"Antinomians," Wheelwright Placed on Trial, and the Synod
The number of Anne's followers grew continually during the years in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the people of the colony unflatteringly labeled the group "Antinomians." The term, however, was applied incorrectly. The word Antinomianism refers to ". . . a belief that Christians are not bound by moral law" (Behling 3). The followers of Anne Hutchinson did not believe they were free from moral constraint; rather, they believed religion was a personal matter between God and man.
The tensions between those colonists for Anne and those against Anne continued to build during the winter of 1636. John Wilson and John Winthrop led those who were against Anne and her meetings. Henry Vane, John Cotton, and John Wheelwright stood beside Anne to defend her religious beliefs and religious freedom. The men of both began corresponding over the issue. Cotton, at one point, was coerced into listening in on one of Anne's meetings to determine if she was preaching ideas that were not aligned with the teachings of the Church. Cotton told Wilson and Winthrop that Anne's meetings sent correct messages to the listeners. The tension grew to be too much for Vane; he proposed a permanent return to England. However, he did not leave and completed his reign as governor (Anne 4).
The men decided to meet at Cotton's home to discuss the issue of Anne Hutchinson further. Anne was asked to attend and she obliged. The men asked Anne many probing questions; she replied to each quite well. In the end, some of the men left with a sense of satisfaction about the meeting. Attention was quickly thrust back upon Anne as her brother-in-law was put on trial in March 1637. Wheelwright was brought before the court to justify a past sermon. Winthrop and the rest of the court convicted Wheelwright of sedition and was banished. Sedition means ". . .rebellion and contempt for disobeying the government" (Anne 4). This event was a pre-cursor of things to come in Anne's life.
The situation continued to worsen when Vane lost the gubernatorial election to Winthrop in May 1637 (Behling 3). Soon after the election, Vane returned to England (Anne 5). Three months later, in August 1637, a synod heard a list of ". . .eighty-two 'heresies'. . ." against Anne and the Antinomians. After this synod, private meetings were illegal, even though Anne continued to hold meetings in her home (Behling 3).
Anne's Trial Before the General Court or