Archive for the ‘Nonconformity’ 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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Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/