Schmid, Konrad (1476-1531)
|1825 representation of Konrad Schmid
in a biography of Johann Heinrich Hess.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Konrad Schmid, a Swiss Reformed clergyman, born at Küssnacht on Lake Zürich in 1476, was appointed as commander (Comtur) of the Johannite monastery in 1519. Soon after, he became a close friend of Ulrich Zwingli and zealously promoted the Reformation in Zürich, publicly advocating the Reformation in the second disputation, 26-28 October 1523. The topics of the debate at this large, important meeting were the unscripturalness of the images of saints and the veneration of the saints, and the Catholic Mass. In the course of the debate Konrad Schmid said tactfully that everything must proceed from God's Word, the pure Gospel, which teaches us to acknowledge Christ as the only Mediator, to whom alone honor is due. He was trying to say thereby that iconoclasm was not the essential of the Reformation, but the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour. His well-meant admonitions, however, did not find universal acceptance. Even Zwingli was not altogether satisfied with him, and declared to him, "When . . . the commander remarks that everyone should first be instructed in the divine Word, that pleases me very well; if the priests had preached the Word, the populace would not have followed unfruitful things, and it would never have reached the point where one could learn to know Christ only through paintings. But if one were to postpone the removal of the images until it could create no offense, it would never happen."
On the afternoon of the third day there was a lively discussion on the Mass. Opinion as to its abolition was divided, although Zwingli had recognized the Mass as reprehensible idolatry. During this indecision Conrad Grebel urged the immediate abolition of the Mass by vote of the meeting, since it was not a sacrifice, but was sufficiently shown from the Scriptures to be an error, and all abuses should be uncovered and eliminated. Balthasar Hubmaier supported Grebel and tried to explain that the Mass was nothing but a distortion of the symbols of the communion: the body and blood of Christ. He demanded that the Mass should be read in the mother tongue. Zwingli agreed with both and added that anything that had forced its way into the church without Christ's institution was an abuse of the divine, and must be countered with God's Word. But he wanted to leave the matter of eliminating the abuses to the government, whereupon Simon Stumpf replied that he had no right to submit the decision in spiritual matters into the hands of temporal government.
Then Konrad Schmid made an important speech, summarized as follows: Although God has completed everything in Christ people still practice superstition. It is the duty of the council to issue orders to honor, worship, and call upon God alone, and not to worship images. Christian regents should issue Scriptural decrees "that in their lands and realms none but Christ should be called upon, worshiped, and honored, and recognized as the only comforter and helper in need and Lord of all things." Paul too was protected by temporal authority when the Jews were about to kill him. If the Gospel is again brought to the world cheerfully and clearly, Christ's reign will be established. "You have hitherto assisted many a temporal prince to regain his rule for the sake of money, now for the sake of God assist Christ our Lord to regain His kingdom." "If Christ were permitted to be the only Lord and Master of all things, so that He could reign in us and fulfill His work, we would have brotherly love among us, Christian peace, divine grace and mercy here in time and afterward eternal life."
This address of Konrad Schmid's was a clever defense of an ecclesiastico-political, theocratic view. It made an enormous impression on the hearers, but more important, it brought about the union of the temporal power with the spiritual. This was the formal introduction of the Reformed State Church. From this time on the clergy saw in the church only an institution of the state, which in accord with the ordinance of God (Romans 13) was authorized to dictate faith and if necessary use the sword against the "unbelieving."
This union, however, became the point of division between the Swiss Brethren and Zwingli. Zwingli and Schmid acquired power that developed into a dictatorship, beside which no other view was permitted. Then a committee was appointed to carry out the work of the Reformation: Zwingli, Wolfgang Joner, Heinrich Brennwald, Heinrich Engelhard, Leo Jud, four councillors, and Konrad Schmid.
In the late fall of 1525 Schmid was one of the four presidents of the third disputation on the question of baptism, the others being Wolfgang Joner of Kappel, Dr. Sebastian Hofmeister of Schaffhausen, and Joachim von Watt (Vadian) of St. Gall. It seems that at that point he abandoned his moderate point of view in matters of faith and became a violent opponent of the Swiss Brethren.
At the great disputation at Bern in the summer of 1528, where the Reformation was decided upon, Konrad Schmid was again one of the four presidents. Having in his home town participated in the bitter struggle against the Swiss Brethren, Schmid may have been so much the more annoyed to meet some of them at the Bern disputation. He published a polemic against them with the title, Verwerffen der Artickeln and stucken so die Widertöuffer uff dem gesprach zu Bernn, vor ersamen grossen Radt fürgewendt habend. Durch Cunraden Schmid, Commenthur zu Küssnacht am Zürich See. Its purpose was to induce the leaders to adopt the same policy as had been adopted at Zürich. This pamphlet, filled with epithets from the animal and demon worlds, contains many falsehoods and perversions. Schmid went so far as to assert that the Swiss Brethren were "the worst enemies of the cross of Christ, the like of which has never yet been found in any history." They were the ones who annul Christ and in His place pour forth their devilish baptism." It was his opinion that they could expect nothing but eternal damnation, and "would be cast into the lower world as the Gadarene swine had been cast into the sea, unless they returned to the unity of the Christian church, besides which there is no way to bliss." "What the devil has spun, the Swiss Brethren have reeled"; yet these erring ones had at the disputation of Bern in 1528 been quite kindly dismissed by the honorable council (with prison and threat of death)!
It is sad that so influential and gifted a man as Konrad Schmid allowed himself to be led to such boundless distortions. Hubmaier reports in his letter from Zürich, "The Johannite priest, Commander at Küssnacht," in whom there is in truth nothing but talk and pomp, "was one of those most to blame for the severity of the government measures against the Anabaptists."
Schmid served in both Kappel wars, 1529 and 1531, as an army chaplain. Like his friend Zwingli he died in battle in 1531. After his death Bullinger wrote of him, "This Conrad Schmid was a pious man, helped much in the Reformation, as can be seen in all the records."
Brecher, Adolf. "Schmid, Konrad," in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 31 (1890):684-686. Available online at: http://www.deutsche-biographie.de/pnd10026641X.html?anchor=adb
Füsslin, J. C. Beiträge zur Erläuterung der Kirchen- und Reformationsgeschichte des Schweizerlandes. Zürich, 1741.
Geiser, Samuel. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden. Karlsruhe, 1931.
Hagenbach, K. R. Kirchengeschichte III.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: IV.
Yoder, John Howard. "The Turning Point in the Zwinglian Reformation." Mennonite Quarterly Review 32 (1958): 153-161.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 464-465. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Geiser, Samuel. "Schmid, Konrad (1476-1531)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S3546.html.
APA style: Geiser, Samuel. (1959). Schmid, Konrad (1476-1531). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S3546.html.