Archive for the ‘Anne Hutchinson’ Tag

Feast of John Clarke (October 4)   2 comments

Above:  United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial, Newport, Rhode Island

Image Source = Google Earth

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JOHN CLARKE (BAPTIZED OCTOBER 8, 1609-DIED APRIL 20, 1676)

English Baptist Minister and Champion of Religious Liberty in New England

The Reverend John Clarke comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), as well as his association with Obadiah Holmes, Sr. (1609-1682).

Many people accept a host of falsehoods about the history of the United States of America.  One of these lies is that most Puritans came to this country (when it was still a collection of British colonies) to practice religious freedom.  Shall I point to the numerous examples that prove the existence of Puritan theocracies in New England?  How about the four executed Quakers (link and link) in the Massachusetts Bay colony?  I point also to the cases of Roger Williams (1603?-1683) and Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) and company, exiled for dissenting.  To that list I add the case of John Clarke.

Clarke arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in November 1637 yet left soon thereafter.  The church in Boston was embroiled in the Antinomian Controversy.  Proponents of the Covenant of Grace argued against supporters of the Covenant of Works.  (I understand the three Calvinist covenants objectively and intellectually yet cannot muster enough theological interest to become either excited or offended by this dispute.)  The Antinomian Controversy did lead to expulsions from the colony and to voluntary relocation.  Many people in the Massachusetts Bay Colony cared deeply about this matter.

Clarke and his first wife, Elizabeth Harris Clarke, joined other dissidents (including Williams and the Hutchinsons) who had moved to Rhode Island.  He had left England to get away from religious restrictions.  Then he had found the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be a Puritan theocracy and not to his liking, either.  Rhode Island was not a theocracy, though.  The Clarkes settled at Pocasset, Aquidneck Island, in 1638.  By the end of the year, however, our saint had helped to establish a new settlement, Newport, and the First Baptist Church there.  This was the second Baptist congregation in America.

Clarke, who had legal training, too, helped to secure the charter for Rhode Island.  In 1641, he and Roger Williams traveled to England for this purpose in 1643.  Clarke remained in England for a few years, to function as colonial agent.  Our saint, back in Rhode Island, resumed his role as pastor of First Baptist Church.  In 1647, he was the main author of the colony’s new legal code.

Clarke’s life intersected with that of Obadiah Holmes in 1649.  Holmes and eight other members, excommunicated from the church in Reheboth, Massachusetts Bay Colony, had argued with the pastor over infant baptism.  The Reverend Samuel Newman was for it; Holmes and company were against it.  The excommunicated church members formed a house church, with Holmes as the pastor.  Clarke rebaptized the members of the house church in 1649.  With the local court declaring the house church illegal, the dissidents of Reheboth moved to Newport and joined First Baptist Church.

John Clarke and John Crandall (1618-1676) of First Baptist Church, Newport, visited William Witten, an old blind man, in Lynn, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in July 1651.  Obadiah traveled with Clarke and Crandall to visit Witten.  The three visitors conducted a church service.  They celebrated communion and baptized converts.  Authorities arrested the three visitors.  The court convicted and fined them:

  1. John Crandall–five pounds, or about $984.15 (2021);
  2. John Clarke–twenty pounds, or about $3,939.37 (2021); and
  3. Obadiah Holmes–thirty pounds, or about $4,270.15 (2021).

The alternative was a severe whipping.  Nevertheless, Governor John Endecott considered that punishment lax; he claimed that the three men deserved to die.

Allies offered to pay the fines of all three men.  Crandall and Clarke accepted and returned to Newport.  Our saint, however, refused.  Therefore, he endured 30 strokes on his back.  For weeks, he had to sleep on his knees and elbows.  For the rest of his life, he called his scars “the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Clarke returned to England again in 1651, to serve as colonial agent.  He remained there until 1664.  While in England, our saint wrote against religious persecution in New England and ruffled the feathers of New England Puritan authorities.  He also secured a royal charter for Rhode Island in 1663.  That charter guaranteed freedom of religion except when a person’s actions

disturb the civil peace of our said colony.

