Friday, June 19, 2015

William Carey (1761-1834) : Pioneering Protestant Missions in the Modern Age by Chris White

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  –Romans 12:1

“To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.” –William Carey

The year was 1993.  In that year two very important people were honored with commemorative stamps by their respective postal services.  In the United States, 16 years after his untimely death at age 42, Elvis Presley, was remembered as the King of Rock n’ Roll and acclaimed for his rise from obscurity and poverty to become one of America’s great success stories.  On the other side of the world, the nation of India honored William Carey with his own stamp.  Carey had been gone 159 years by this time and had lived a relatively long life.  And just like Elvis, Carey too had risen from obscurity and poverty in his early life to become famous in Britain, Europe, and America as well as India.  Carey was not an entertainer but an esteemed missionary linguist whose influence has been felt by countless millions around the world.  But how could somebody you’ve probably never heard of (at least not as much as Elvis) come to have such a great impact?  That’s a story that needs to start from the beginning.

William Carey was born in the small village of Paulerspury England in 1761.  Not much is known about his early life except that when he was a young boy, his father Edmund Carey became the village schoolmaster and this gave William access to learning and many books.  Carey had an insatiable curiosity and was a disciplined self-directed learner all his life.

As a young man Carey wanted to have a career as a professional gardener but was prevented from doing so because of his great allergies.  Instead he pursued a humble career as a shoe cobbler.  Cobbling was not lucrative but it was an honorable profession and always steady work.  He found an apprenticeship opportunity in a nearby village of Piddington and there he learned his craft.  During this period in his life Carey comes under the influence  of a fellow apprentice who sways him away from the Anglican (Church of England) and towards a Reformed Baptist congregration.  Carey’s master also has a sister-in-law named Dorothy who is a woman of a good reputation, single, and a devout Christian.  They are introduced and soon afterwards they marry.

Carey biographers have long puzzled over this union for it seems a great mismatch.  Dorothy was from a well-known and well-established family and marries a man who lives at the edge of poverty.  Carey is constantly learning even mastering several foreign languages while Dorothy was actually illiterate (not common at this point in time).  And finally there is no evidence of their relationship being a great love match.  Whatever their reasons were for marrying, Dorothy was supportive of her husband despite their difficult lot in life that was quickly compounded just as Carey was becoming a journeyman.

At this point in time the Carey’s had been married a year.  In addition to making shoes, Carey was at this time a part-time preacher at a local Baptist church.  Between both jobs, the Carey’s were not comfortable but they were not starving either.  But then the owner of the shoe shop dies unexpectedly and he is faced with inheriting the business, all its debt, and financially caring for his former boss’s widow and children.  Carey faced this situation with his characteristic faith and continued on despite being reduced to abject poverty.

In time Carey was able to become a full-time minister by serving two different congregations subsidizing his family with making shoes on the side.   Those who knew Carey referred to his shoe shop as “Carey’s College” because he taught himself to read and study while working at the cobbler’s bench.  Basically every spare moment of his day was given over to reading and studying and learning all he could about the original languages of the Bible, theology, world geography, and history.   Dorothy did something at this point that I think is very much to her credit:  as an adult she conquered her illiteracy.  First she learned to write her name and to spell and then began learning to read.  Although her husband was so far ahead of her in his intellectual pursuits, she determined that she was going to grow as well.  When you think about the fact they had no modern conveniences and she had to cook and clean and raise boys without a lot of support, this was really quite an achievement.  

During the many hours of reading in the shoe shop, one book in particular that changed the course of Carey’s whole life: The Last Voyage of Captain Cook.  This awakened in him the idea of world evangelization and from that point on he read everything he could get his hands on about foreign countries.  His interest led him to make lists and catalogues of peoples who had never been reached with the Gospel.  As is so often the case, what starts as an interest becomes a passion that God was kindling all along the way.  This culminates with William Carey offering himself as a living sacrifice to the Lord in his cobblers shop to take the Gospel to the nations where he is unknown.
Sketch of Carey's Baptist Church interior

At the next Baptist ministers meeting that Carey attended, he shared his views about going to do foreign missions and was met with a stern rebuke and opposition from his leaders.  The head of their denomination actually told him that “when it pleases God to convert the heathen, He will do it without our help or mine!”  But Carey’s commitment and temperament led him on and some Churches eventually  got behind him and sent him as their first missionary to India.  

