Godly Magistrates and Church Order: Johannes Brenz and the Establishment of the Lutheran Territorial Church in Germany, 1524-1559

Texts selected, translated, and edited by James M. Estes - TT09

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Johannes Brenz (1499-1570), the reformer of the city of Schwäbisch Hall (1522-1548) and the leading churchman in the Duchy of Württemberg (1550-1570), was the most important champion of the Lutheran Reformation in Southern Germany. An articulate advocate of the view that the office of secular government includes the divinely imposed obligation to provide for the establishment and maintenance of true religion, he was also the most gifted ecclesiastical organizer of all the Lutheran reformers. His unique achievements as a creator of church order set a standard for others to imitate.

The texts in this collection record his views on the office of Christian magistrate and chronicle the development, during his years in Schwäbisch Hall, of the essential elements of the system of church government that would be fully realized in practice and achieve broad historical significance only in the 1550s in Württemberg. As a result, the documents in this volume provide an excellent basis for tracing the development, both theoretical and practical, of the Lutheran territorial church during the early Reformation.

James M. Estes is professor emeritus of history at Victoria College, University of Toronto, as well as past director and distinguished senior fellow of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University in the University of Toronto. He is the author of Christian Magistrate and State Church: The Reforming Career of Johannes Brenz (Toronto: 1982).

219 pp. 
ISBN: 978-0-7727-2017-7 softcover
Published: 2001



Religious Studies Review, 28 (October 2002), p. 382.

The SIxteenth Century Journal, 35:2 (Summer 2004), pp. 556-557. Reviewed by Robert Benne.

The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 54:2 (April 2003), p. 364. Reviewed by A. D. Wright.


Purpose and Scope of the Volume
Brenz's Career in a Nutshell
Reading the Documents I: The Office of Christian Magistrate
Reading the Documents II: The Origins of the Württenburg Consistorial System
Translator's Note and Acknowledgments
Suggestions for Further Reading

I. Excerpts From Three Early, Undated Writings (circa 1524/5)
II. Advice and Opinion of Johannes Brenz for Count Palatine of the Rhine, Elector Ludwig, Concerning the Purportedly Evangelical Twelve Articles Issues by the Peasants (1525)
III. Reformation of the Churches in Schwäbisch Hall and its Territory, Written by Johannes Brenz in the Year 1527
IV. The Reason Why a Christian Prince Should Cause Christian Worship to be Established in His Jurisdiction and Territory (1529)
V. Concerning a Christian Synodal Court or Rural Disciplinary Tribunal, How it Should be Conducted (1531)
VI. Two Memoranda of the Ansbach Theologians Concerning Changes in the Proposed Brandenburg-Nürnberg Church Order (February/December 1531)
VII. Draft of a Preface (1535) for the Württemberg Church Order of 1536
VIII. Draft of a Proposed Visitation Ordinance for the Duchy of Württemberg, 1535
IX. Brenz's Four Election Day Sermons Preached in the City of Schwäbisch Hall, 1541-46:
Sermon Number One, 1541
Sermon Number Two, 1543
Sermon Number Three, 1545
Sermon Number Four, 1546
Appendix: Introductions to Three Württemberg Church Ordinances
X. Duke Christopher's Visitation Ordinance of 26 May 1553
XI. Six Ordinances from the Great Church Order of 1559:
Appointment to Clerical Office
Visitation Superintendence of the Church
Moral Discipline in the Church
How and When a General Synod of the Consitory . . . Shall Be Held . . .
How and From What Source Pastors, Preachers . . . [etc.] are to be Maintained
Ordinance for the Consistory in Our Chancellery . . .