John Ulrich Giessendanner - The European Phase
John Ulrich Giessendanner was a native of Lichtensteig in Toggenburg. He was not a minister of the Swiss Reformed Church, but a goldsmith by profession. His apprenticeship had been served in the distant German cities of Halle and Magdeburg, where he met the vigorous new movement of church reform called Pietism. Perhaps he had already learned some of the Pietists' ideas in his hometown, for about 1710 the minister there, Deacon Nicholas Scharer (note *1), had emphasized the need for holy living and pure disposition. Whether he learned to know Pietism in Switzerland or in Halle, Giezendanner identified himself with the movement and utilized its stress on lay participation as an occasion to supplement his activity in the goldsmith's trade by religious teaching. When Nicholas Scharer died in 1713, Giezendanner returned to Lichtensteig as a "teacher."
*1 Diakon Niklaus Scherrer was suspended in 1711 and died shortly afterwards
Within a year Giezendanner's religious ideas stimulated such opposition that he was required to appear before authorities in the governmental center of Zurich to explain his activities. Apparently his explanations satisfied the government, because there is no record of his being punished. However, the provisions under which he was allowed to go free offer substantial clue to the nature of Giezendanner's preaching. He had to agree that only regularly called men should preach, that a "reborn" person should not consider himself better that other church members, and that direct illumination in dreams and instruction by angels were fantasies. This last, and somewhat surprising, element becomes the key to Giezendanner's next stage of development.
(061118 comment Joop: not entirely accurate)
Apparently determined to become a "regularly called" minister in order to continue his preaching, Giezendanner traveled to Germany once more and enrolled in the University of Marburg in June 1714. Probably to help support himself while there, he took a teaching position in the Marburg Orphanage. But instead of bringing him into the official structure of the church, the Marburg environment stimulated his individualistic tendencies. He became involved in a radical group called "Inspirationists," who believed the Holy Spirit gave them direct revelations, often accompanied by physical contortions and vocal outburst. In the summer of 1715, after a little more than a year in Marburg, Giezendanner interrupted the local minister during a service, mounted the pulpit without permission, and began to preach "from the Spirit". Immediate banishment followed, and he returned to Switzerland.