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Ordering Protestant Churches – Visitation and School Ordinances in the Palatinate (1556)

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These anti-pastors, nearly all of whom are papists and tarred with the brush of public whoring and other shameful [acts] and vice, have contributed not a little to the ruin of the poor people. Among others, a Schwenckfeldian teacher called Bernhart Herxhaimer was reported to us. He is the schoolmaster at Edigkoven, and he published a little book called the Carnival Booklet, in which he laid out the whole of Schwenckfeld’s teachings in verse. And since it is easy to read because of the rhymes, he has done great damage with it for miles around. We had this man brought before us at city hall, confronted him with his book and openly debated the teachings taken from it with him in the presence of all the pastors. By the grace of God, we were able to convince him of his error, as he himself admitted, saying that if he had heard our religion explained in this way before, he would never have written such a book.

Similarly, an Anabaptist was brought before us [ . . . ], and we spoke to and dealt with him so that he immediately and publicly professed his allegiance before the governor as your Electoral Grace’s deputy and was therefore allowed to return home to his wife and children.

[There were too few clerics in Lautern. In Diemstein, there was a very capable pastor called Bartholomaeus Dietmar, who was considering taking a post elsewhere, but whom the writer of the report feels should be kept in the Palatinate at all costs and promoted to the position of Superintendent. The commission attempted in vain to convince two Anabaptists of the error of their ways.]

In Altzey, which is a large parish, we were busy for eight days with a nest full of ignorant, dreadful Papist pastors, many of whom we relieved of their office and ordered to leave by the Feast of St. Martin [11 November]. The rest, because they were willing to accept your Electoral Grace’s church ordinance and to act in accordance with it, were left in their churches in the expectation of future improvement [on their part].

[In Kreuznach, two literate Anabaptists were converted, and the 24 pastors were largely “incompetent, ignorant asses;” in Kirchberg, they were “incompetent, ignorant papists.”]

It is clear from statements by the mayors and churchwardens that the people are becoming completely irreligious. Few concern themselves with religious matters or know how to distinguish between papist and evangelical teachings.

[In Stromberg, six Anabaptists were converted. They said that the impropriety and the carnal and godless living of their pastors were the principal reason for their apostasy. Nevertheless, they refused to take the oath of allegiance and were therefore returned to prison.

Conditions were better in Bacharach and Kaub, except that the people don’t go to church often enough, but do make pilgrimages to the grave of St. Werner. After outlining conditions in several other places, the report turns to more general errors and deficiencies.]

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