who are the schwenkfelders?

ID_LF_GOLBE_SHWENK_AP_001Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:

No one is quite sure just what a Schwenkfelder is these days, including many of those who call themselves Schwenkfelders. The number of these people is so very small, and gets smaller the more you investigate. It all began with the spiritual awakening of Silesian nobleman Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig in 1518 or maybe 1519. (How many American stories begin with a spiritual awakening.) Schwenckfeld had gotten fired up by the teachings of Martin Luther and was inspired to take Luther’s ideas further. The complicated theology of Caspar Schwenckfeld — described in Schwenckfeld’s Concept of the New Man as “a skillful blending of Johannine mysticism and Pauline Anthropology, modified by the sifting process of fifteen hundred years of Christian theology” — boiled down to this: That people could communicate directly with God, that true spirituality didn’t need all the machinery of hierarchies and priests and sacraments, that church was not a place but a community. Schwenckfeld wanted a theological system that would appeal to all Christians — he dreamed of a day when the warring factions of Europe would become brothers and worship as one. Schwenckfeld sent books and letters to Luther with the details of his discoveries, certain that the theologian would be interested. Schwenckfeld called it the “Middle Way.” There are several references to Caspar Schwenckfeld in the private letters of Martin Luther, in which Luther calls Schwenckfeld a simpleton and a maniac, and his Middle Way the “spue” of the devil. How frustrating it must have been for poor Martin Luther to see his proposals taken to such extremes. In time, Luther’s view of Schwenckfeld would be shared by the Silesian authorities. They would label the hard-of-hearing and gentle Schwenckfeld a heretic and eventually force him into a polite, voluntary exile. It is well known that Schwenckfeld prayed for Martin Luther every day, for all the days of his life.

more here.