The Clarkes–John and Elizabeth–returned to Newport, Rhode Island, in early 1664.  Our saint returned to First Baptist Church, as co-pastor, with Obadiah Holmes.  Clarke continued to be active in colonial governance.  From 1664 to 1672, not all at once, he did he following:

  1. Clarke represented Newport in the General Assembly.
  2. Clarke served as the Deputy Governor.
  3. Clarke made a digest of the laws of Rhode Island.
  4. Clarke returned to England briefly as colonial agent in 1670.

First Baptist Church, Newport, experienced one major and two minor schisms while Clarke was alive.

  1. Second Baptist Church (somewhat Arminian) formed in 1656.  This congregation reunited with First Baptist Church in 1946.  The merged congregation took the name United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial.
  2. A few members broke away and organized the first Seventh Day Baptist church in America in late 1671.  This congregation closed in the middle of the nineteenth century.
  3. Some excommunicated members and their extended family became Quakers in 1673.

Clarke married three times and buried two wives.  Elizabeth Harris Clarke having died, our saint married a widow, Jane Fletcher, on February 1, 1671.  The couple had a daughter (February 14, 1672-May 18, 1673).  Jane died on April 19, 1672.  Clarke’s third wife was another widow, Sarah David (d. circa 1692).

Clarke, aged 66 years, died in Newport on April 20, 1676.  His will established the oldest educational trust in what became the United States of America.  That will specified

relief of the poor or bringing up of children unto learning from time to time forever.

Clarke was a pioneer of religious freedom in what became the United States of America.  That part of his legacy has benefited more people than perhaps he could have imagined.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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O God, our light and salvation, who makes all free to worship you:

May we ever strive to be faithful to your call, following the example of John Clarke,

that we may faithfully set our hands to the Gospel plow,

confident in the truth proclaimed by your Son Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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O God our light and salvation, we thank you for John Clarke,

whose visions of the liberty of the soul illumined by the light of Christ

made him a brave prophet of religious tolerance in the American colonies;

and we pray that we may follow paths of holiness and good conscience,

guided by the radiance of Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 133

1 Peter 1:13-16

Luke 9:51-62

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 211

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This is post #2250 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of Obadiah Homes (October 15)   2 comments

Above:  United Baptist Church, Newport, Rhode Island

Image Source = Google Earth

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OBADIAH HOLMES, SR. (BAPTIZED MARCH 18, 1609 OR 1610-DIED OCTOBER 15, 1682)

English Baptist Minister and Champion of Religious Liberty in New England

Born Obadiah Hulme

The Reverend Obadiah Holmes, Sr., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Many people accept a host of falsehoods about the history of the United States of America.  One of these lies is that most Puritans came to this country (when it was still a collection of British colonies) to practice religious freedom.  Shall I point to the numerous examples that prove the existence of Puritan theocracies in New England?  How about the four executed Quakers (link and link) in the Massachusetts Bay colony?  I point also to the cases of Roger Williams (1603?-1683) and Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) and company, exiled for dissenting.  To that list I add the case of Obadiah Holmes, Sr.

Obadiah Hulme grew up in a devout Anglican family.  He, baptized on March 18, 1609 or 1610, in Didsbury, Lancashire, England, was a son of Katherine Johnson Hulme (d. 1630) and Robert Hulme (d. 1640).  Obadiah led a rebellious, wild youth.  After his spiritual awakening, his blamed himself for his mother’s death.  Our saint was, by profession, a weaver and a glass maker.  On November 20, 1630, at the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, St. Denys and St. George, Manchester (now Manchester Cathedral), he married Katherine Hyde.  The couple had nine children, starting with John, who died in 1633.  The other eight children (four sons and four daughters) were:

  1. Jonathan;
  2. Mary;
  3. Martha;
  4. Samuel;
  5. Obadiah, Jr.;
  6. Lydia;
  7. John (II); and
  8. Hopestill.

The growing Holmes family immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638.  They settled in Salem and joined the church there.  Obadiah worked as a glass maker.  He, finding the church in Salem too rigid, left and moved the family to Reheboth in 1645.  Reheboth proved unsatisfactory, too.  Obadiah and the eight other members of the church there split away (during a dispute over infant baptism) and formed a house church in 1649.  He became the minister of the new congregation.  According to the local court, the house church was illegal.  In 1650, Obadiah and the rest of his congregation moved to Newport, Rhode Island.  They affiliated with the First Baptist Church in that city.  This made sense; pastor John Clarke (1609-1676), of Newport, had rebaptized the members of the house church in 1649.

