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The Reformation Defined – The Diet of Augsburg (1530)

The issues at stake in the religious schism were officially defined at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), the greatest Imperial assembly between 1495 and 1648. Charles V, recently crowned emperor by Pope Paul II, had returned to the Empire to settle, as he proposed, the schism through negotiations with the estates. He invited the Protestants to submit to him their articles of doctrine, to which his own theologians were then asked to respond. The Lutheran princes and cities submitted the Confession of Augsburg, which later became the definitive Lutheran statement of doctrine; two other (less regarded) statements came from Zwingli and a few South German cities. After much back and forth, the ensuing negotiations broke down, and the Diet dispersed, the parties having been hardened by the experience. A few months later, the Protestants decided to set aside the issues that divided them, and they agreed to form a defensive alliance. This led to the creation, in early 1531, of the Schmalkaldic League, which offered protection to the Protestants until Charles defeated them on the field in 1547. Before the conclusion of the Diet of Augsburg, the emperor and the majority Catholic estates signed a document (a “Recess”) that included the Diet’s decisions. Dated November 19, 1530, the Recess makes clear, among other things, that the emperor, his advisors, and the Catholic princes, spiritual and temporal, fully understood what was at stake in the schism with respect to doctrine, sacramental practice, ecclesiastical authority, and church property. In this sense, a straight line can be drawn from Charles's exchange with Martin Luther at Worms in 1521 to the Recess of the Diet of Augsburg in 1530.

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Augsburg, November 19, 1530

We, Charles V, [ . . . ] announce and make known to all the following. At Our first Imperial Diet, held at Worms [1521], before We departed from the Holy Roman Empire in order to preserve our kingdom and land from ongoing wars and feuds, as many of you know, We were obliged to establish, with the advice, will, and consent of Ours and the Empire's electors, princes, and estates, a sound law to defend Our holy Christian faith and law and order in the Holy Empire to the honor, good, welfare, improvement, and nurture of the German Nation. Since then We have been hearing, for some time, the grievous news that Our Imperial edict, which We issued at Worms, about the dispute over Our holy Christian faith, which in Our absence has spread and rooted itself in many dangerous sects that give rise to no little confusion and schism in Our common German nation. [ . . . ] And so, having issued several laws for keeping the subjects of Our Spanish kingdom united and peaceful during Our absence, and in view of Our special love for and inclination to the German Nation and the Holy Roman Empire, We have left Our hereditary Spanish kingdom for Italy. We were able, praise be to God, to restore peace and order to our Italian lands. [ . . . ] We called an Imperial Diet to convene in Ours and the Holy Empire's city of Augsburg on April 8, it being Our conviction, will, and opinion to deal with affairs of the Holy Empire, the whole of Christendom, and the German Nation. Specifically, We wished [to determine] how the dispute and errors concerning Our holy faith and the Christian religion [ . . . ] might be fruitfully dealt with and settled, and how the differences over the faith might be overcome; [we wished] to suppress enmity; to overcome the current misconceptions concerning Christ, Our sole Savior; to listen to, understand, and deal with every opinion and view with love and favor, and to bring each to and align each with Christian truth; to suppress everything that is incorrectly interpreted or taught by either side; to accept and stand by a true religion on behalf of us all. [ . . . ]

§ 1. Accordingly, We, together with Our electors, princes, prelates, counts, estates, and envoys, have taken in hand the disputed article about Our holy Christian faith [ . . . ] and have graciously offered to hear everyone who has something to bring forward concerning the religious dispute. This was done by Ours and the Holy Empire's electors, princes, and cities: Duke John of Saxony, Landgrave in Thuringia, Margrave of Meissen, and the Holy Roman Empire's hereditary Marshal and Elector; Margrave George of Brandenburg, Duke of Pomerania-Stettin and of Cashubians and Wends, Burggrave of Nuremberg and Prince of Rügen; Dukes Ernest and Francis, brothers, of Brunswick-Lüneburg; Landgrave Philip of Hesse; Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt; and the envoys of the cities of Nuremberg, Reutlingen, Kempten, Heilbronn, Windsheim, and Weissenburg im Nordgau (1). They composed and submitted in writing their confession and opinion on the faith, which We graciously accepted from them and had read publicly in the presence of all electors, princes, and estates of the Holy Empire assembled here [on June 25, 1530].

And although, after solid advice from expert theologians and Biblical scholars from many nations, We refuted and rejected their confession on good grounds on the basis of the Holy Gospel and the Bible (2), this did not persuade them to agree in all articles with Us, the electors, princes, and other estates. Whereupon, for the health and welfare of the Holy Empire and the German Nation, and so that peace and unity may be maintained, We now present out of Imperial good will and special grace the following favorable Recess to the aforementioned electors, princes, and six cities, requesting them to accept the same with good grace. Namely, that between now and April 15 of next year, they shall consider whether they wish to confess and make peace concerning the disputed articles with the Christian Church, His Holiness, Us, and the other electors, princes, and estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and other Christian rulers and subjects of the common Christendom until a future Council shall meet. They shall apprise Us of their attitude under their seals before this date.

(1) The signatories to the Confession of Augsburg, the Lutheran statement of doctrine submitted to Charles at Augsburg – trans.
(2) Refers to the “Confutation” of the Confession of Augsburg, which a group of leading German Catholic theologians composed; a milder version was read in the emperor's name on August 3 – trans.

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