Carey was greatly influenced by the Moravians who were a protestant group from Bohemia which were deploying missionaries all over the world.  The Moravians looked for ways to become self-supporting on the field and sometimes did things as radical as selling themselves into slavery or servitude as a means of staying in an area they wanted to evangelize.

In 1792 Carey writes a famous booklet  An Enquiry into The Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.  This is a moderate Calvinist statement on world mission and how the mandate remains for the church in all times not just the apostolic age which was a popular belief.  In Enquiry Carey also preaches that the missionary is not to rely on Imperial power or convincing arguments for conversions but on fervent and united prayer asking God for favor and for changed hearts among the heathen.  Carey watched the great mercantile organizations of his day who invested greatly in building outposts in foreign countries where they could sell and purchase goods to market elsewhere.  Their great profitability and effectiveness inspired Carey that the same could be done for missions.  Why couldn’t churches pool together and do a similar thing for the profit of winning souls for the Kingdom of God?

So as Carey puts forth this great effort of mobilizing his denomination in missions and helps co-found their first mission society finally offering himself as a field missionary, where is his wife in all this?  Although a strong Christian, she is adamant about one thing: she isn’t going anywhere especially in a land as strange and inhospitable as India!  We musn’t chastise Mrs. Carey for her lack of vision though.  She was by now age 40 and half-way through her fourth pregnancy with three small children at her side when William announces they were going to India.  He had great ideas about doing missions but not the foggiest idea of how to live in a foreign culture either.  And to top it all off, the trip would require a 5 month voyage by ship.

What follows is even more unbelievable at least by today’s standards.   Although Dorothy will not go, she sees her husband is so impassioned and determined, that she tells him to go without her.  They had been married for 16 years by this point and had a family, but she was willing to sacrifice her husband to the Lord’s call.  There was no promise he would even make it there much less come back.
Eventually she felt so worried about his mental health, that she wanted him to take their 8 year old son Felix so he wouldn’t be totally alone without anyone from their family.  I’m pretty sure taking the son was also a means whereby Dorothy would be certain that William would return at some point so his son could get a proper English education.

William continued to work on convincing Dorothy to come, but to no avail.  When the day came to sail he got on the boat to leave with John Thomas, who was another missionary with the Baptists, and their son Felix.  They waved goodbye to one another on the deck of the ship not knowing if they would see one another ever again.

But before the ship left the port, John Thomas was stopped by the local authorities.  Apparently he had not cleared all of his debts and he would not be permitted to sail until all his creditors had been paid.  Imagine Dorothy’s surprise when her husband walked in the door that afternoon after that emotional goodbye.

This delay proved to be quite providential.  Over the next few weeks Dorothy Carey had her baby and after recovering realized she would regret having a divided family the rest of her life just because she was unwilling to leave her village.  She offered to go if William would also permit her younger sister Kitty to accompany them to help with running their home.  Carey gladly made the concession and eventually sailed for India to fulfill God’s call for him with his wife and family all together.  It was quite good that this happened because William Carey never left India the remainder of his life.  There probably would have been no return trip.

The family landed in Calcutta in 1794 and found the stress and pressure almost unbearable.  Carey’s mission agent had misappropriated a lot of their funds and put the family in terrific straits.  God provided relief through an English national who needed a manager for his indigo factory.  Carey took the job which enabled him to earn a living while learning the language and gave him a host of Indian nationals with whom he could converse and eventually share the gospel message.

Unfortunately the following year the Carey’s five year old son Peter becomes ill and dies suddenly.  The compound of grief, the stress of living in a different culture, and the hard living conditions all took their toll on Dorothy and she ended up having a breakdown which turned into a slow descent into insanity over the next decade.  Dorothy really never gets well ever again and at several points other missionaries who later joined Carey’s work urged him to have her committed to an institution.  William Carey never did this but chose to keep her at home even if at times she had to be locked in her room and tied down for her own safety.  As we think of all the language work and Bible translation that was accomplished by William Carey in the ensuing years, it must not be forgotten that much of this work was done at a table outside of Dorothy’s room where he would labor as he heard his wives moans and shrieks.  Initially Carey and others thought Dorothy might be afflicted with demon possession, but after much reading on psychological disorders he felt certain that a paranoid psychosis fit most of the symptoms she was displaying.

