History, Department of


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Published in Zwingliana XXV (1998), pp. 129-142. Copyright © 1998 Theologischer Verlag Zürich


Recent research has highlighted Heinrich Bullinger's role in shaping the institutional structures of the Zürich church, and particularly his use of the synod for overseeing clerical discipline. Bullinger's forceful personality and his fruitful personal relationships with several members of the Zürich Senate, combined with his lengthy tenure of office, gave him an unusually strong position from which to direct the Zürich church and to oversee its personnel. The Basel church was not so fortunate in the half-century after the death of its «founding father,» Johannes Oecolampadius, in 1531. Oswald Myconius, the Basel Antistes from 1531-1552, was acutely conscious of his own deficiencies and oversensitive to any perceived slight from his counterparts in Zürich and Geneva. Myconius' successor, Simon Sulzer,was increasingly handicapped by doctrinal strife within the city and by Basel's alienation from its fellow evangelical Swiss cities, both the result of Sulzer's Lutheran leanings. Only after Sulzer's death in 1585 and the selection of Johann Jakob Grynaeus as the new Antistes did the Basel church gain a leader whose organizational skills and unquestioned orthodoxy gave him the same authority that Bullinger had enjoyed in Zürich. During his first fifteen years in office, Grynaeus consolidated the various methods used by his predecessors to create an effective hierarchical structure for clerical oversight. How did this structure evolve in a church that lacked a charismatic and influential leader for much of the sixteenth century?

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