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Archive for November, 2010

Katharina was born in 1498 and lived most of her life in Strasbourg.
Katharina called herself a church mother (“Kirchenmutter”). She believed that she was called by God to care for the church and its people.

She served as a pastoral care provider, a writer, and even a preacher.
She was 20 years younger than her husband, Matthias Zell. She had two children who died as infants. She ministered as a partner with her husband.  She developed women’s ministries and published a book of Psalms for women to sing.

She was constantly entertaining people, including such personages as Calvin. She took a leading role in organizing relief for 150 men exiled from their home towns during the religious wars for their faith.  She wrote Scriptural encouragements to the wives and children they left behind.

During the Peasants’ War, she organized Strasbourg to deal with 3,000 refugees for a period of 6 months. She traveled frequently with her husband, unusual in that day. She was very well educated, familiar with the writings of Luther and other Reformers.

She was also enthusiastic about passing on education to others. One of the most widespread expressions of lay theology is found in song. In public worship, the priesthood of believers unite in prayer and singing. Katherine Schutz Zell realized this and published a collection of hymns to provide believers with “sermons in song.” So she produced one of her most influential and most widely used texts – a hymnbook called, “Some Christian and Comforting Songs of Praise about Jesus Christ Our Savior.”

She also wrote many other things, including letters of consolation, devotional writings, biblical meditations, catechetical instructions, a sermon, and lengthy polemical exchanges with male theologians.

She showed tolerance and concern for Anabaptists, who were considered heretics in their day, and made frequent visits to those who were imprisoned.  As an aside here, many of the women that I read about during this time period were much more tolerant of other religious sects than the men were. This is because Katharina had a “mother’s heart” and wanted to see Christians united in their love for the Savior and for the Gospel.

She was widowed in 1548, and spoke at her husband’s funeral. Afterwards, Martin Bucer sent her to Basel to recover from her grief. When she returned to Strasbourg, persecution was being imposed on reformers by Charles V. She hid Bucer and other religious leaders in her home for several weeks until they could escape to England.
She gave an address at a funeral of
the wife of a follower of Schwenckfeld shortly before her own death in 1562. Followers of Schwenckfeld were considered heretics, so there were no other pastors at the funeral. With extraordinary Christian charity, she just did it herself.

Of all of the Reformation women, Katharina Schutz Zell is among the most extraordinary. She responded as a woman to the needs of the people in her town. As mentioned earlier, she had compassion for all Christians, even those who had different opinions than hers. She sought unity and peace for the sake of the Gospel. She was tireless in her efforts to comfort, guide, and counsel others.

Katharina was the most published woman theologian of her day. She did not just write about her experiences, or draw from the experiences of others. She relied on the Scriptures as her authority in her writings. She believed in the primacy of the Word and its claims on believers for their everyday lives. She had a special vocation as pastor’s wife, mother, teacher, and writer, but she believed that everyone is called to full time ministry as well in proclaiming the Gospel in deed as well as word.

At a time when many women did not feel brave enough to speak out, she used her voice, her influence, and her sense of calling to speak as a Christian and as a woman.

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Dr. Mildred Jefferson passed away last month, October 15, at the age of 84.
She was known throughout pro-life circles for her tender spirit and encouraging the next generation of pro-life leaders to take up the mantle of the pro-life cause. Her ever-present smile will be missed, as well as her special presence and tireless dedication to the cause of life.

Wouldn’t you think that everyone in our country should recognize the passing of the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School? When a   wonderful woman who devoted 40 years of her life to honor her Hippocratic Oath, and encouraged other physicians to follow this time-honored tradition, passes away, don’t you think all of the news media should feature a story about her?

Mildred Jefferson had accomplished many great things that no one else in history can claim to accomplish. Besides being the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, she also was the first woman to be a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital and the first woman admitted to membership in the Boston Surgical Society. Mildred Jefferson was the recipient of honorary degrees from twenty-eight colleges and universities. We should all be honoring her, but the media is mostly silent about her passing last month. Why is this?

