UU Minute #35

The Dissipation of Socinianism

The Minor Reformed Church, that is, the early unitarian church, began in Poland because Poland in the 16th century was tolerant enough to allow it. But in the 17th century, Poland proved not tolerant enough to allow it to continue. In the half-century after Fausto Sozzini’s death in 1604, oppression increased and worsened until, in 1660, the Socinians were forcibly expelled.

Some went to Transylvania where Polish-speaking unitarian churches were then established -- these eventually assimilated. Some exiles went to Konigsburg, Prussia, where, for another century, Socinian congregations survived. The Socinians who made it to Holland established the congregations that endured the longest.

Fausto and Elizabeth Morsztyn had had one child: a daughter, Agnese. Agnese grew up and married Stanislaw Wiszowaty, and they had a son, Andreas Wiszowaty, born 1608. Andreas, Fausto’s grandson, was a theologian in his own right and minister in the Socinian churches of Holland, as were both of Andreas’ two sons. After the generation of Fausto’s great-grandchildren, for all practical purposes, Sociniansm as an organized religious movement died.

The ideas, however – the thought printed in Fausto’s books which had been leaking into England since 1590, continued to filter in over the next two centuries and fuel a Unitarian movement there. Through those writings, Fausto Sozzini was, as David Parke writes, “More than any other person, the architect of modern Unitarianism.”

We are his heirs. Not because we share his doctrines. Most of us do not. We are his heirs because we Unitarian Universalists today continue the conversation to which Fausto Sozzini so substantially contributed. We have expanded upon his commitments to tolerance of diverse viewpoints, and we retain his emphasis on religion as what we live, one example and model of which is the life of Jesus. May we be worthy of this rich inheritance.

NEXT: England: Wycliffe to Henry VIII

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