There are some who have questioned why Mr. Carey did not seek medical help for his wife.  First of all, there was little hope in the treatments that were available in that day and secondly the missionary community was not welcome and barely tolerated by the East India Trading Company who had charge of the region in which Carey and his team were working.  Perhaps bringing them into the picture might have led to the expulsion of he and the other missionaries.

In 1807 Dorothy finally died at age 51 following the complications of another illness.  She had never felt any calling to the mission field and yet she died after living a decade as a missionary’s wife.  In many regards Dorothy Carey died as a martyr.  Hers was a martyr’s sacrifice to serve Christ as the wife of one with a higher calling she did not share.  She gave up all security and any comforts she might have had in this life, to go to a place she didn’t want to live and lived in fear and deprivation. She was utterly broken and ill-suited for mission work, but out of loyalty to Christ, she followed her husband.  Although it was a cause she barely understood, she should be given credit along with her husband for their pioneering contribution to world missions. 

Lest anyone feel sorry for William Carey, less than 6 months later he was remarried to a woman who was his own age, strikingly beautiful, and intellectually and spiritually his soulmate.  His fellow missionaries were scandalized with the brevity of his grieving period but accepted Charlotte Carey in due course.  They spent the next 13 years working together in Bible translation work before she died.  Carey married a third wife who was significantly younger than he whom he said made the burdens of his old age and illnesses lighter.  She was to outlive Carey for many years.

William Carey did not work alone as a solo act.  In fact he had two other men, Joshua Marshman and William Ward, who with their families,  later joined him in the work he started.  It was their lifetime partnership and commitment to one another that allowed so much to be done.  Carey was not really a success until he had the help that released him to focus on his gifts in languages and education.  As a team they called themselves the “Serampore Trio”.  Through their combined efforts they managed to establish a college, publishing house, and did the many Bible translations.

Carey translated the Bible into 6 major Indian languages and portions of the scripture for another 29 languages.  This is a considerable achievement when you realize the depth of preparation it takes just to make a single translation.  Carey also translated other Bengali works such as some of their oral folklore and published them.  In many ways this helped Carey to know the people but also served to preserve some of their culture.  In time Carey became so knowledgeable in Indian languages he was appointed as professor of Sanskrit and Bengali at Ft. William College in Calcutta in 1801.  This teaching post offered many opportunities for ministry but also made him a respected person in an area that was not enthusiastic about having Christian missionaries present.

Biographer R. E. Hedland says that despite all the knowledge Carey had about Hebrew, Greek, and Indian languages, his own English composition was very poor with lots of mistakes in punctuation as is seen in his letters.  However, it should be remembered that our subject did not complete what we would consider a basic high school education.

Carey certainly was also involved in preaching the gospel in addition to translating the Bible.  He preached his first seven years without making a single Indian convert.  Eventually he had a breakthrough and a small congregation formed.  But Carey knew the reality of just how many people live in India and early on realized he must work on multiplication of preachers more than the addition of new Christians.  Towards this end, Carey’s team worked on establishing Bible colleges for the training of native pastors and evangelists as part of their strategy.

In addition to his Christian ministry, Carey’s influence also helped move India towards a ban on the practice of Sati which happened in 1829.  This was an ancient practice where a widow would be burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre.  There were a variety of social and religious reasons why this form of self-immolation was practiced but it was a practice so ingrained that women were forced to participate even if they didn’t want to die.

Carey served an even 40 years on the mission field before he passed away in 1834 at the age of 73.  When he left England for the mission field he was virtually unknown but in his latter years he was a household name among Christians in Britain and America.  He was requested by publishers to write books on the spiritual life for his English reading audience but declined to do so because he felt it would draw attention to himself.  There was only one portrait ever done of William Carey.  The only reason he allowed it was because there was such a demand to know what he looked like by the public and because he was offered 800 pd. Sterling by the publisher which he donated all to the mission.  The engraving made from the portrait sold like wildfire in England.