Rhode Island was rare in British North America; it had a policy of religious toleration.  First Baptist Church, Newport, was the second Baptist congregation in what became the United States of America.  John Clarke founded it in 1638, shortly after Roger Williams had founded the First Baptist Church, Providence.

John Clarke and John Crandall (1618-1676) of First Baptist Church, Newport, visited William Witten, an old blind man, in Lynn, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in July 1651.  Obadiah traveled with Clarke and Crandall to visit Witten.  The three visitors conducted a church service.  They celebrated communion and baptized converts.  Authorities arrested the three visitors.  The court convicted and fined them:

  1. John Crandall–five pounds, or about $984.15 (2021);
  2. John Clarke–twenty pounds, or about $3,939.37 (2021); and
  3. Obadiah Holmes–thirty pounds, or about $4,270.15 (2021).

The alternative was a severe whipping.  Nevertheless, Governor John Endecott considered that punishment lax; he claimed that the three men deserved to die.

Allies offered to pay the fines of all three men.  Crandall and Clarke accepted and returned to Newport.  Our saint, however, refused.  Therefore, he endured 30 strokes on his back.  For weeks, he had to sleep on his knees and elbows.  For the rest of his life, he called his scars “the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Later in 1651, Clarke traveled to England, to serve as Rhode Island’s colonial agent.  Obadiah began to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church, Newport.  After Clarke returned, in 1664, the two men served as co-pastors (1664-1667, 1671-1676).  Our saint was pastor at Newport until he died, on October 15, 1682.

First Baptist Church, Newport, has become the United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial, Newport.

No freedoms are absolute in any society.  Mutuality requires that people be responsible to and for each other.  And it does not license trampling the rights of anyone.  Therefore, in the case of freedom of religion, some restrictions are necessary, in extreme cases.  When, for example, someone’s religion endangers public health, public health properly takes precedence.  Most circumstances are not extreme, though.  Living in a free society requires much mutual toleration, if not acceptance.  So be it.

All of the legal troubles Obadiah Holmes, Sr., endured in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were indefensible.  He was not endangering public health and safety.  He was not endangering anyone in any way.  No, he was defying a theocracy.  He refused to conform.

“Conform” and “conformity” are, by the way, the most profane words in the English language.  Mutuality embraces mutual responsibility and tolerates all dissent and individuality that does not endanger the common good.

I write in a politically divided society.  Labels such as “liberal” and “conservative” function as weapons to use against members of the other tribe.  Actually, many people who weaponize these terms strip these words of their real meanings, inherently relative to the center.  A better way (NOT original to me) is to ask whether one prioritizes order or justice.  Properly, of course, justice establishes a morally defensible order.  Likewise, order is necessary for justice, which cannot exist in the midst of anarchy.  Nevertheless, not all order is just.  In fact, much order is unjust.  And many people favor an unjust order over justice.  I favor justice every day.  Whenever a given order is unjust, I support tearing it down and replacing it with a just order.  Call me a revolutionary if you wish, O reader.

Obadiah Holmes, Sr., favored justice.  He worked for a just order.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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O God, our light and salvation, who makes all free to worship you:

May we ever strive to be faithful to your call, following the example of Obadiah Holmes, Sr.,

that we may faithfully set our hands to the Gospel plow,

confident in the truth proclaimed by your Son Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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O God our light and salvation, we thank you for Obadiah Holmes, Sr.,

whose visions of the liberty of the soul illumined by the light of Christ

made him a brave prophet of religious tolerance in the American colonies;

and we pray that we may follow paths of holiness and good conscience,

guided by the radiance of Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 133

1 Peter 1:13-16

Luke 9:51-62

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 211

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Feast of William Robinson, Mardaduke Stephenson, and Mary Dyer (June 1)   4 comments

Above:  Mary Dyer, June 1, 1660

Image in the Public Domain

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WILLIAM ROBINSON (CIRCA 1620-OCTOBER 27, 1659)

MARMADUKE STEPHENSON (DIED OCTOBER 27, 1659)

MARY DYER (1611-JUNE 1, 1660)

English Quaker Martyrs in Boston, Massachusetts, 1659 and 1660

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Therefore, seeing my Request is hindered, I leave you to the Righteous Judge and Searcher of all Hearts, who, with the pure measure of Light he hath given to every Man to profit withal, will in his due time let you see whose Servants you really are, to of whom you have taken Counsel, which desire you search into….

