- Farel, William
- (1489-1565)Protestant preacher and Reformed church pioneer in SwitzerlandThough somewhat overshadowed by his friend and colleague John Calvin, William Farel was a pioneer of the Reformation in Geneva and all of French-speaking Switzerland. He was born into a noble family near Gap, Dauphiné. He studied in Paris with Jacobus Faber (Jacques Lèfevre d'Éta-ples), the reform-minded scholar and champion of biblical authority. in 1521, Lefevre's former student Bishop Briçonnet invited Farel to Meaux to assist his initial efforts at reform. Briçonnet wanted to keep reform within Catholic boundaries, and in 1523 instituted a ban on all Lutheran literature. Farel decided to leave the increasingly hostile atmosphere of France; he settled briefly in Basel, where Erasmus lived and where Johannes Oecolampadius was leading a reform effort. His welcome wore thin when in 1524 he promulgated 13 theses contra Catholic doctrine.After a term as an unordained preacher in Montbélard in eastern France, Farel settled at Aigle (near Bern) in 1525; in 1528, he was granted a license to preach anywhere in the canton of Bern; he worked in the neighboring cantons of Neuchâtel and Vaud as well. in 1532, he visited Waldensian leaders in Italy, and on his return to Switzerland fatefully stopped in Geneva. He found a city divided, with secular authorities issuing reform decrees while the church leadership resisted.Farel stayed on to support reform, but was expelled by church leaders, only to return when the reformists were granted liberty in March 1533. Over the next two years, he helped win over the great majority of Genevans to the reform cause. When the bishop of Geneva tried to halt his preaching, public debates were scheduled, giving him an even broader audience. On August 27, 1535, the Catholic Mass was officially suppressed and the Reformed faith established.John Calvin was just visiting Geneva at that time, and Farel convinced him to take over the leadership of the Reformed movement. Over the next two years, the pair imposed a set of stringent reform measures that brought a sharp reaction, but after two years in exile they were invited back in 1541. Farel stayed for only a few months, moving on to Metz in 1542 and to Neuchâtel in 1544. He continued to work for the Reformed cause in Switzerland for the rest of his life. He remained in close contact with Calvin and mourned his passing in 1564. Farel died at Metz on September 13, 1565.Further reading:■ Francis Bevan, The Life of William Farel (Edinburgh: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.)■ Wm. M. Blackburn, William Farel and the Story of the Swiss Reform (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1865)■ Bruce Gordon, The Swiss Reformation (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2002)■ William G. Naphy, Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1994).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.