Skip to main content

1600-1754: Religion: Chronology

1600-1754: Religion: Chronology




  • Plymouth colony is settled by separatist Pilgrims who had been living in Holland since 1608 when they fled persecution in England under Charles I.


  • The Jesuit order of Catholic priests comes to North America and attains success in converting the Indians because they do not demand that the Indians abandon many of their own religious beliefs and practices.


  • Massachusetts is founded by Puritans under Gov. John Winthrop to serve as a new world example for the Church of England.
  • The Great Migration of Puritans to New England begins. They emigrate in order to escape persecution under Charles I, and over the next ten years they spread out and establish other colonies in the area.


  • Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore, receives a charter for Maryland, which he intends to use as a haven for Catholics who are being persecuted in England.


  • The first Roman Catholic church in the English colonies is erected in Saint Marys City, Maryland.


  • Roger Williams is banished from Massachusetts Bay colony and founds Rhode Island, which is based on freedom of religion and separation of church and state.
  • Massachusetts establishes Harvard College to provide education for Puritan ministers.
  • The Antinomian Crisis begins in Massachusetts Bay, resulting in the banishment of Anne Hutchinson and her followers, most of whom settle in Rhode Island the next year.



  • The English Civil War starts as Puritans rise up against Charles I.


  • The Westminster Assembly meets and over the next five years formulates a Confession of Faith, the Directory of Public Worship, the Form of Church Government, and the Longer and Shorter Catechism, which are adopted by the Presbyterian and other colonial churches.


  • Massachusetts passes the Old Deluder Satan Act, which instructs each town 1647 to establish schools to enable all to read the Bible.


  • The Toleration Act institutes freedom of religion in Maryland so that the Protestant majority cannot discriminate against the Catholic settlers for whom the colony was founded.


  • John Eliot founds the first praying village for Indian converts in Massachusetts.



  • The first Quakers arrive in Massachusetts from Rhode Island to proselytize but are arrested and condemned to death by the Puritan government.


  • The Restoration of Charles II to the English throne occurs. He reinstitutes the old Anglican Church and rewards his favorites with proprietary colonies in America.



  • The synod of Massachusetts recommends the Half-Way Covenant to New England churches whereby children of non-church members can be baptized and remain in âhe churches as half-way members; not all congregations adopt it.


  • The Pueblos in the present-day southwestern United States rebel against Spanish attempts to suppress their religion. The Spanish abandon the area around Santa Fe but reconquer it ten years later.


  • William Penn receives a charter for Pennsylvania and establishes a government based on Quaker principles that guarantee freedom of conscience.



  • The Glorious Revolution occurs in England, in which James II is replaced by the Protestant monarchs William and Mary. They recharter the New England colonies as royal colonies, which in turn marks the end of Puritan control of the area.


  • James Blair is appointed the personal representative of the bishop of London in Virginia and begins the reform of the Anglican Church in the colonies.


  • George Keith creates a schism among the Quakers, whom he accuses of being too lax. Quakers respond by tightening up their organization and becoming more formal. Keith becomes an Anglican missionary in the colonies.


  • The Salem witchcraft trials begin and result in mass hysteria of people who think that God is allowing Satan to hurt them.


  • The first Lutheran church in America is organized in Wilmington, Delaware. It was named Holy Trinity but is now called Old Swedes Church.


  • The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (S.P.G.) is founded and pays for Anglican missionaries to come to the American colonies.
  • Orthodox Connecticut clergy establish Yale College to guarantee more conservative ministerial education than liberal Harvard College is providing.


  • Francis Makemie forms the first American presbytery in Philadelphia and marks the beginning of the organized Presbyterian church in the colonies.


  • Connecticut adopts the Saybrook Platform, bringing Congregational churches together into an organization of consociations and limiting some of the autonomy of individual congregations.


  • The first German Reform church opens in Germantown, Pennsylvania, with services conducted by laypeople.


  • The Reverend Timothy Cutler, president of Yale College, announces his conversion to Anglicanism. He and his followers become the leading Anglicans in the northern colonies.


  • Presbyterian factions compromise over subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith and set the first standards for the Presbyterian church in America.


  • Jonathan Edwards stimulates a series of revivals in the Connecticut River valley.


  • George Whitefield arrives in Pennsylvania and sparks the revivals that lead to the Great Awakening. It lasts until 1743 in the middle and northern colonies and divides many denominations into Old and New factions.


  • Gilbert Tennent preaches The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, which attacks learned clergymen, making an educated ministry the focus of the Great Awakening among the Presbyterians.


  • Jonathan Edwards delivers a sermon on Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which portrays the terrors of hell. It becomes the most popular sermon of the period in New England.
  • The Presbyterian synod splits; the Old Side remains in the Synod of Philadelphia, while the New Side forms the Synod of New York in 1746.
  • Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf arrives in Pennsylvania to promote the Moravian unification of all denominations.


  • The first school for training slaves to be ministers opens in South Carolina under the sponsorship of the Reverend Alexander Garden, the Commissary of the S.P.G. It remains open until 1764.
  • Connecticut passes anti-itinerant legislation to stop roving preachers of the Great Awakening.
  • Henry Melchior Muhlenberg arrives to minister to the Lutherans in America.


  • Jonathan Edwards publishes Some Thoughts Concerning the Recent Revival of Religion, which defends the emotionalism of the Great Awakening. Charles Chauncy responds in Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England, which sums up the Old Light objections to the revivals.


  • The New London Academy, conducted by Francis Alison, is adopted as the official seminary of the Old Side Synod of Philadelphia and offers free collegiate instruction to any Protestant.


  • Michael Schlatter arrives in Pennsylvania to unify the German Reform congregations. He convenes the first synod, or coetus, within a year.


  • The Pennsylvania Ministerium, the first synodical organization of Lutherans in America, is established under the leadership of the Reverend Henry Muhlenberg.


  • Jonathan Edwards is dismissed by the Northampton Congregationalist Church and moves to the frontier outpost at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he writes his treatises on Original Sin and Freedom of the Will.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"1600-1754: Religion: Chronology." American Eras. . 20 Jan. 2019 <>.

"1600-1754: Religion: Chronology." American Eras. . (January 20, 2019).

"1600-1754: Religion: Chronology." American Eras. . Retrieved January 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.