–Mary Dyer, writing to the General Court from prison, 1659, after the execution of William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 247

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Those who claim that most Puritans who settled in what became the United States sought religious freedom either lie or labor under a misconception.

The majority of Puritans, whether in the old country or on this side of the Pond, created and maintained theocracies when they had the opportunity.  Religious toleration was not a dominant Puritan value; religious persecution was.

Quakers, with their pacifism, egalitarianism, and mysticism, threatened the hierarchical Puritan social order by merely existing.  Being a Quaker in Puritan colonies in New England was illegal, therefore.  In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, prior to 1659, penalties included:

  1. Expulsion,
  2. Lashing behind a cart,
  3. Abandonment deep in a forest,
  4. Branding with an “H” for “heretic,”
  5. Branding of the tongue, and
  6. Cutting off of the ears.

Some Quakers, convinced that their Inner Light told them to preach the Friends gospel despite the risks, returned anyway.  From 1659 to 1661, in the Massachusetts Bay colony, the list of penalties expanded to include death by hanging.  Four Quakers became martyrs.

Mary Dyer had been a Puritan.  She and her husband, William Dyer, were Puritans when the married in England in 1633.  They moved to Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1635, and joined First Church.  The Dyers befriended Anne and William Hutchinson, whom they followed to Rhode Island.  The Dyers traveled with Roger Williams to England in 1643, when he went to secure a colonial charter (1644) for Rhode Island.  William Dyer returned to Rhode Island, to bring news of the charter.  Many remained in England for years.  She met George Fox and became a Quaker.

Dyer returned to New England in 1657.  Then her legal problems started.  The ship docked in Boston.  Our saint would have passed through the Massachusetts Bay colony to Rhode Island without incident except for her arrest for being a Quaker.  William, without consulting his wife, secured her release without consulting his wife; he promised on her behalf that she would return to Rhode Island immediately and never return to the Massachusetts Bay colony.  Dyer had other ideas.

Marmaduke Stephenson and William Robinson were English Quakers living in Rhode Island in 1659.  Stephenson was a former plowman from Yorkshire.  Robinson had been a merchant in London.  Stephenson, Robinson, and Dyer returned to Boston in 1659 to protest anti-Quaker laws.  Authorities arrested then banished them.  Stephenson and Robinson returned again.  Dyer returned to visit them in jail in Boston.  Authorities arrested her.  Governor John Endecott ordered the execution of the three Quakers in October 1659.

Stephenson and Robinson died by hanging in Boston on October 27, 1659.  Dyer, spared that day, received banishment instead.  On May 21, 1660, she returned to Boston, to preach.  She, arrested, met her fate on June 1, 1660.

William Leddra became the last of the four Quaker martyrs in Boston the following year.

In May 1661, Puritan authorities received new orders from King Charles II forbidding any more executions for alleged heresy.  This order arrived in time to prevent a fifth execution for being a Quaker in the Massachusetts Bay colony.

I use absolute terms, such as “never,” sparingly, so take note, O reader.

Freedom is never absolute; life in society requires the surrender of some individual freedom from everyone for the common good.  Consider a practical, generally non-controversial example, O reader; we must, for the sake of all, obey traffic laws.  Freedom of religion should be as broad as possible, with sensible restrictions.  One should never, for example, get away with child abuse or endangering public health on the grounds of freedom of religion.  And, if one’s religion mandates an honor killing, a court should define that act as murder.  Law is easy at the extremes.  On the opposite extreme, the mere refusal to conform to theocracy or a dominant form of faith should never constitute a crime, and law should bend over backward, so to speak, to allow for a wide variety of peaceful expressions of religion, within reasonable limits.  Life in a free society requires much mutual toleration.

Quakers, with their theology of the Inner Light, affirmed that God spoke to everyone.  The most germane question, from that perspective, was if one was listening.  This doctrine called into question the Puritan spiritual hierarchy, with the ministers at its heart.  Quakerism constituted an existential threat to the Puritan social order.

