Philadelphia: Schwenkfelder memorial

Schwenkfelder memorialHubby and I were Not Impressed by redeveloped faux-attraction in Philadelphia called Penn’s Landing. The silver lining — as we made our escape — was coming across a small memorial to the Schwenkfelders.

Radical and persecuted in their own day, the Schwenkfelders walked a middle ground among the warring Reformation sects in a way that anticipated later ecumenism. Unlike other immigrant churches, the Schwenkfelders never spread past the environs of Philadelphia — in case you’ve never heard of them — and never grew past a handful. About three thousand in six churches today.

Schwenkfelder Library (N.B. They hold some of the only surviving manuscripts of Universalist George de Benneville. )

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. The Schwenkfelder Church got its fifteen minutes of fame when Ronald Reagan chose a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, who was a Schwenkfelder, as his running mate. Reagan wanted to balance his ticket by choosing a moderate. Suddenly the media was interested in the Schwenkfelders. But the Republican convention nominated President Jerry Ford to run against Jimmy Carter, and the media lost interest in the Schwenkfelders.

  2. Ah, they considered joining the UCC. On the one hand, i wish they had, on the other hand, I appreciate their decision not to.

    I ran across the Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum at the CUA library. Yes, the whole thing.

  3. I thought that a few of the Schwenkfelder churches had joined the UCC, without abolishing the Schwenkfelder Church, or their membership in it. Which I think is an excellent compromise.

  4. Yes, a quick Google trip shows that at, at the very least, Palm Schwenkfelder and Olivet Schwenkfelder have associated with the UCC. It was my understanding from reading a bit of Schwenkfelder history in the “Hidden Histories in the UCC” series and some discussion with Barbara Brown Zikmund that there’s still a good working relationship between the UCC and Schwenkfelders, and UCC clergy have pastored Schwenkfelder churches. Perhaps I’m overstating the case, though.

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