William Carey’s mission inspired many others to follow in his path.  Three of his sons grew up to become missionaries and most notably he inspired America’s first missionary couple Adoniram and Ann Judson to go to Burma (present-day Myanmar) where they did similar translation work.  Carey’s work of Bible translation also inspired the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society who developed an even broader ministry of literature evangelism.  Because of his contributions to society and higher learning, school children in India study about William Carey as part of their history courses.
Ft. Williams College in Serampore

Carey is generally thought of today as the Father of Modern Missions because of his influence in the development of Protestant missions of the last two centuries.  In many regards, his methods and practices defined how mission was done for several generations, but I wonder of Carey would agree with that assessment.  No doubt he, like all men, would appreciate some recognition for his labors.  But I think Carey would also be quick to point out that the only greatness he had was that he offered himself to a great Lord and was obedient to what he was called by him to do and this greatness can be had by anyone.
Carey is portrayed in feature film "Candle in the Darkness"

Saturday, June 13, 2015

John Wycliffe (1328-1384) : First Light of the Reformation by Chris White

John Wycliffe

In 1302, pope Boniface VIII issued a papal decree known as Unam Sanctum [one holy church] to all of Europe.  This official message declared that there was one true church composed only of those who were baptized and obedient to the Roman pontiff because as the vicar of Christ, he is the supreme ruler over the inhabitants of the earth.   This assertion of supreme authority came at a time when the papacy and church hierarchy was receiving pushback from many quarters throughout Europe including branches of the church and different monarchs.  Although the statement is the epitome of superbia and was considered so by many at the time, it reflected an overall view of the nature of the Christian church that was so deeply seated, it truly was considered heresy to think otherwise.  In many regards the idea of papal supremacy is the debate that led to the Catholic-Protestant division two centuries later.  In looking at the life and career of John Wycliffe, it is important to understand this conflict because he was a devoted clergyman and theologian who in his public life and pastoral practice both implicitly and explicitly challenged this idea.

Pope Boniface VIII

Wycliffe’s life intersected with what was one of the darkest centuries in Western Europe.  Born in 1328 in the county of Yorkshire England, Wycliffe would witness in his lifetime the Black Death which took as much as 50% of the populace in some places, the bloody conflict of the Hundred Years War with France (which actually lasted well beyond 100 years), and finally the Western Schism of the Church where rival claimants to the papacy divided Christians for nearly 40 years.  Christ promised his disciples that as long as they were in this world there would be tribulation (Jn. 16:33) but it seems that the life and times of John Wycliffe received an extra portion of trouble somehow.

The Black Death took 50% of the populace in places

Of John Wycliffe’s early life not much is known.  The Wycliffe family raised sheep and lived in a village some 200 miles outside of London.  What early education he received probably came from his local priest.  In 1342 Wycliffe’s village comes under the leadership of the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, the second son of King Edward III.  Later in life there would be strong ties between the Duke of Lancaster and Wycliffe but it is not likely the two knew each other prior to Wycliffe’s rise to national prominence.  In 1345, when Wycliffe is 17 years old, he begins to attend Oxford University starting what would be a long and distinguished academic career.  Like most students in his socio-economic status paying for college was a struggle, but he was able to work his way through college living very modestly in a residence near his school.
Oxford today

Wycliffe was to be associated with the colleges of Oxford as a student, academic, and teacher for almost the remainder of his life.  In 1361 he received his Master of Arts degree and in 1372 was made a doctor of theology.  If this seems like a long time to be in school it should be remembered that the length of training to teach and be ordained for ministry was much longer in this period of history.  Once Wycliffe received the Master of Arts, he worked as a minister and a professor while continuing his studies towards his doctorate.  When he received his doctorate he was also made the rector of Lutterworth church, a position he held for the remainder of his life.

In terms of biography, speaking of Wycliffe’s education is a bit more important than just explaining that he had credentials he could put on a resume.  He was a man of humble beginnings who was able to attain expert status in interpreting and understanding the Bible.  He had equal interest in law and philosophy and studied them quite deeply as well.  The sum of this prepared him to be an able spokesman for the English crown to the papacy as well as made him one of the most well-known and trusted theologians in all of Europe.  In essence, Wycliffe’s greater influence was that he was truly learned and intellectually honest.  This would bring both fame and controversy as time went on, but it is why he is important as a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation.
Wycliffe the preacher

Between 1374-76 Wycliffe develops and publishes what has been called his “Dominion Theory.”  This is the idea that all resources in the world are God’s and He alone gives them to men.  If anyone misuses these in some way, God is quite justified in removing them and giving them to another as an act of discipline or punishment.  No one possesses anything by “divine right” but at the pleasure of God.

