Several hundred years ago, a heresy sat poised, ready to ignite. All it needed was the right match, and 18th century Christianity would be engulfed in flames. The match was found in a young pastor and his congregation just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The heresy, now called Unitarianism, still simmers and burns today all over the world, but especially where I live in New England.
The match was struck in 1753. Pastor Lemuel Briant had been asked by several elders to quit his pastorate at the First Congregational Church of Braintree, MA. Their reasons were more than justified. In the past year his wife had left him, taking their children away. In departing she had also leveled against him several public accusations of impropriety. But in spite of the family situation, Briant refused to resign. In addition to all that, the church elders demanded he retract a catechism he had given to the children of the church, one written by a man who explicitly denied the deity of Christ. The church’s elders felt it best for Briant to care for his family. They also feared for the spiritual health of the church’s children.
But Pastor Briant simply ignored the elders. Understandably upset, the elders called in several pastors from other churches for help. These pastors were the same men who had ordained Briant three years earlier. In a private meeting, he was again prevailed upon to immediately resign and go take care of his family. However, Briant again refused. Instead, he made his own demand. He insisted that he be given a church vote.1 If the congregation voted to keep him, he would stay, but if he was voted out, he would go.
Lemuel Briant had read the people well, for when the church came together to vote, they stuck with Briant. They completely rejected the recommendation of their own elders and the three pastors who had ordained him. According to original documents, the church retained Briant by an “overwhelming vote.”2 Today, this church is called the United First Parish Church of Quincy, and it is acknowledged as the first Unitarian Church in history. As such, it quickly abandoned all faith in the Eternal Son of God, the Trinity, and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. In a word, they voted to apostatize. Read more about Voting to Apostatize: Unitarianism