on February 6, 2008
During seminary at Princeton there was a big set of matching blue volumes in the reference collection that really fascinated me. Bound typescripts of the consistory minutes of Calvin's church in Geneva. I believe these were the only copies in the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately they were in French -- and Old (16th century) French at that. Not real accessible, even for those on campus. Completely so for those not.
This series of published English translations promised to open this up to a much wider audience. Unfortunately, I think this is the only of the projected 21 volumes (covering 1542-64, with just three lacunae) that has appeared after eight years. I wonder if there have been funding or copyright problems.
In any case, we can take what we get. This volume, covering 1542-4, is wonderful. No, it will not satisfy modern expectations for session/consistory/elder minutes. It is spotty at best, and assumes some knowledge of local circumstances that most readers will not have. But it is a great window into the most significant church of the Reformation.
While the editors do add some critical notes, obsessive readers will desire alot more.
The meetings seem to have happened every Thursday. The consistory seemed to convene very frequently for lots of small and big issues. While they exercised pretty frequent and proactive discipline, the penalties are often surprisingly mild. Spousal abuse, crimes, etc. often resulted in admonishment only for first offenses. Many people are required to learn the Ten Commandments or other creedal or Biblical texts. But the pastoral concern and even tenderness often emerges from even these rather sparse notes.
I highly commend this volume to students of Calvin, historians, but also church leaders and laity.
on May 27, 2016
Great insight into the pastoral concerns of Geneva. However, because the minutes were taken with the assumption that we would know who was being mentioned, and the problems being dealt with, there's a lot of information that isn't given. The editors do their best to help supply the context, but you're often left with mental cotton candy - it seems like a lot, but quickly dissipates the more you think about it.
on December 21, 2012
Back in the late seventies at UW (Madison) I studied Reformation history under Professor Kingdon, the lead (surely) editor of this volume. Kingdon's work on Reformation Geneva and John Calvin has been respected around the world for several generations now and the publication of this volume of the records of the work of the Geneva Consistory is a fitting crown to his career.
In the end, John Calvin was a pastor and the reason his theology and commentaries on Scripture remain the most important reading Reformed pastors of our day can do is that every last thing Calvin did is marked by his commitment to shepherd God's flock. He preached pastorally. He fought Rome pastorally. He wrote his Institutes as a primer for his sheep so they could read and understand the Word of God. His fights with Geneva's civil magistrates were pastoral. His leadership of the Company of Pastors was pastoral. His Geneva Academy was (primarily) pastoral training.
And here we read how his work with the Geneva Consistory was utterly pastoral. Open the pages of this volume almost anywhere and it's overwhelming to see the blood and guts of the work of elders and pastors--including John Calvin!
Few books would do more to Reform the Protestant church of our time more than this one. Place it in the hand of your pastor. Your elders. Your own husband. Your seminary students. It will cost you an arm and a leg to do so, but few things are more likely to lead to a reform in our approach to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament than seeing this magisterial reformer down in the trenches loving, and therefore correcting and admonishing and rebuking and censuring his sheep.
Thank you, Professor Kingdon and your fellow scholars. Work well done!
on April 5, 2013
This book strikingly reveals the Calvinistic police state established by Calvin and his henchmen. "How often do you attend the sermons?" "When did you attend last?" "Who preached?" "What did he preach on?" "Do you have board games in your house?" "Do you sing in your house?"
The arrogance of the consistory members, including Calvin of course, is absolutely incredible. You have to read it to believe it.