Stories of the Reformation: The Women (Pt. 1)

This week is a continuation of a series on the Protestant Reformation that began 500 years ago. We're taking a look at some of the individuals that God had in place for a period of time when the Christian church went through a major upheaval. I have drawn from various sources for these e-mails but have leaned heaviest on a series of biographies called, "Here We Stand" on www.desiringgod.org website. If you are fascinated by the stories of the reformers, I'd highly recommend checking those out. They go into much more depth than I've been able to do here and cover a lot more people.

 

THE WOMEN Part I:

Hellen Strike was a fairly average Scottish Christian in the city of Perth, and her life remained unnoticed to history until the birth of her last child in 1544. She created a stir when she refused to pray to the Virgin Mary, in the traditional rite, on her birth bed. She told her midwives that if she had lived in Mary’s time God might have chosen her to birth the Messiah just like he chose Mary, letting them know that she saw Mary as an equal human being.

They were so horrified by her blasphemy that they reported her to the local Catholic clergy. Within days she and her husband were arrested and sentenced to death for heresy. The following day, soldiers brought Hellen, her husband, and a couple other condemned Protestants to the gallows.

Hellen asked to die side by side with her husband, James Finlason, but her request was denied. Men were to be hanged, women drowned, and James would go first. Holding her baby in her arms, Hellen approached her husband, kissed him, and gave him these parting words: “Husband, be glad, for we have lived together many joyful days, and this day, in which we must die, we ought to esteem the most joyful of all, because we shall have joy forever. Therefore I will not bid you good night, for we shall shortly meet in the kingdom of heaven.”

Hellen watched her husband die as he looked only at her. She then handed her infant to a nurse and allowed herself to be tied up, placed in a gunny sack and thrown into the river. Only once we reach heaven will we know the reunion she and her husband had as they met on the other side. I like to imagine her meeting up with the Virgin Mary and the conversation they might have had.

Hellen helped create an awareness of the need to pray only to God and not to Mary.

 

Marie Dentière was a well educated, noble lady who entered an Augustinian convent and then left the convent and moved to Strasbourg to officially join the highly charged Reformation movement. In the same year, she made a second radical move when she married a former priest, Simon Robert. and they became one of the first married couples to accept a pastoral assignment in a protestant church. After Simon’s death she married another reformed pastor and moved to Geneva where John Calvin was leading his wing of the reformation.

Marie Dentière was an articulate evangelist and writer. She was distressed that the Catholic Church had withheld so much of the Bible from the people, and preached that every person, including women, should be able to read God’s precious words for themselves. She penned a letter to the Queen of Navarre attacking Roman Catholicism and the oppression of women. Her letter was so inflammatory that it got her printer arrested.

Initially, Calvin didn’t like her and found her annoying. In later years he came to appreciate her and her writings even to the point that he asked Marie to write the preface for his sermon on modesty from I Timothy 2:8-12. Ironically, one could argue that Calvin asked her to teach about a biblical passage that expressly forbade her to do so.

She made her mark in history and in 2002, Marie Dentière became the only woman to have her name engraved on the famous Wall of Reformers in Geneva.

 

The men of the Reformation tend to get most of the attention, but let's not forget the women and the powerful influence they had on the events of their day. Thank God for women who lived out their convictions and helped others do the same.

Floyd Yutzy