As this idea played out in historical context, England was at the time facing a possible war with France.  Strapped for cash, England was also facing great demands from the Catholic Church for more and more support.  Wycliffe goes against the church and urges parliament not to comply with their demands.  He argued the church already had enough wealth and Christ urged his disciples to poverty not aggrandizement.  This certainly made him popular with the state (at least for the moment) but earned him the attention of Pope Gregory XI who issued five papal bulls against Wycliffe on this theory calling it error from the master of errors.

In 1377, Wycliffe is condemned at a meeting he has with church officials at St. Paul’s cathedral in London.  Later that year he is put under a house arrest when he refuses any further questioning before the bishops.  When Wycliffe is summoned to a trial at Lambeth Palace (home of the Archbishop of Canterbury) the following year, the queen mother and other prominent citizens of London show up to give their support which in turn made a conviction of heresy exceedingly impolitic in that moment.
And then, as so often happens in history, the sudden death of Pope Gregory XI that year stopped all efforts to silence Wycliffe. 

The Western Schism

The papal election that summer was to result in the division of Christendom for the next 36 years.  Gregory XI had only recently returned the papacy to Rome after a 70 year hiatus in Avignon.  Gregory and several of his predecessors were Frenchman as well as many of the cardinals.  The fear that the cardinals would elect another Frenchman and the papacy would return to Avignon caused riots in Rome and death threats against the conclave.  Under duress, the cardinals elected an Italian bishop who took the name Urban V.  Feeling bad about making such a choice under pressure and not particularly liking their choice, most of the French cardinals leave Rome and hold another election where they choose Clement VII as a rival pope and they do return to Avignon.  And so with all the confusion and division that ensued in the wake of rival papacies, John Wycliffe found himself out from all the scrutiny for at least a while.  This gave him the room to enter into even greater controversy the following year.

In 1379, Wycliffe publishes his controversial views on the Eucharist (also known as Communion or the Lord’s Supper).  In his day the idea of transubstantiation was accepted as dogma by the Church.  Transubstantiation is the belief that when an ordained priest consecrates the bread and wine used in this ceremonial meal, it actually becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ even though its external appearance is unchanged.  This idea, which has a long and deep root system in Christian history, comes from an extremely literal understanding of John 6:53 which reads: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’”  What is being suggested in this view is that the eternal life is assured and sustained by regular participation (eating the body and blood of the Lord) in this meal.  A further entailment of this idea is that only an ordained priest under the authority of his bishop and ultimately the pope is authorized to consecrate the meal and thus confer this benefit to the Christian. 

This doctrine also became a means of enforcing the pope’s views or wishes.  On many occasions, if a prince, king, or even teacher in the church said or did something at odds with the pope, what was known as an interdict would be issued against them.  An interdict withholds some or all the sacraments until further notice.  Imagine being a king with an entire population fearing for their souls because they are being denied the Eucharist because of some choice you made.  More than once was this used to bring pressure to bear on a secular ruler.

Wycliffe saw this idea as something quite novel (it had only become the official teaching of the Church at the Lateran Council of 1215) and from his theological and philosophical perspective thought the idea to be unsound.  From a pastoral perspective, he felt the practice to be idolatrous and superstitious and putting too much emphasis on the priest.  Wycliffe came to write a treatise called De Eucharista which directly attacked transubstantiation.
"it all depends on the definition of 'is'"

When President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment during January of 1999, he famously deflected the idea that he perjured himself when he had previously denied a relationship with Monica Lewinsky with the now famous “that all depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is”.  Apparently John Wycliffe preceded Mr. Clinton by several centuries in his parsing of the word ‘is’ when it came to his understanding of the Eucharist.  On this topic Wycliffe gave special meaning to the word ‘is’ when it came to his understanding of Christ’s words “this is my body.”  Wycliffe believed that the consecrated host was still bread, but “is” the body of Christ in terms of its significance and effect in the believer partaking in the Eucharist.  Known as the “receptionist view”, Wycliffe emphasized the faith of the communicant over priestly consecration as to how the body and blood of Jesus are partaken in the Lord’s Supper. He believed that the bread and the wine on the altar remained bread and wine after their consecration.  Christ was present and received in the Eucharist on the basis of faith by the individual communicant.

