Tried As An Innovator, Died in Prison

Enjoying some Wikipedia research (noting the potential for discrepency and misinformation) on Unitarian Universalists.  Rev. Francis David (Anglicized) is one of our best known forefathers.  He died in prison, having been tried and sentanced as an "innovator", ostentaciously for religious innovation…giving up belief in the Holy Ghost and Christ, but maintaining a Unitarian belief in God.  Guess our UU nature is good our history for innovation (i.e. the internet), inventions, free thinking, and free persons.

Ferenc Dávid (1510November 15, 1579) was the founder of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania.

Ferenc Dávid (also rendered as Francis David in English) was born in Kolozsvár (known as Cluj-Napoca in Romanian) around 1510. After studying in Wittenberg and Frankfurt he was elected Calvinist bishop of the Hungarian churches in Transylvania, and appointed court preacher to John Sigismund, prince of Transylvania. His discussion of the Trinity began in 1565 with doubts of the personality of the Holy Ghost, because he could find no scriptural basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

His antagonist in public disputations was the Calvinist leader, Péter Juhász (Melius); his supporter was Giorgio Blandrata. John Sigismund, adopting his court-preacher’s views, issued (1568) an edict of religious liberty at the Torda Diet, which allowed David (retaining his existing title) to transfer his episcopate from the Calvinists to the anti-Trinitarians, Cluj being evacuated by all but his followers.

In 1571 John Sigismund was succeeded by Stephen Báthory, a Catholic, and trouble began. Under the influence of Johannes Sommer, rector of the Kolozsvár gymnasium, Dávid (about 1572) abandoned the worship of Christ. The attempted accommodation by Faustus Socinus after Blandrata’s request was unsuccessful. Tried as an innovator, Dávid died in prison at Déva (Romanian: Deva) in 1579. The ruins of the prison site at Déva now hold a memorial for Dávid.

Dávid is best known among modern-day Unitarian Universalists for his often quoted statement, "We need not think alike to love alike."


2 responses to “Tried As An Innovator, Died in Prison

  1. The Unitarian Church of Transylvania comemorates the death of David Ferenc every year on November 15th with a special church service. Also a pilgrimage is made every year to the ruins of the fortress in Deva.

    I’m hoping to make the trip this year myself.

    Here is what the Transylvanian Catechism teaches:

    20) What is your religion?
    I am a Unitarian.
    21) Who was the founder of the Unitarian Church?
    The founder of the Unitarian Church was Francis David (Dávid Ferenc).
    22) What do we know about the life of Francis David?
    According to tradition, Francis David was born in Cluj (Kolozsvár) around 1510. He completed studies in Cluj (Kolozsvár), Alba Iulia (Gyulafehérvár) and Wittemberg (Germany). After he returned from his pilgrimage, he worked as school director and minister in Beszterce, Petres and Cluj (Kolozsvár).
    23) To what purpose did Francis David devoted his life?
    The purpose to which Francis David devoted his life was the restoration of the pure Christianity of Jesus.
    24) How did Francis David endeavor to realize this purpose for his life?
    Francis David endeavor to realize this purpose for his life by preaching and spreading the pure Christianity of Jesus through the pulpit, debates and books.
    The co-workers of Francis David were: Gaspar Heltai, Istvan (Stephen) Basilius, Benedek (Benedict) Óvári, Miklos (Nicholas) Bogáti Fazekas, Gyorgy (Georgio, George) Blandrata and others.
    25) How did the people of the country accept the teaching of Francis David?
    The greater part of the Hungarian people of the country agreed with Francis David and along with King John Sigismund, became followers of the pure Christianity of Jesus, as it was taught by Francis David. This religion was named Unitarian, from (the doctrine of the) unity of God.
    The word “Unitarian” is of Latin origin “unus, unitas” which means “believers of one God who profess the indivisible unity of God”. The Unitarian name was first used in 1600 at the Diet of Lécfalva.
    26) What was the most important result of spreading the Unitarian Religion?
    The most important result of the spreading of the Unitarian faith was the proclamation of religious freedom at the Diet of Torda in 1568. It was first declared to the world in Transylvania, that everyone can exercise that religion which agrees with their understanding, because “faith is the gift of God”.
    We consider the founding of the Unitarian Church (to be) from the proclamation of this law.
    The Diet of Marosvásárhely (Tg.Mureş) confirmed the law of religious freedom in 1571.
    The decision of the Diet of Torda in 1568:
    “Our Royal Highness, as he has decreed on matters of religion, together with the Diet, now confirms again that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel, each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, then it shall be considered good; if not, no one shall compel them, for their soul would not be satisfied, but they shell be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall annoy or abuse the preachers on account of their religion, in accordance with the previous resolutions of the Diet, or allow any to be imprisoned or punished by removal from his post on account of his teachings, for Faith is the gift of God; this gift comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God”.
    27) How long was Francis David able to serve the pure Christianity of Jesus?
    Francis David served the pure Christianity of Jesus only until 1579; the enemies of the religious freedom sentenced him to prison for life as an innovator. They imprisoned him in Deva castle, where he died on November 15th 1579.
    The grave of Francis David is unknown. At the place of his suffering, in one cell of the castle of Deva, a memorial column preserves his name and proclaims his life’s work.
    The first memorial was placed in 1910 by our Church on the occasion of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Francis David’s birthday. The present memorial was placed in reverence by Unitarian believers in 1948.
    28) What happened after Francis David’s death?
    Francis David’s death was followed by a very difficult period in the history of our church. First, religious intolerance and later, political suppression oppressed our church. Instead of building, our ancestors were forced to gather all their forces for self-defense. In this hard struggle many of our churches and congregations were lost, as well as about three-quarters of our believers. Only the providence of God, the law of religious freedom and the heroic persistence of a portion of our believers saved the church from total destruction.
    29) How long was this difficult period?
    This difficult period continued nearly 300 years. After that, due to historical developments, there came a time which was more free. Our church was delivered from suppression, gathered together its remaining strength and was able to build the kingdom of God freely. Through the sacrifices of believers, churches were built and the number of church members increased. Then it was possible to mention the name of Francis David and to preach in his spirit. In 1879, our church was able to celebrate the memory of its founder, Francis David, for the first time on the occasion of 300th anniversary of his death.

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