. The situation degenerated into a widespread massacre, even extending outside the capital.
Article : St. Bartholomew’s Day (24th August 1572)
Having become King of France in 1589, after converting to Catholicism, Henri IV put an end to the Wars of Religion on April 3, 1598 by promulgating the Edict of Nantes. This edict establishes civil equality between Protestants and Catholics. The Edict of Nantes allowed the Protestant community to exist, but within the confines of regulations that, in fact, limited the practice of the reformed religion. It was the major act of Henry IV, which brought peace to France after thirty-six years of religious wars.
Article : The Edict of Nantes (1598)
After the death of Henry IV, a new dispute arose concerning the religious and political organization of the Béarn, the king’s personal property. In 1616, things deteriorated. Three new religious wars broke out and ended in 1629 with the Peace of Alès.
Article : The last religious wars (1621-1629)
This very busy port, which had become largely Protestant, represented a potential threat to the royal power and Richelieu due to the risk of an English landing. Richelieu laid siege to it in 1627. The city of La Rochelle surrendered in 1628, after a heroic resistance.
Article : The last religious wars (1621-1629)
After three religious wars, the peace of Alais deprived Protestants of safe havens, but confirmed their right to practice their religion within the framework of the Edict of Nantes.
Article : The last religious wars (1621-1629)
The Thirty Years War was a political and religious war that devastated the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation in the 17th century. First a religious conflict between the Protestant princes and the Catholic house of Hapsburg, it degenerated into a European war due to the intervention of the foreign powers, Sweden and France. The Treaty of Westphalia put an end to it in 1648, mainly to the benefit of Sweden and France.
Article : The Thirty Year War (1618-1648)
Louvois sent a cavalry regiment to Poitou to go into winter quarters. The Kings quarter master, Marcillac, housed them in Huguenot homes: he allowed them to pillage and ruin their hosts if they did not wish to convert. Recalcitrants were ill-treated and even tortured. A wave of conversions followed. This first dragonnade was the prelude to the general dragonnade of 1685 in the southern Loire, which was followed shortly after by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Article : The “Dragonnades” (1681-1685)
Decided by Louis XIV, this revocation on October 22, 1685 led to the increased repression of Protestants (death sentences and sentences to row the galleys, forced conversion, etc.). It amplified the emigration of French Protestants to the so-called Refuge countries of Europe (Prussia, England, Switzerland, the Netherlands).
In 1702, The Abbot of Chaila was murdered on July 24 in Pont-de-Montvert. Repression was fierce in Languedoc in the Cévennes. A desperate armed revolt then broke out. It officially ended in 1704 with the negotiations conducted by the Maréchal du Villars in the name of the king and Jean Cavalier for the rebels. Sporadic outbreaks continued until the end of the decade.
Article : The war of the Camisards (1702-1710)
Antoine Court and Benjamin Duplan founded the Lausanne Seminary in Switzerland. All Protestant schools had been closed since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. This institution therefore aimed to train ministers who were sent to France to clandestine Protestant communities of the “Desert” in theology and practical service.
Article : The Lausanne Theological seminary
Jean Calas, a Protestant merchant from Toulouse, was sentenced by the Toulouse Parliament to torture on the wheel and was executed on March 10, 1762, on the unsubstantiated accusation of having murdered one of his sons who was reputed to have converted to Catholicism. Voltaire, informed of the “affair,” had the conviction overturned and Calas was exonerated in 1765. This affair remains the symbol of partisan injustice.
Article : The Calas affair
Two years before the Revolution, Louis XVI re-established the civil rights of Protestants when he promulgated the Edict of Tolerance on November 29, 1787. They could have their births, their marriages and their deaths recorded. But Protestants were still excluded from public office and there was no question of practicing their religion.
At the start of the French Revolution, in August 1789, the National Assembly ratified the Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, whose article 10 proclaims that “no one shall be harassed for his religious opinions.” Religious freedom was recognized.
Article : Religious Freedom
Religious freedom is not synonymous with freedom of worship: collective practice, with possible outside events that might disrupt the peace. The 1791 Constitution established freedom of worship, which had to be circumscribed by law.
On September 18, 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte signed the Concordat with the Pope. On April 8, 1802, he promulgated the Organic Articles that organize the life of the Catholic Church and the Protestant and Jewish religions. They provide in particular for the remuneration of the clergy by the State, the allocation and funding of places of worship and the representation of the communities.
Article : The French Concordat
On November 4, the bylaws of the Missionary Society, whose aim is to “spread the Gospel among heathens.” This was a revival movement, whose founding members were of various nationalities. Their personal wealth allowed them to retain their independence vis-à-vis the consistories of Paris. Very quickly, the Missionary Society initiated activities in France and in Africa, and its influence was considerable.
Article : Missionary Societies
This was the first national synod since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). This synod marked a break with the orthodox and liberal currents of reformed Protestantism in France.
Article : Times of disagreement
For the first time, a Protestant theology school was established in Paris. It was the convergence of two movements: the desire to establish theology instruction in Paris and the arrival of two professors from Strasbourg, who did not want to be under German administration.