By 1381, Oxford University was put under pressure by the church and Wycliffe was so controversial that he is officially banned from his teaching post.  Still a pastor he moves to the parish church of Lutterworth where he serves the remainder of his life.  It is in this exile of sorts, Wycliffe develops some of his most influential theology which gives shape to what a reformed Christian church will eventually look like in the next 200 years.  
Wycliffe influenced many preachers to go out in England

Wycliffe, himself a noted preacher, felt that preaching of the Word of God was the most important thing people needed and the most neglected task of the church.  He was also critical how many of the common practices of church were connected only by tradition but not by direct teaching from scripture.  Things like confession to a priest or masses to relieve the dead in purgatory he believed to be unbiblical and abominable.  Wycliffe emphasized in his teaching that the believer only needed one mediator before God and that was Christ alone.

During this period Wycliffe and several aides translated the Bible from Latin to English. Technically this would be a translation of a translation but it is the first English Bible and sets a tone for future reformers such as Tyndale and Luther to produce vernacular scriptures.  What is important to know is that the audience for this Bible was the common person.  Latin was the language of educated clergy and French the language of the educated Englishman.  In Wycliffe’s time more and more ordinary people were learning to read and Wycliffe believed it was God’s will that the common man could have greater access to the Bible by hearing it preached in his own language.  Both Wycliffe and Luther strategically published their books in the common language to give their ideas a broader reach.  Wycliffe, unfortunately lived prior to the mass-production of books and so his audience was obviously more restricted than Luther’s but it still had a wider reach than it would have if it were only written in Latin.

Wycliffe the Bible translator

The detractors of Wycliffe had great criticism of his Bible translating activities.  For the Church, Latin was the language of the learned.   Something as important as the Bible should not be available to the unlearned and untrained to read on their own, but should be interpreted for them by the clergy.  In this sense, it was said that Wycliffe had “thrown pearls before the swine.”  In one sense, this criticism is not entirely unjust.  People who attempt to interpret the Bible without proper understanding can and do make a mockery of its contents all the time.  However, on the other side of the equation, the general message of the Bible is relatively clear and accessible to all who read it, even those without a faith commitment.  Thus, a lay person who reads the Bible, although they may require some guidance at times, can certainly read it to his or her own edification without much problem. 

An interesting unintended consequence of Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible was that it unified the form of English that was spoken in Britain because of the Bible’s popularity.
Wycliffe actually died in the pulpit

Probably one of Wycliffe’s more influential writings was his treatise known as De Ecclesia.  In it he explains the nature of the Church is not the visible organization (with its pope, cardinals, bishops) but the congregation of the predestined.  The only head of the church then is not the pope, but Jesus himself.  Wycliffe, not one to fear controversy, pointed out that it was quite possible that even the pope may not be of the elect.  While the church on earth will always be a mixture of wheat and tares as Jesus said it would, the true church will always be composed of those whom the Lord has called to himself and who live by faith.  Even as the Medieval church emphasized the external structures and the use of sacraments as the guarantee of eternal life, Wycliffe pointed to the ancient path of the prophets and apostles who taught that the just shall live by faith.  This too would be an idea picked up and carried forward by the later Reformers.

Even as the Roman Catholic church has a long memory of those it considers saints and martyrs, it has an equally long memory of those it considers heretics.  John Wycliffe had the good fortune of dying and going to heaven in 1384 after a second stroke and a life wearied by conflict with the church hierarchy and the burden of many labors on behalf of its people.  In 1418, some 34 years after his death, 260 separate charges of heresy were brought against him at the ecumenical council of Constance and the conclusion of the council, which also condemned to the flames John Huss a popular preacher also influenced by Wycliffe, was that he was to be posthumously condemned, executed and deprived of Christian burial.  The job of carrying out the sentence fell to the newly elected Pope Martin V who didn’t get around to carrying out this sentence for another 11 years.  In 1429, the pope had the bones of John Wycliffe disinterred from the church yard where he was buried, and then burned to dust (as would be done if he were burned at the stake) and the ashes cast into the nearby river Swift.  He was considered an ‘obstinate heretic’ by the Church but later generations would look upon his influence and contributions and call him “the Morningstar of the Reformation.”  His light was the Scripture alone and his call was for the church to consider them the true voice of the Lord on earth.

Wycliffe's macabre posthumous execution