oes the unexplained excommunication of Thomas Baker, beginning in January 1645/46, tell us more about Reverend James than about Thomas? Thomas Baker, the husband of Alice Dayton, was censured for two years from the Milford First Congregational Church, according to their records.
It seems apparent that Thomas was educated and self-assured and it may have been his competence and self confidence that got him in trouble with the minister at Milford CT. Therefore, I contend that the evidence makes it appear than the problem became more personal than theological.
Since many parishioners had not mastered reading or writing, a portion of the congregation depended on the minister to read, interpret and explain scripture. Of course, this dependence gave the minister some amount of control over what the congregation believed.
Cornelia Hughes Dayton wrote, “Each congregational church had the right to excommunicate a member for persistently defending religious ideas that departed from the fundamental tenets of true religion as expounded by the pastor and his cleric and magistrate colleagues.”
David Brown (1994) said, “very often this discipline was leveraged against an unrepentant member to force him to succumb to a rule or tenant of the church in which he does not agree.”
I believe that Thomas was in a position to disagree or even challenge James’ interpretations more than some others in the congregation. Thomas could not only read and understand, but he had his own Bible (currently held in the Long Island Collection at the East Hampton Public Library).
Excommunication could have meant Thomas was unable to attend church (mandatory for all) which had to be all the more difficult because the Baker’s house lot #10 was diagonally across the street from the First Congregational Church of Milford.
Eventually, both Thomas Baker and Reverend James resettled on Long Island, at East Hampton, where the back-and-fourth was resurrected with a disagreement over a horse dealing and the minister’s public opposition to Baker running for office, saying he was unfit because he had been excommunicated years before. Thomas struck back “in behalf of the people of Easthampton, protest(ing) to the Governor against the confirmation of a purchase of lands (by Mr. James and John Mulford) from the Montauk Indians…”
Note: the order of all these events at Easthampton is not known with certainty.