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Discipline and Control in Calvinist Geneva Symposium

September 29, 2016

All events will be held Thursday, September 29 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in 205 Gorgas Library.

3:00 pm Jeff Watt
“Calvin as Inquisitor? The Consistory and Social Control in Geneva.” 

Description: The reformer John Calvin created and dominated the Consistory of Geneva, a type of morals court that has at times been referred to as the Protestant Inquisition. An examination of the records of the Consistory shows that this institution had jurisdiction over a vast range of sins and misdemeanors, but Calvin and the Consistory’s ultimate goal was less to punish sinners than to reconcile them with the community and with God.

3:30 pm Kirk Summers
“Picturing Discipline: Social Control in Theodore Beza’s Emblemata” 

Description: After the death of Calvin in 1564, his gifted successor Theodore Beza oversaw a concerted effort on the part of the clergy to stem the rising tide of secular resistance against ecclesiastical discipline. One of Beza’s strategies to defend the church’s right of discipline was to present the case through a number of different literary works aimed primarily at secular leadership. Included among these efforts is a short work of the emblematic tradition published in 1580 for which Beza composed a number of short poems with accompanying woodcuts. The Emblemata focus on three major themes: the Huguenot struggle and subsequent refugee crisis; perseverance in the Christian journey of sanctification; and the need for the strict enforcement of laws to check unbridled sin.

4:00 pm Scott Manetsch
Title: “Discipline and Ignorance in Calvin’s Geneva.”

Description: In recent decades scholars of early modern Europe have explored the many ways that church discipline functioned in reformed communities, highlighting its role in controlling public morality, reinforcing social norms, defining the sacred community, and providing pastoral care. To date, few studies have explored the pedagogical function of church discipline as practiced by Calvin and other sixteenth century reformers.  This essay will explore the ways that Calvin and his successors employed church discipline to combat ignorance and enforce right belief in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Geneva.

4:30 pm Jeannine Olson
Title: “When a Genevan pastor transports ‘the discipline’ to London, what’s next?”

Description: When a longtime pastor of the consistory of Geneva, Nicolas Des Gallars, is called to lead the “Stranger Church” in London in 1560, he brings to this newly re-established French-speaking church his practical experience and ideas about how a Reformed congregation should be run.  Struggles ensue. How successful is he in imposing the Genevan model? Or is Genevan discipline willingly acclaimed? Does the consistory in London conform to Geneva? What implications does the London example have for the establishment of consistories elsewhere as the Reformed tradition expands?


September 29, 2016


Kirk Summers