This Week in Christian History: Danish Reformation, Handel's Messiah and Global Ecumenism

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(Photo: Joanna Lindén-Montes/WCC)Processing in for the opening prayer service on Oct. 30, 2013 in South Korea.

Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week in Church history. They include Denmark embracing Protestantism; the forming of a global ecumenical body, and the creation of one of the most famous musical pieces in history.

Denmark Embraces the Protestant Reformation

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This week marks the anniversary of the Diet of Odense, a gathering organized by Denmark's King Frederick I to settle issues of religious strife in the kingdom.

Coming to power in 1527, Frederick I had originally sworn support for the Roman Catholic Church against the young and growing Protestant Reformation.

However, on Aug. 20, 1527, at Odense, Frederick changed course and granted Lutherans the same religious privileges he allotted to the Catholic Church.

According to 19th century theologian and historian J.H. Kurtz, Frederick's embrace of the Reformation involved "limiting episcopal jurisdiction, proclaiming universal religious liberty, allowing priests to marry and monks to forsake their cloisters."

The Christian educational site Biblical Training described the Diet of Odense as "a decisive turning point in the history of the Reformation in that country."

"This principle of religious toleration formed the legal foundation for Frederik's policy of coexistence of a national Catholic Church alongside free Lutheran congregations, until the final accomplishment of the Reformation in Denmark in 1536," noted Biblical Training.

Handel Begins Working on Messiah

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)George Friedrich Handel (1685-1759), famed composer of "Messiah" and other pieces.

This week marks the anniversary of when George Frederick Handel began working on what has become one of the most famous musical pieces in western civilization: Messiah.

On Aug. 21, 1741, a friend of Handel's named Charles Jennens sent the composer a compilation of passages from the King James Bible and Anglican Church liturgy that could be put to music.

Twenty-four days later, Handel had completed "Messiah." According to William D. Crump's Christmas Encyclopedia, "the power and majesty of the subject consumed Handel such that he rarely ate or slept."

Selections from "Messiah" continue to be performed to this day, with the "Hallelujah Chorus" probably being the most famous of the songs.

"Legend has it that when King George II first heard the 'Hallelujah' chorus during a performance of Handel's 'Messiah' in London, he stood to his feet in reverence, which thus compelled the rest of the crowd to stand," noted the Southeast Outlook.

"More than 250 years later, crowds still rise to their feet upon hearing the first notes of 'Hallelujah,' often performed by church choirs during Christmas and Easter celebrations."

World Council of Churches Founded

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(Photo: The Christian Post)The World Council of Churches Central Committee holds a meeting in Geneva on Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2009.

This week marks the anniversary of when the World Council of Churches was established, marking a major step in global ecumenism.

The WCC was officially founded on Aug. 23, 1948, on the second day of an interdenominational assembly held in Amsterdam. The Assembly's theme was "Man's Disorder and God's Design."

At its beginning, the WCC had 147 member churches representing a diverse array of countries and confessions. At present, the Geneva, Switzerland-based organization has 348 member churches representing approximately 500 million Christians.

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