Brief History of Protestant Monasticism:

 Image: The Prayer Foundation logo (with white Celtic cross on a green shield).


Photo: "Skellig Michael" Copyright Irish Tourist Board.


Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."Image: "John Wycliffe Sends Out Lollard Preachers".  A Painting by W.F. Yeames. John Wycliffe gives his Lollard Preacher Order his English Bible translation.  Painting: "Wycliffe Gives 'The Poor Priests' His Translation of the Bible" by W. F. Yeames.

     Although he was not aware of it at the time, on Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, and some would say, became the first Protestant Monk.  Some would also argue that there were "pre"-Protestant "Protestant" Monks.  In this view, these would include Christians like Francis of Assisi, Thomas á Kempis (Brethren of the Common Life), and with an even stronger case, John Wycliffe's Lollard Order of preachers, who taught all of the Doctrines of the Protestant Reformation some 200 years before Luther.  Since Luther ended the monasteries for Reformation Protestants, others would not count any of these as Protestant Monks. 
In the Modern Era:
1841-1842: Anglican / Episcopal
     In 1841 an Anglican women's monastic community was founded in England.  In 1842 the Anglicans created the first practicing Protestant Monks since the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII (300 years earlier), with the founding of the Nashotah Community in Wisconsin.  This was followed by many others in the U.S.A., Canada, and England, including many other women's orders.  As of 1990, there were 168 Anglican/Episcopal religious orders (both men's and women's) throughout the world.
Apr. 26, 1935: Dietrich Bonhoeffer & "New Monasticism"
'...the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ.  I think it is time to gather people together to do this...' 

  -Dietrich Bonhoeffer (January 14, 1935)

                                                                                                                  Apr. 26, 1935: Dietrich Bonhoeffer founds a  Seminary to train Pastors for the underground Confessing Church (Evangelical Christians persecuted by the Nazis); putting into practice his teachings of a New Monasticism.   In 1937 Himmler declared the Seminary illegal.  By the following November, 27 of its former students had been arrested.    
 Both the term itself, and the actual existence of the new and ever-expanding Christian movement called New Monasticism actually had its origins in the writing, teaching, and practice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  
It began on April 26, 1935 when Bonhoeffer brought into practice his interest in monastic teaching in the founding of an illegal seminary in Zingst, Germany, during WWII.  In June of that year it moved to Finkenwalde.  Himmler ordered State Security police to close it down in 1937, imprisoning 27 of its students.
The same year Bonhoeffer wrote his most famous book, The Cost of DiscipleshipDietrich was executed by the Nazis on Apr. 9, 1945 at Flossenburg Prison, just a few weeks before the end of WWII.  He was 39 years old.
                                                                                                 1946: Taize Community (Originally Protestant)
     After WWII, Brother Roger founded an independent Interdenominational Protestant Religious Order known as Taize in France.  They now refer to themselves as an "Ecumenical", rather than as a "Protestant" Community, since they began accepting Monks currently in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, as well as those of Protestant background.
1964: Jesus Abbey
     Around 1964, Reuben Archer Torrey III, an Episcopal Priest and Missionary to Asia (he had been raised in China, his parents were also missionaries), grandson of Dwight Moody's fellow servant of the Lord, R.A.Torrey, founded Jesus Abbey as a missionary community in Korea.  It is affiliated loosely with the Episcopal Church.  They are very Evangelical and sound in doctrine.  They seem in actuality to be a Lay Monastic Community, but they do not call themselves that, or use the term "monks" in referring to themselves.

1960's-1990's: The Lutherans - Monasticism Comes Full Circle

     During this period, a Lutheran Monastery was founded in Denmark, and another in the State of Michigan in the U.S.A.

1999: The Prayer Foundation / Knights of Prayer Monastic Order Founded
First 100% Born-Again Christian Monastic Order 
     In 1999, S. G. Preston, (Monk Preston) and his wife Linda (Monk Linda) founded The Prayer Foundation , an Interdenominational Christian ministry (Evangelical Protestant) to promote and encourage prayer in the Body of Christ.  Believing that all Christian ministries should also preach the Gospel, they also had a very strong evangelistic emphasis, also.  As a parachurch organization, they do not take stands on non-essential (to Salvation) Doctrines.  Currently (as of Dec. 2008) The Prayer Foundation has Registered Monks in 6 Countries in North America and Europe and over 1,700 volunteers in 41 Countries worldwide.
     At the same they founded the Interdenominational (Monks all remain in their own denominations) Knights of Prayer Monastic Order as one of the ministries of The Prayer Foundation .  It was the first 100% Born-again Christian Monastic Order in the world, and in fact, in the history of Christianity. (see also their Statement of Faith including the Plan of Salvation also posted on this Site).  The Prayer Foundation ™  website went online on Nov. 8, 2000, and remained the only born-again monastic Order in presence on the Internet for the next four to five years.