It is probably because Mildred Jefferson was an outspoken advocate for the most helpless members of our society – the unborn. Dr. Jefferson worked against the outspoken feminists in the 1970’s who were demanding the right to kill their unborn babies. She put tireless effort into opposing their movement, and was one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee. She went on to serve three consecutive terms as NRLC president from 1975-1978. This is not politically correct, and the pro-abortion activists have probably ensured that the media will not give her the accolades that are due to her because she was such an untiring, visible opponent of abortion.

You probably won’t hear about Dr. Jefferson’s passing, unless you subscribe to a Christian news source. Besides being an outspoken advocate for the unborn, she was an old-fashioned, authentic patriot. Her love of her country showed in every speech, and was bound up in her support for the right to life and liberty. She opposed abortion because she believed, ethically, morally, and religiously, in the right to life of every human being, from conception to natural death. She did not want to see our great country ruined because of the deteriorating respect for life which has been so strongly evident, especially in the last few decades.

Mildred Jefferson was born to a Methodist minister in Pittsburg, Texas in 1926. She earned degrees from Texas College and Tufts University before graduating from Harvard in 1951. A surgical internship at Boston City Hospital eventually led to another trailblazing accomplishment: becoming the first female doctor at the former Boston University Medical Center.

She became interested in working with the pro-life movement when, in the 1970’s, the American Medical Association decided it was all right for doctors to perform abortions in states where it was legal. Mildred Jefferson was opposed to this. She said that performing abortions would be violating the Hippocratic Oath. She not only condemned the procedure as taking a life, but she went on, “People who arrange and provide abortions don’t realize the wreckage they leave behind, the depression.” She said that the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973, “gave my profession an almost unlimited license to kill.” In 1981, she tried to stop the killing by helping to get a national bill passed that would have declared that human life “shall be deemed to exist from conception.” If it had passed, states would have been able to prosecute the abortion as murder. Dr. Jefferson testified before Congress, “With the obstetrician and mother becoming the worst enemy of the child and the pediatrician becoming the assassin for the family, the state must be enabled to protect the life of the child, born and unborn.” Of course, that bill did not pass. The pro-life movement has an uphill battle now to undo the harm.

Dr. Jefferson also talked about abortion from the perspective of a black woman — a demographic overrepresented in the number of abortions performed. She said that legal abortion was most harmful to poor black women. One survey reports that African American women have abortions at three times the rate of white women and almost twice the rate of other racial groups.

Mildred said, “The right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law. I became a physician in order to help save lives,” she said.  “I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.”

Mildred Jefferson also spoke for the right to life for the elderly. “Would you believe,” she said in a talk in Methuen, Massachusetts, a few years ago, “that now in our country you may actually go to an emergency room and not be treated for your injuries because someone has decided that you have lived long enough? Or that it’s not worth spending the money on you, your insurance will not cover enough of it?” As the baby boomers reach retirement and the number of young paying into Social Security and Medicare keep shrinking, she warned, the balance between the demand and supply of life-sustaining medical care will increase pressure for putting the balance sheet ahead of the lives of the poor and elderly. People may defend the sanctity of life for spiritual and humanitarian reasons, she said. “Or you can just be selfish and realize that if you aren’t going to do it, you are going to pay the price.” Now with the “Obama-care” as a reality, how long will it be before medical care is rationed out as she predicted? With no respect for the lives of the unborn, how long will it be before the elderly are also extinguished?

Her undeniable tenacity and courage was rooted in her deep Christian faith. As the daughter of a Methodist minister, she liked to refer to herself, even in her advanced years, as “a preacher’s kid.” Her faith made her an optimist, no matter how dark the outlook may have appeared to others who shared her concern about the legally sanctioned destruction of life in America. She had all of her life a great hope for the future, not only for America, but for the world. She said, because Jesus came “not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. And I know if we take that message and remember that the weakest, most helpless among us are the key to our survival, then we won’t have to worry about this great United State becoming extinct.” Now Mildred is enjoying the company of her Lord. Would that we could serve the Lord by fighting for the unborn as she did.

