Quaker Ancestor Buys 6 Year-Old Indian Captive by Carol P. Christ

When I wrote about Anne Hutchinson as America’s first feminist theologian a few years ago, I mentioned that I had a Sackett ancestor living in Boston at the time, who might well have been a follower of Hutchinson. That branch of my family tree has since been shown to be false. Recently, while looking into the branch that replaced it, I discovered that in 1637 my 9x great-grandfather William Wodell was required to turn in all of his guns and other weapons because he had been “seduced” and led into “dangerous errors” by a Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson.

In 1643 William Wodell was charged with “heresy and sedition” in relation to “blasphemous errors.” He was convicted and banned from Boston. He retreated to property he had purchased in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which had been founded by the Hutchinsons and others fleeing persecution in Boston. Wodell became a respected member of the Quaker community in Portsmouth, holding a number of important public offices before his death some 50 years later.

My happiness at finding an ancestor whose convictions I could admire, was to be short-lived. The next morning, I discovered that in 1677 the respected Quaker William Wodell bought a 6 year-old Indian girl who had been captured in King Phillip’s War. Indian women and children were captured and sold as slaves during both the Pequot War (1636-1638) and King Phillip’s War (1675-1676). Some of those captured were sent to the West Indies, while others were purchased by English colonists. Continue reading “Quaker Ancestor Buys 6 Year-Old Indian Captive by Carol P. Christ”

Anne Hutchinson, America’s First Feminist Theologian: 1591-1643 by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in Lesbos“She had rather been a husband than a wife; and a preacher than a hearer; and a magistrate than a subject.” Reverend Hugh Peter of Salem

Anne Hutchinson was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heresy in 1637 and excommunicated from the Puritan Church of Boston in 1638. Her banishment came just three years after she, her husband, and eleven living children arrived in America seeking the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit. Governor Michael Dukakis pardoned her in 1987. Historian Howard Zinn called her a true American hero.

anne hutchinson trialI managed to get through graduate school in Religious Studies without ever having studied the theology of Anne Hutchinson,* though I vaguely remember references (probably with smirks of disapproval) to the “Antinomian Controversy” which is associated with her name. I recall Anne Hutchinson’s name because of an article published in Feminist Studies in the 1970s, when I had just begun to study women and religion. However it was not until recently that I learned of her place in history through reading American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante.

Hutchinson was accused of theological errors in her trials. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination figured heavily in the accusations. But the real issue at stake was that Anne dared to follow her own inner knowing, to articulate it theologically, and to teach her views against the grain of the Puritan authorities in Boston. Continue reading “Anne Hutchinson, America’s First Feminist Theologian: 1591-1643 by Carol P. Christ”

Anne Hutchinson, Sor Juana, and Kate Kelly: Reflections on Equality and Excommunication by Erin Seaward-Hiatt

Erin-Close-Up-BW On June 11, 2014 the New York Times made waves in the world of Mormondom with their breaking news that two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are facing excommunication on the grounds of apostasy. Active Church members Kate Kelly and John P. Dehlin both received letters from their local church officials in early June summoning them to participate in scheduled Church hearings to discuss their so-called heretical public activism. By many accounts, this appears to be Dehlin’s first notice of formal disciplinary action for his faith-mending work with Mormon Stories, but Kelly has been under official fire from the LDS Church since late May for her efforts in founding and operating Ordain Women (OW)—a pro-women’s ordination group of active believers—more than a year prior. The excommunication threats came on the heels of a church-wide trend that preaches acceptance and diversity among members and beyond, but sends a mixed message to those who, like Kate Kelly, find themselves asking sincere questions only to be either silenced or rejected by their Church and cut off from communal worship of their God.

Ever since the New York Times story broke, the web has seen a swarm of responses in the form of news, interviews, blog posts, and social media discussion; watching everything unfold has been a fascinating study in feminist thought. Kelly herself responded publicly to her disciplinary letter here, saying that she had been transparent about Ordain Women with her bishop from the group’s inception and that not once had she been called in to discuss her work. The formal letter came only after Kelly had moved across the country, and the disciplinary hearing is scheduled to occur with or without her on June 22, 2014. On June 23, Kelly received the word that the trial had resulted in her excommunication.

As I’ve read through the slew of ideas and arguments surrounding what amounts to Kate Kelly’s spiritual fate, I can’t help but notice a strong underlying theme of patriarchy at work in squelching what Kelly believes are sincere questions about the lives of Mormon women. Commentators have tried hard—in classic anti-feminist fashion—to discredit Kelly’s work with Ordain Women, making certain that readers see her as a disingenuous religious deviant worthy of silencing. Throughout the spill of voices about Kelly’s Church standing the underlying point seems to be that as a Latter-day Saint she has no right to contest her Church’s doctrine or its patriarchy, that she is imagining inequality into the Church, that the Church’s discipline will be for her own spiritual good, and even that her group, Ordain Women, is lying in its claims about inequality. Continue reading “Anne Hutchinson, Sor Juana, and Kate Kelly: Reflections on Equality and Excommunication by Erin Seaward-Hiatt”

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