Wittenberg Reformers: а Conflict of Interests in Religious and Social Transformations in Germany (1521—1525)

Publication type Article
Status Published
EditionVolume 5 Issue 6 (29)
AbstractThe article focuses on the conflict of interests between German reformers during the implementation of the reforms aimed at creating a religious organization based on the principles of the believers’ universal priesthood and the communities’ autonomy. Specific examples indicate that their official and material interests significantly affected their position in elimination of church institutions, hierarchies, and the Pope’s church cult. In their programs the Wittenberg reformers raised the question of the abolition of the church posts, but they still were the high-rank officials in different bodies of church management. The loss of such ‘profitable’ places was a menace to their welfare and forced them into seeking for alternative sources of income. More than that, the communities demanded independency of their pastors’ elections. Article deals with the examples of reformers’ socialization in new life conditions. A number of Luther’s supporters rejected the reform plans and became priests in the principalities which were not involved in the reformation. Some church ministers, such as Nicholaus Amsdorf, rejected promotion to high ranks and a part of payment for liturgy. Nevertheless, such a voluntary rejection didn’t find many followers, lots of church officials insisted on postponing the abolition of conventional liturgy that provided high incomes for the church institutions. The attempts of Andreas Karlschtadt, a famous reformer and Doctor of Theology, to create independently an autonomous community in the town of Orlamund and to carry out his own program of ‘a new layman’ are also analyzed in the article. The author considers the project as an example of the clergy socialization, their voluntary rejection of the previous service and transition into the burghers and peasantry. Some of such priests could have been elected by the communities as their pastors. Analyzing the causes of the failure of the reformer’s plan, the author pays attention to the difficulties which made Karlschtadt to renounce his radical decisions to abandon his posts and ranks (Doctor of Theology, a university professor, an archdeacon) and to take up peasants’ labour. The economic factor turned out to be an effective mean that the prince’s authorities used to press the reformers. The situation became more difficult because of the Prince Friedrich of Saxony’s support to shtift conservatives. This prince didn’t hurry with the abolition of the Pope’s church cult and its institutions. The 1526 liturgy reform, carried out by the prince’s authorities, allowed to save the clergymen’s basic sources of income. The analysis of the reformers’ position in implementing of the idea of universal priesthood of believers allows to state that their ideological and theological persuasions motivated them to carry out the reforms and create a new religious community, whose structure was outlined in Luther’s program. Ultimately, the conflict between the material and religious interests led to the protection of the church institutions with their further integration into the system of the prince’s territory churchism.
KeywordsGermany, Reformation, Luther, Karlstadt, Amsdorf, Jonas
Publication date10.11.2014
Number of characters34151
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