The battle for the right to life for all humans, born and unborn, goes on. The right-to-life movement has lost one of its greatest pioneers and champions. Mildred Jefferson was a tireless worker in the fight for life and she will be greatly missed. We should look to her as our example and renew our efforts in fighting for the principles of life and justice for all. If one woman such as Dr. Mildred Jefferson can do so much, think what we could accomplish if we would all work together! Thank you Dr. Jefferson for your efforts. May we live up to your ideals.

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Imagine helping someone, even giving them your life savings, and then having them turn on you to save their own skin. Does this sound incredibly unfair?

This happened to a very saintly woman named Elizabeth Gaunt. Because she was so kind and good-natured she was betrayed and martyred.
This is what happened.

During the 1680’s, several members of an opposing political party plotted to assassinate King Charles II as he passed by a place known as Rye House. Although the conspirators abandoned the plot, they were betrayed to the government. James Burton, one of the men implicated in the plan pleaded with Elizabeth Gaunt to hide him from his pursuers for the sake of his family. Believing that it was what God would expect, she not only helped him escape but she also gave him her precious savings. She was the kind of woman who always helped her friends. Everyone knew that if you needed help, Elizabeth was the one you would turn to.

However in England in 1685, it didn’t matter if you were a kindly old woman, much loved by your neighbors. If the authorities were angry because of your political or religious beliefs, you could face a death sentence.

The government issued a proclamation that any one who gave evidence leading to others who took part in the plot against King Charles II would be given immunity from prosecution. The current king, King James II hated the people who helped the plotters to escape so much that he preferred to pardon the actual conspirators, and to prosecute those who helped them. This does not make sense to us, but James Ii was a cruel and vindictive man. James Burton saw this as a way to save his skin. He made a deal with the authorities: He would testify against Elizabeth, the woman who had saved his life, if they would grant him the promised immunity. The government agreed to this and James Burton won himself a pardon.

Elizabeth Gaunt’s trial took place on October 19, 1685 at the Old Bailey.
James Burton, his wife, Mary, and his widowed daughter, Mary Gilbert, all testified against her.

She did not deny knowing Burton, but she insisted that she did not ‘contrive to send him away’. There were no witnesses in Elizabeth Gaunt’s defense and there was no evidence presented to prove anything disloyal about her other than that she had assisted Burton. Still the wicked jurors found her guilty. They told her, “That you are to be carried back to the place from whence you came, from thence you are to be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution, and there you are to be burned to death; and the Lord have mercy upon your soul.”

This was grossly unfair, but King James II and his political allies considered this to be the best way to strike terror in the hearts of their religious enemies. Giving a pardon to those cowards who would betray innocent people was a good way to try and round up all those who had different religious beliefs than the King. It also kept the population in servitude to the king.

Before she was led to her execution, Elizabeth wrote a lengthy letter that told of her innocence. She said in part, “I write these few lines, to signify I am well reconciled to the way of my God towards me,  . . and I desire to offer up my all to him, it being but my reasonable service. . .  And therefore, let none think it hard, or be discouraged, at what hath happened unto me; for he doth nothing without cause, in all his ways, and righteous in all his works;. .  neither do I find in my heart the least regret of anything that I have done, in the service of my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, . . and I bless his holy name,  I did but relieve an unworthy, poor, distressed family, & lo I must dye for it; well, I desire in the Lamb-like nature of the Gospell to forgive all that are concerned, & to say, Lord, lay it not to their charge; but I fear it will not; nay I believe, when he comes to make inquisition for blood, it will be found at the door of the furious Judge: . . . my blood will also be found at the door of the unrighteous Jury, who found me guilty upon the single oath of an out-lawd man.” These were the final thoughts of this saintly woman.

On October 23, Elizabeth Gaunt was burnt to death at Tyburn, which was the punishment for treason for women. On the day of her death, the onlookers knew that her sentence was not just, and they wept for her. Elizabeth held up the Bible and claimed that she had aided Burton’s wife and children ‘in obedience to the contents of this book. William Penn, who witnessed Elizabeth Gaunt’s execution, later wrote that ‘she died with a constancy, even to a cheerfulness, that struck all that saw it’. Penn also reported that “she calmly arranged the straw around her to hasten her burning and that she ‘behaved herself in such a manner that all the spectators melted in tears. When the huge crowd, that stood round, saw this foul deed, many wept aloud and uttered lamentations and prayers for their murdered country-woman, and there was rage in their hearts against the men who had disgraced the name of their country and brought this sainted martyr to her death”. Since that terrible day, no woman has suffered death in England for any political offense.

