“Whosoever Will be Great Among You”: The Leadership of John Cotton During the Antinomian Crisis

Timothy L. Wood


Although Anne Hutchinson is typically seen as the principle figure in the Antinomian controversy of 1637-38, the incident also reveals much about the leadership of one of colonial Massachusetts’ most renowned ministers: John Cotton. In reacting to the civil and ecclesiastical charges leveled against Hutchinson, Timothy L. Wood notes that Cotton found himself torn between two perennial views of Christian leadership. Initially, Cotton embraced a vertical model of leadership that emphasized his pastoral responsibilities to Hutchinson. However, as outside political pressure for Hutchinson’s conviction mounted, Cotton retreated to a horizontal view of leadership that stressed the need for solidarity, consensus, and coordinated action among the colony’s ruling class. Mr. Wood is Assistant Professor of history at Southwest Baptist University.


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Last Updated: October 6, 2005
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