Baptists in The United States - History - Early Controversies

Early Controversies

Beginning in Providence in 1636-1637, Roger Williams founded a colony in which religion and citizenship were separated. This same principle was continued in the first charter of 1644 and affirmed by the newly created colonial government in 1647. This principle was explicitly affirmed in the Charter of 1663 which John Clarke wrote and secured. Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was regarded by the neighboring colonies with undisguised horror, and Massachusett Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut spent the next 100 years trying to dismember the "heretic" colony. The other colonies passed laws to outlaw Baptists and Quakers, leading to the hanging of four Quakers in Massachusetts. When Harvard's first president Henry Dunster abandoned Puritanism in favor of the Baptist faith in 1653, he provoked a controversy that highlighted two distinct approaches to dealing with dissent in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colony's Puritan leaders, whose own religion was born of dissent from mainstream Church of England, generally worked for reconciliation with members who questioned matters of Puritan theology but responded much more harshly to outright rejection of Puritanism. Dunster's conflict with the colony's magistrates began when he failed to have his infant son baptized, believing, as a newly converted Baptist, that only adults should be baptized. Efforts to restore Dunster to Puritan orthodoxy failed, and his apostasy proved untenable to colony leaders who had entrusted him, in his job as Harvard's president, to uphold the colony's religious mission. Thus, he represented a threat to the stability of theocratic society. Dunster exiled himself in 1654 and moved to nearby Plymouth Colony, where he died in 1658.

Read more about this topic:  Baptists In The United States, History

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