An organization focused on evangelizing and social work in working class areas, founded in England, the Salvation Army was established in France in 1881 by Catherine Booth, sometimes nicknamed “the Marshal,” daughter of the Methodist minister William Booth, who founded the organization in London in 1878. Organized according to a “military” model, it currently employees around 3,500 people in France in more than 60 establishments.
Article : The Salvation Army
John Mott founded the World Christian Student Federation in New York City. An assembly of various youth groups, the WCSF defines itself as an ecumenical movement of openness, dialogue and training, raising students’ awareness of the problems that they may encounter in their working life.
Article : Protestant women in the Fédé movement
Christian Socialism was created at the initiative of a number of ministers, including Tommy Fallot. The aim was to confront Christian faith with the concrete realities of the social environment. In particular, this involves developing an active and ecumenical solidarity with the disadvantaged. The movement founded a journal, Christian Socialism, that then published articles by Elie Gounelle, Wilfred Monod or Charles Gide and many people concerned about social problems.
Article : Social Christianity
The law of December 9, 1905 concerning the separation of Church and State established and defined secularism in France. It guaranteed freedom of worship in the spirit of the Revolution of 1789, while giving it a legal framework and it organized the relationship between the secular Republic and the churches of the period. The French Protestant Federation was created, which brought together most of the Protestant churches and associations.
Article : Separation of Church and State
The different Protestant and Anglican missionary societies came together to avoid any competition in the work to evangelize the non-Christian world. Cradle of ecumenism, first predominantly Anglo-Saxon, then globalized, it led to the creation of the World Council of Churches 1948.
This Protestant youth education movement focused on obedience was founded in 1909-1911, as a version of the scouting movement initiated by Lord Baden-Powell in 1907 in Great Britain. The movement now has around 5,600 members in France and is part of the French Scouting and International Scouting movements. Its success and its influence vary with societal changes.
Article : Scouting and women
On May 31, the ministers of the German evangelical church met as a clandestine synod in the suburbs of Wuppertal (Rhineland-Palatinate), in Barmen. They declared, in a confession of faith, drafted in part by Karl Barth: “…We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation…” They thus showed their opposition to the German Evangelical Church of Deutschen Christen imposed by Hitler and most particularly its Aryan paragraph. This was the beginning of the Confessing Church
Article : Karl Barth (1886-1968)
On March 26, minister Marc Boegner, in the name of the National Council of the Reformed Church in France for which he served as president, wrote a letter to the Grand Rabbi of France, Isaïe Schwartz, to express to him his solidarity following new anti-Semitic laws promulgated by the Vichy government: “Our Church, which has known suffering and persecution in the past, has an ardent sympathy for your communities which have seen their freedom of worship compromised in certain places and the members of which have been so abruptly struck by misfortune.”
The founding assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) met in Amsterdam. This was the result of years of work begun during the Missionary Conference of Edinburgh in 1910 and carried out since within the Churches born of the Reform in two directions, Faith and Constitution, on the one hand, and practical Christianity, on the other. The Council federated these groups and welcomed the representatives of the Orthodox Churches. However the Catholic Church did not participate. The Rev. Marc Boegner and Rev. Wilhelm Wisser’t Hooft were President and Secretary General respectively. It was decided to establish the seat of the WCC in Geneva.
Article : Protestantism around the world
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), born in Strasbourg, was a theologian (professor at the theology school of Strasbourg) musician (famous organist), philosopher (a specialist in Kant and European religions), and also a physician who established and managed Lambaréné Hospital (Gabon). During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he took a stand against nuclear armament.
Article : Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
The signing in 1973 of the Concord of Leuenberg, a small Swiss city, was the result of discussions begun in 1960 between ministers and heads of Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Europe. It was recognized that the doctrinal differences of the 16th century between Lutheranism and Calvinism concerning Last Supper were obsolete and were no longer a valid reason for dividing the two churches. The Leuenberg Concord made the creation of the United Protestant Church of France possible in 2013.
Article : French Reformed Church
The French Ecumenical Translation of the Bible (TOB) was completed. The work conducted by Catholic, Reformed and Lutheran teams, with occasional help from the orthodox churches benefited from remarkable circumstances: the advances in biblical exegesis, the Second Vatican Council, the active assistance of the United Bible Societies and the Editions du Cerf publishing house (managed by the Dominicans).
Article : What is the Bible ?
The Council of Christian Churches in France (CECEF) is made up of delegations from Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches. Its mission is to facilitate reflection and potentially common initiatives in three fields: Christian presence in society, service and testimony. The CECEF is co-chaired by the presidents of the first three delegations.
The Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine (ECAAL) and the Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine (ERAL) pooled services while retaining their concordat status and to this end created the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL).
The National Council of Evangelicals of France brings together most of the Unions of Evangelical Churches, including the Pentecostal churches, particularly the Assemblies of God. Some of the Unions of Churches members of the CNEF are also members of the French Protestant Federation.
Years of conciliation work between the Reformed Church of France (ERF) and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of France (EELF) resulted in the union made possible by the Leuenberg Concord of 1973. There is now only one Church: the United Protestant Church of France, Lutheran and Reformed communion.
Article : French Reformed Church