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Mar 5 Roger Williams and American Baptists

Today in 1631 on Rhode Island the first Baptist church in America was established by Roger Williams, a Puritan minister born in London. He had a successful and wealthy

father, a merchant tailor who did not approve of his son’s spiritual conversion. Hoping to straighten him out he sent him to be an apprentice of the Sir Edward Coke a famous Elizabethan judge who had prosecuted the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. Educated at Charterhouse and then Pembroke College, Cambridge. Williams discovered he had a gift for languages which propelled him through life. Years later, he tutored John Milton in Dutch and Native American languages in exchange for refresher lessons in Hebrew.

After being ordained in the Church of England he became a Puritan at Cambridge and thus closed off a career in the Anglican church. Archbishop William Lauds was Archbishop of Canterbury a firm believer in Episcopalianism, or rule by bishops, and enforced uniformity within the Church of England particularly in worship which was highly ritualistic, and held under deep suspicion by the more radial reformers . Williams began to regard the Church of England as corrupt and false, and had arrived at a Separatist position and joined a second wave of Puritans to the New World. But even in the puritan colonies he seemed to have trouble fitting in and after being expelled for questioning Massachusetts' fusion of church and state, he established the Providence Plantations in 1636 as a refuge offering what he called "liberty of conscience".

In 1638, he co-founded the First Baptist Church in America, also known as the First Baptist Church of Providence with Dr. John Clarke in Newport, Rhode Island. The worlds first Baptist church can be traced thirty years earlier to Amsterdam. Williams was a staunch advocate of separation of church and state. He was convinced that civil government had no basis for meddling in matters of religious belief and was a profound influence on the founding fathers of America. Now the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) now counts 47,000,000 although it estimated that less than a half of the world's Baptists are affiliated with this organisation.


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