Mar 222018
 

On this date in 1638, following a number of civil and church proceedings against her, Anne Hutchinson (née Marbury; July 1591 – August 1643), a Puritan and a major player in the Antinomian Controversy which shook the infant Massachusetts Bay Colony, was formally banished from the Colony. Her strong religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area, and her popularity and charisma helped create a theological schism that threatened to destroy the Puritan community in New England.

Hutchinson was born in Alford in Lincolnshire in England, the daughter of Francis Marbury, an Anglican cleric and school teacher who gave Anne a superior education for the time. She lived in London as a young adult, and there married her old friend from home William Hutchinson. The couple moved back to Alford where they began following dynamic preacher John Cotton in the nearby port of Boston, Lincolnshire. Cotton was compelled to emigrate in 1633, and the Hutchinsons followed a year later with their 11 children and soon became well established in the growing settlement of Boston in New England. Anne was a midwife and used that position to convey her personal religious convictions to women in her care. Soon she was hosting women at her house weekly, providing commentary on recent sermons. These meetings became so popular that she began offering meetings for men as well, including the young governor of the colony Henry Vane.

Cotton

She began to accuse the local ministers (except for Cotton and her husband’s brother-in-law John Wheelwright) of preaching a “covenant of works” rather than a “covenant of grace,” and many ministers began to complain about her increasingly blatant accusations, as well as certain theological teachings that did not accord with orthodox Puritan theology. The situation eventually erupted into what is commonly called the Antinomian Controversy. Hutchinson’s visits to women in childbirth led to discussions along the lines of the conventicles in England.

As the meetings continued, Hutchinson began offering her own religious views, stressing that only “an intuition of the Spirit” would lead to one’s election by God, and not good works. Her ideas that one’s outward behavior was not necessarily tied to the state of one’s soul became attractive to those who might have been more attached to their professions than to their religious state, such as merchants and craftsmen. The colony’s ministers became more aware of Hutchinson’s meetings, and they contended that such “unauthorised” religious gatherings might confuse the faithful. Hutchinson responded to this with a verse from Titus (2:3-4), saying that “the elder women should instruct the younger.”

Hutchinson’s gatherings were seen as unorthodox by some of the colony’s ministers, and differing religious opinions within the colony eventually became public debates. The resulting religious tension erupted into what has traditionally been called the Antinomian Controversy, but has more recently been labelled the Free Grace Controversy. The Reverend Zachariah Symmes had sailed to New England on the same ship as the Hutchinsons. In September 1634, he told another minister that he doubted Anne Hutchinson’s orthodoxy, based on questions that she asked him following his shipboard sermons. This issue delayed Hutchinson’s membership to the Boston church by a week, until a pastoral examination determined that she was sufficiently orthodox to join the church.

In 1635, a difficult situation a