2021 Zeman Lecture
Monday September 20, 2021 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Location: Fountain Commons
This year’s Zeman lecture will be presented by Dr. Gary Waite.
Join us in person or online at 7 PM ADT on Monday, September 20, for his lecture on “The Use and Misuse of Dutch Anabaptism by Opponents of English Baptists, Independents, and Quakers, c. 1560-1660.”
The lecture will be held in person at Acadia University, pending provincial COVID restrictions. It will also be streamed live online on this webpage. No preregistration is required.
This lecture will kick off the 30th Anniversary celebration for the Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies. Join us in person or online September 20-21 to celebrate the past, present, and future of ACBAS!
About Dr. Gary Waite
Dr. Gary Waite is a recently retired professor of history at the University of New Brunswick. He has had a long and varied research career, capped in 2020 with his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Arts and Humanities, and in 2018 when he received UNB’s inaugural “Excellence in Research Award.” Beginning with the sixteenth century Anabaptist and spiritualist David Joris, he has pursued research projects also on the drama guilds of the Netherlands (the Chambers of Rhetoric), on witchcraft and demonology in the Reformation era, and on European views of Jews and Muslims in the seventeenth century.
About the Lecture
In 1642 England fell into its Civil War, during which royal oversight over religion disappeared, allowing new religious movements, such as the Ranters and Quakers, or older ones that had been in hiding, such as the Baptists, to take the stage. Mainstream Protestant leaders feared a descent into chaos leading to a restoration of Catholicism and disbelief.
In desperation Anglican writers turned readers’ attention to their cross-Channel neighbours, the Dutch Republic, to portray the ill effects of such religious diversity. For decades the Dutch were reputed to allow all sects to thrive, including Catholics, Jews, and even Muslims, something not regarded positively by conservative Protestants.
Accusing the Dutch of irreligion that would lead to divine punishment, English authors identified the root cause of all of this confusion as beginning with the 16th century Anabaptists, with their kingdom at Münster (1534-35) that practiced community of goods and polygamy based on ecstatic prophecy. Such godless anarchy, they exclaimed, was continued by Anabaptism’s heirs, the Mennonites, who were loosely aligned with some English Baptists.
One Puritan writer, the lawyer William Prynne (1600-69) linked Independents, Baptists, Ranters, Quakers, and Catholics as direct descendants of the continental Anabaptists and “whose Opinions … are fatall to the Government.” In 1655 he also condemned the efforts of the Amsterdam Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel to promote the readmission of the Jews, a mission that was supported by the Baptist Henry Jessey (1602-63).
Fear of religious diversity and difference was, as we shall see, profound, but so too was ignorance of the actual Dutch scene. The lecture will therefore survey some of the dozens of anti-Anabaptist polemics to gauge what English writers thought about religious difference, the Dutch, and their own dissenter groups, such as the Baptists.