First to Allow Women Monks

    Teaching that monasticism should have been put to the test of the great Doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, as the institutional Church had been, they came to the conclusion that monks should be allowed to marry.  Later they learned that the Celtic Christian Monks (400-1100 A.D.) also held this view, and were also very missionary minded, traveling as missionary monks to Britain and Continental Europe.  The Prayer Foundationre-defined the term "Monk", stating: "all we really mean by the term "monk" is a Christian especially dedicated to the Word of God and prayer".  On July 19, 1999, with legal Incorporation, The Prayer Foundation's Monk Linda also became the First Lady Monk: the first woman to officially receive "full monk status" in the history of Christianity.

2001: First Methodist Monastery Founded

   On Feb. 1, 2001, the first Methodist Monastery (for women) was founded in Minnesota (St. Brigid of Kildare Monastery).

2002-2003 Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches
   During 2002-2003, a few Christian Monastic Orders were formed as affiliated Orders of the CEEC (Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches).  This group came out of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., and consisted of born-again (Charismatic) Episcopal Priests and congregations.

2003-2005: New Monasticism Movement Blossoms

Between 2003 and 2005 dozens of born-again Protestant Monastic groups were formed, usually combining both single and married couples, some with children.  The terms Neo-Monasticism and New Monasticism came into general use to describe what is now a movement beginning to influence the entire Christian communion.

  2008: Over 100 Groups in North America Alone

By 2008: There are estimated to be over 100 groups in North America claiming to be both "Evangelical" and "Monastic" according  to The Boston Globe (Feb. 3, 2008).  Many groups have been founded in the U.K., also.


Historical Background:

Why did Luther End the Monasteries?

Martin Luther at first considered retaining the monasteries as schools.  Later in life he regretted ending them, but by then it was too late.

 Luther's decision to end the monasteries was to a large extent a reaction against two doctrinal errors concerning the way in which monks and monasticism were viewed at that time.

The  Doctrinal Errors:  

        (1.) Becoming a monk was viewed as the best way to "attempt" or "hope" to attain salvation.  

It was considered as efficacious as if it were a "second baptism," in the following sense...  

      Baptism was considered to be an act (Sacrament) that removed Original Sin.  

     (2.) Becoming a monk was considered to be an act that removed all of your sins up to that point in your life, so that you started over with a tabula rasa (clean slate) though you had been baptized again.  

     Luther, in correctly rejecting these two doctrinal errors, unfortunately rejected monasticism also, instead of reforming it, thus, in our opinion, "throwing the baby out with the bath water." 

                                      What the Bible Teaches:  

     The Bible teaches that we are forgiven of all of our sins (including Original Sin) when we receive Christ as our Saviour.  That Baptism, whether considered to be an ordinance, a sacrament, or an act of obedience, is something entirely separate from receiving Christ's free gift of Salvation.  That we have assurance of Salvation (I John 4:15); that we can indeed "know that we are saved" (I John 5:13)  (For more on baptism, see our page: Open Letter: On Baptism). 

     To view some of the verses of Scripture from which the statements in the above paragraph are derived, see our pages Plan of Salvation and Statement of Faith


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Copyright © 2007 S.G.P. All rights reserved.

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At Left:

John Wycliffe gives his Lollard Preacher Order ("The Poor Priests") his English translation of the Bible.  

Wycliffe taught all of the Doctrines of the Protestant Reformation 200 years before it began with Martin Luther.  

Wycliffe's teachings inspired John Hus, Jan Amos Comenius, Count Zinzendorf & the Moravians, and through the Moravians (and William Carey) led to the founding of the modern Missions movement in the 1800's. ______________

"To people of all nationalities the first Protestants bequeathed in spite of themselves a heritage of spiritual freedom and equality, the consequences of which are still working themselves out in the world today."  

-Stephen Ozment, "Protestants"

There are about 600,000,000 Protestants in the world. ______________