Authorities tend to go to great and frequently morally unjustifiable lengths to protect the social order.  If morally unjustifiable lengths prove necessary to preserve that social order, perhaps it should fall, so that a just society may emerge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; AND SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants

Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson, and Mary Dyer

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world,

and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 121

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 713

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Feast of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson (April 18)   4 comments

Above:  Flag of Rhode Island

Image in the Public Domain

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ROGER WILLIAMS (1603?-BETWEEN JANUARY 27 AND MARCH 15, 1683)

Founder of Rhode Island

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ANNE MARBURY HUTCHINSON (1591-AUGUST OR SEPTEMBER 1643)

Rebellious Puritan

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PROPHETIC WITNESSES

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Well-behaved women seldom make history.

–Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.

–Roger Williams

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The feast day of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson in The Episcopal Church is February 5.  On my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, the feast day is April 18.  The irony of Williams and Hutchinson, who left The Church of England, which they considered too Catholic, being saints on the Episcopal calendar, does not escape me.  I interpret the irony as an indication of the broad mindedness of The Episcopal Church.

Anne Marbury, born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England, in 1591, was a daughter of the Reverend Francis Marbury (1555-1611) and his second wife, Bridget Dryden, a cousin of playwright John Dryden (1631-1700).  Anne, baptized on July 17, 1591, grew up in a home with strong Puritan influences.  Her mother had strong nonconformist roots.  Francis, an Anglican priest, insisted publicly that was not a Puritan, but he made occasional public denunciations of The Church of England for being too Catholic.  Such statements belied his public denials of not being a Puritan and led to two trials (in 1578 and 1591) and years (as in 1591-1594) of house arrest, followed by public silence regarding certain opinions.  His life and double life ended, due to natural causes, in 1611.

Francis Marbury supervised the education of his children who survived infancy.  He and his first wife (Elizabeth Moore, who died in 1585) had three daughters from 1581 to 1585.  Marbury and his second wife had fifteen children from 1588 to 1610.  Anne was his sixth child and his third child with Bridget Dryden.  He and Bridget raised Anne as a well-educated, Biblically literate, confident, and assertive young woman.

In 1612 Anne married William Hutchinson, with whom she had grown up in London and who had attended her father’s church.  They were devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.  The couple also had fifteen children from 1613 to 1636.  (Her final pregnancy terminated via miscarriage in 1636.)  Anne, William, ten of their children, Katherine Marbury Scott (Anne’s sister), Katherine’s husband, and Anne and Frances Freiston (William’s unmarried cousins) sailed for Boston, Massachusetts Bay colony, in 1634.

Above:  The Coat of Arms of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Image in the Public Domain

Notice the arrogant reference to the Macedonian Call in the Indian’s words.

Puritans came in two varieties–the Separatists and the Non-Separatists.  The Separatist Puritans considered The Church of England to be too Catholic and beyond the possibility of redemption.  The Non-Separatist Puritans agreed that The Church of England was too Catholic yet not that it was beyond the possibility of redemption.  Despite their de jure status as Anglicans, the Non-Separatist Puritans of New England had separated de facto, for they did not worship according to The Book of Common Prayer.

Roger Williams was a Separatist Puritan.  He, born in London (perhaps in 1603), was a son of merchant James Williams and his wife, Alice Pemberton Williams, who hailed from a family of merchants.  Young Roger worked as a legal clerk for Sir Edward Coke.  Williams also studied at the Charterhouse (1621-1624) then at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge (1624-1627).  After Cambridge our saint became the chaplain to Sir William Marsham in Otes, Essex County.  In that assignment Williams completed his transformation from an Anglican into a Puritan.

Williams sailed for the new Massachusetts Bay colony (Non-Separatist) in late 1630 and arrived the following year.  He declined the opportunity to become the minister at Salem.  Not only did he insist that a royal land grant was illegitimate because colonists should purchase land from indigenous people, but he also refused to be a pastor to Non-Separatists.  So, in 1632, Williams relocated to the Plymouth colony (Separatist).  There he remained for about a year; his opinion regarding royal land grants also proved unpopular in the Plymouth colony.

So it came to pass that Williams returned to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1633.  He finally accepted the offer to become the minister at Salem, but civil magistrates opposed him.  Williams called upon the leaders of the colony to do officially what they had done in practice–separate from The Church of England.  He also argued that the civil magistrate should have no role in religion.  The state should never compel anyone to pray, Williams stated.

