Reformation Women - 500 years from today
What would someone say about you in 500 years? That’s the question that struck me as I read this month’s book, “Reformation Women” by Rebecca Van Doodewaard. I don’t expect that anyone will be writing about me in 500 years, but it’s a good way to reflect on who we are and what we hold as important, don’t you think? Well, here’s a possible suggestion…
“She used her gifts for gospel change in her own sphere in whatever ways possible.” (p24).
That’s how Van Doodewaard summarised the life of Katharina Schutz, the wife of Matthew Zell. Isn’t it a beautifully simple summary of a faithful life lived trusting in Jesus? It could have described any of the 12 women who Van Doodewaard shares about in her book published this year to coincide with 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. There are not many books written about the women of the Reformation, meaning that this book introduces us to a number of women you may have never heard of before: Anna Reinhard, Anna Adlischweiler, Katharina Schutz, Margarethe Blaurer, Marguerite de Navarre, Jeanne d’Albret, Charlotte Arbaleste, Charlotte de Bourbon, Louise de Coligny, Katherine Willoughby, Renee of Ferrara and Olympia Morata.
Van Doodewaard starts by including a helpful introduction and overview of the period of history that we are focusing in on. I appreciated her encouragement for conservative Evangelical women to write and be concerned with history, as we, like the women of the Reformation, try to work out what biblical womanhood looks like in whatever situation God has placed us in. It was also interesting to read why she chose to select lesser known women to share, to help us have a more diverse understanding of what the Reformation looked like, particularly in countries like France, Spain and Italy, where the Roman Catholic church remained powerful and the reformers were heavily persecuted.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to read about so many women who lived through this tumultuous time in history. Despite different backgrounds, upbringings, nationalities, experiences and martial statuses, each of the women Van Doodewaard profiles had these four characteristics in common (p.xiii):
1. They were devoted to the Protestant church and encouraged its growth.
2. If they were married, they served their husbands and encouraged their ministries.
3. They practiced hospitality sacrificially and with joy, despite great turmoil and many in the face of substantial hardship and persecution.
4. They were intent on using their intellectual abilities to equip and train others in understanding God’s word.
These women were among the first wives of pastors and clergy, and so to read about their approach to living out God’s purposes for marriage and church life was also encouraging.
Understanding the Reformation remains important for us today. The Reformers urged the church to return to having the Bible, and therefore the Gospel, at the centre of everything. And we need that reminder too. We can so often be tempted to place tradition, or experience, or cultural and societal norms on the same level as the Word of God. So reading about the Reformation, and being encouraged by these women who were willing to give up everything to follow our Lord Jesus should encourage us too. The words of Acts 4:12 were as true for the women of the Reformation, as they are for us and people of all time:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV).
In my next post, I’ll share a small snapshot of some of the women that Van Doodewaard biographies.
Writer | Sarah Cameron I love to read, but don’t get much time to at the moment with 3 kids under 3 years old. I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where my husband Gus is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds.