Congregationalism Divided: A Case Study of Beverly, Massachusetts’ First Parish Congregational Church Split, 1802-1834

By Caitlin Lampman

April 30, 2013

(Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Dual-Degree Program in History and Archives Management Simmons College Boston, Massachusetts)

This thesis studies the division of the First Parish Congregational Church and the Third Congregational Society in Beverly, Massachusetts between 1802 and 1834. The split was demonstrative of the theological differences between orthodox and liberal Congregationalists. A faction of strict Calvinists seceded from First Parish Congregational Church in 1802 and incorporated into the Third Congregational Church and Society. Orthodox Congregationalists ascribed to Calvinistic doctrines and were Trinitarians. Liberal Congregationalists rejected Calvinistic doctrines and some rejected the Holy Trinity. Liberal Congregationalist who rejected the Trinity matured to become Unitarians. Between these two groups were a body of moderates whose belief systems were not as well defined. Third Parish became the outpost for orthodox Congregationalists in Beverly. After the secession of Calvinists, First Parish retained the moderate and liberal bodies of Congregationalists. The careful diplomacy of Rev. Abiel Abbot’s ministry at First Parish fostered a place for religious moderates. The divide was theological, but parish operations created another source of conflict.

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Congregationalism Divided

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