June 15, 2016

67 Walloons

Stephen Nichols
67 Walloons


This is not the story of ninety-nine red balloons; this is the story of sixty-seven Walloons. Walloons are people from Wallonia, the southern half of Belgium. Wallonia is a French-speaking region. It has its own flag, its own anthem, and even its own Reformation confession. That confession, the Confession of the Walloons, was signed by forty-eight men, eighteen women, and one infant. That's sixty-seven Walloons.

At the time of the Reformation, Wallonia was actually part of northeastern France. Much like the rest of France, it was a place where the Reformation had difficulty in making its presence felt.

In 1522, in the city of Wesel, Wallonia, an Augustinian monk named Matthew Von Gingrich began introducing Lutheran ideas. By the 1540s, the city was captured by Lutheran and Reformation ideas and had a bit of a reputation as a city that would be friendly to those of the Reformation.

At the same time, there was another group of Walloons further south who were influenced less by Luther and the German Reformation and more by Calvin and the Swiss Reformed church. They were persecuted by the local Roman Catholic authorities and petitioned the city council of Wesel to give them refuge. By trade, these were weavers and makers of textiles. The Wesel city council, in granting them refuge, provided a building for them, and they went there and set to work. These Walloons were not only interested in textiles and weaving but also in theology. And so, they wrote a confession of faith, and on February 4, 1545, they presented it to the city council. It is not a long confession of faith. Let's take a look at a few excerpts.

The preface simply says, "The Confession of the Walloons, who have come into the city of Wesel on account of the gospel and to have a preacher in their own language and also to start on two lines the textile trade and the high-low warp loom."

Then they go on to give their confession of faith. They say first, "We believe what is contained in the creed of the Apostles and of the council of Nicaea." They affirm the true humanity and true deity of Jesus Christ. They affirm the Trinity. They go on to discuss the Lord's Supper, saying that it is not to be taken in just one kind—the Roman Catholic practice was to withhold the cup from the laity—but to be taken in both kinds, bread and wine.

They also had some fascinating other paragraphs to their confession of faith. They say, "Also concerning magistrates and the power of the sword, we feel and maintain that it is necessary to honor and obey the magistrates, not only the good and humble but the rude and wicked, as much and so long as they do not command anything against Christ." These people were persecuted, so for them to say "honor the government" is significant. They go on to say, "This is why we reject and hold in execration all sects who are against the Word of God such as the Anabaptists, the Sacramentarians [Roman Catholics], and the Libertines and others like them who separate themselves from the true church of Christ in which one teaches purely his Word and the sacraments are administered according to his commandments."

They add in closing, "For the conclusion we believe that by faith alone we are saved by the mercy of God for the love of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord without our own merits." And then the sixty-seven confessing Walloons sign their confession.