The call for the separation of church and state contradicted Puritan and Anglican norms.  Contrary to popular misconception, the founders of the Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay colonies were not champions of religious freedom.  No, they left England proper to find religious liberty for themselves and those who agreed with them, but persecuted dissidents.  The founders of those colonies failed the basic test of religious freedom–a general policy of toleration.  Williams was more fortunate that some other dissidents; his fate was merely banishment.  (Authorities hanged some Quakers decades later.)  He and his traveling companions walked out of the Massachusetts Bay colony in January 1636.  In April they arrived that the future site of the settlement of Providence.  He purchased the land from the Narragansett tribe, befriended them, and learned their language.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Anne was being herself and getting into trouble.  The fact that she got into trouble reflected negatively on her persecutors, not on her.  At home meetings during which she, other pious women, and certain others discussed the most recent sermon, she criticized the theology of the Reverend John Wilson.  Anne, a devout Calvinist, accused Wilson of having preached the Covenant of Works, not the Covenant of Grace.  Ministers were pillars of the theocracy in Puritan New England.  They were also, according to Puritan orthodoxy, closer to God than mere laypeople–certainly a woman.  Furthermore, Hutchinson taught that the Holy Spirit dwells in everyone and that salvation comes via divine grace.  Her teaching regarding the Holy Spirit (literally, God speaks to everyone) threatened the exalted status of ministers in the Puritan hierarchy.  Hutchinson, brought up on charges in 1637 and sentenced to banishment late in the year, spent the beginning of the year and the beginning of the next one as a prisoner, due to the cold weather.  She and her companions settled on Aquidneck Island in the spring of 1638.  During this difficult time of her life she was pregnant.  After she left the Massachusetts Bay colony, she suffered a miscarriage.  Certain Puritan divines understood this as evidence of God’s judgment on her.

William Hutchinson became a civic leader in Portsmouth, on Aquidneck Island.  In 1639 he became the treasurer.  Later that year he became he the chief magistrate.  In 1640, when Aquidneck Island joined the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, he became an assistant governor.  He died the following year.

In 1642-1644 Rhode Island was in peril, for orthodox Puritan forces were threatening to conquer it.  Williams secured the future of the colony by obtaining charter from the royal government in 1644.  During the time of uncertainty, however, Anne and six of her children relocated to Long Island, then part of New Netherland, in 1642.  There, in August or September 1643, some Native Americans killed her and five of her children.  This, certain Puritan divines in Massachusetts claimed, was more evidence of divine judgment on her.

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the minority of the thirteen colonies to have no official religion.  Religious toleration was the policy there.  Williams had definite and changing religious opinions, none of which he imposed on anyone.  His house church became the First Baptist Church, Providence, in 1637.  He resigned as pastor the following year.  He went on to identify as a seeker and to reject organized religion.  The colony became a haven for a variety of people, including Quakers (founded in England in 1652), aspects of whose theology Anne Hutchinson had presaged.  Williams argued publicly against Quaker theology, but he welcomed Friends into his colony.

Williams, who supported himself financially as a farmer and a merchant, died broke; his commerce never recovered from the great regional disruption that was King Philip’s War (1675-1676).  Williams between January 27 and March 15, 1683, aged about 80 years.

Alan Heimert concluded his article on Williams in The Encyclopedia Americana (1962) with these words:

Roger Williams, who even as a shaker of nations had never been wholly of this world, was perhaps the purest of American Puritans.

–Volume 28, page 792

Williams was certainly a man committed to certain principles.  He was, for all his faults and inconsistencies, a champion of religious toleration.  He and Anne Hutchinson, with whom he might have had some fascinating arguments, challenged authority figures who deserved the challenges.  These two saints were pioneers of American religious liberty.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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O God, our light and salvation, who makes all free to worship you:

May we ever strive to be faithful to your call,

following the example of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson,

that we may faithfully set our hands to the Gospel plow,

confident in the truth proclaimed by your Son Jesus Christ; who with you

and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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O God, our light and salvation, we thank you for Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson,

whose visions of the liberty of the soul illumined by the light of Christ

made them brave prophets of religious tolerance in the American colonies;

and we pray that we also may follow paths of holiness and good conscience,

guided by the radiance of Jesus Christ; who with you and the

Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 133

1 Peter 1:13-16

Luke 9:51-62

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 211

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