Elizabeth Gaunt’s only crime was to be kind to the wrong person. She was a tender and generous woman and should not have been killed for aiding a poor family.

If our country was in the middle of a political upheaval and the government issued unfair decrees, we may be faced with difficult choices. Elsewhere on this blog, we have told the stories of other women who faced such hard decisions – Corrie ten Boom, Sophie Scholl, Lady Jane Gray and many others. I pray to God that we will have a strong enough desire to follow God’s Word that we will choose to help others even if it costs us a great deal. Elizabeth Gaunt was a fine example of a courageous woman who not only gave all she had to help someone else, but she even forgave the man who betrayed her in a very Christ-like way. I hope that we could all have her courage if ever need be.

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Juliana von Stolberg lived in Holland from1506 to 1580. Readers may remember that this was the time of the Reformation. There were many changes taking place in the world. Usually when we think of the Reformation we recall Martin Luther or John Calvin. These men preached in Germany, France, and Switzerland. But the Protestant faith had spread to Holland, too.

Unfortunately, many from the Catholic faith were not accepting of the changes. Some rulers even started persecutions and wars to punish the “heretics”. Everyone has heard of “Bloody Mary” who ruled in England during this time. She put many thousands of Protestants to death. Perhaps you have heard of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre which occurred in France. The French rulers gave the Catholic people absolute freedom to murder as many Protestants as they wished. There were wars all over Europe between Protestants and Catholics. Today, we find this hard to understand. We believe that everyone should be able to worship as their consciences dictate.

In the 1500’s, the Catholic ruler of Spain, King Philip, had conquered the Netherlands. He tried to force everyone there to become Catholic. The people in Holland not only wanted their freedom from a foreign ruler, but they wished to be allowed to worship God as they believed. God raised up a man to lead the people in Holland to independence. His name was William of Orange. He was a strong man, but no stronger than his amazing mother, Juliana von Stolberg.

Juliana taught her sons that it is not right to hurt or kill someone because they believe differently than you do. All five of her sons were faithful believers in the Lord, but all were peaceful. None wished for the war with Spain, but all went to fight the evil Duke of Alva, the hated Spanish overlord. Eventually, Juliana’s son, William was able to free the Dutch people and they formed their own independent state. William is viewed as the “Father” of the Netherlands. Juliana has been remembered by the Dutch people affectionately as the “Queen Mother” of the Netherlands.

Juliana was also remembered as Dr. Oma. “Oma” is Dutch for Grandmother. She was called “Dr. Oma” because of the many people she healed. Juliana had her own herb garden and prepared all of her own herbal medicines. She administered these to the villagers and her household including all of her servants. She taught this wisdom to her granddaughter who carried on after her death.

She raised seventeen children without modern medicine or prepared food or paper diapers. She also ran her entire household. She and her husband founded and ran a school together. When he died, she ran it for another twenty years by herself until she died at the age of 74. Juliana had 168 grandchildren when she died.

One of the things that struck me the most was her incredible courage. Of her five sons, four were killed in the fighting against Spain. They died in the cause of freedom. This was a sore trial for her, but her faith remained unshakable. Three were killed while she was living, and her beloved son, William was under threat of death for the rest of his life. Some years after her death, he was assassinated by a wicked man who was seeking the bounty that had been placed on his head by the wicked Duke of Alva. Throughout the tragedies of her life, Juliana’s favorite verses of the Bible were the ones that promised God’s protection. She shared a favorite verse with her granddaughter often, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.”

The Dutch people have given Juliana a special place of reverence in their hearts for centuries. Her convictions about faith set the pattern for the Netherlands, and indeed the western world.  Many years later, the Pilgrims would leave England searching for religious freedom. They would go to live in Holland first, before leaving for the New World. They would find the freedom of conscience that they desired. They would also find a government that had toleration for people of different faiths. They would bring these principles with them to New England when they helped to found our great country.

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