Ordinance against conventicles and meetings other than the authorized reformed religion

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Whereas the director general and council of New Netherland have been reliably informed and apprised that not only are conventicles and meetings held here and there within this province, but also that some unqualified persons in such meetings assume the ministerial office, expounding and explaining the holy word of God without being called or appointed thereto by ecclesiastical or civil authority, which is in direct contravention and opposition to the general civil and ecclesiastical order of our fatherland; besides that, many dangerous heresies and schisms are to be expected from such manner of meetings.

Therefore, the director general and council aforesaid hereby expressly forbid all such conventicles and meetings, whether public or private, differing from the customary and not only lawful but scripturally founded and ordained meetings of the Reformed divine service, as observed and enforced according to the synod of Dortrecht in this country, in our fatherland, and other Reformed churches in Europe, under penalty of one hundred pounds Flemish to be forfeited by all those who, being unqualified, assume, either on Sundays or other days, any office whether of preacher, reader or singer, in such meetings whether public or private, differing from the customary and lawful; 25 like pounds to be forfeited by everyone, whether man or woman, married or unmarried, who is found in such meetings.

However, the director general and council do not hereby intend any constraint of conscience in violation of previously granted patents, nor to prohibit the reading of God’s Holy Word, family prayers and worship, each in his household, but all public and private conventicles and meetings, whether in public or private houses, differing from the oft-mentioned customary and ordained Reformed religion.[1]

In order that this may be better observed and obeyed in the future, and that no one may claim ignorance of it, the director general and council order their fiscal, together with the inferior magistrates and schouts, to publish this and have it published everywhere within this province and to act against the contraventors, all the more because we find such to concern the honor of God’s advancement of the Reformed divine service and the general peace, harmony and welfare of the land.

Thus done, resolved, reviewed and enacted at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the first of February 1656.[2]


In a letter to Stuyvesant dated March 12, 1654, the directors at Amsterdam reiterated their resolve to disallow all petitions for calling a minister other than those of the Reformed religion, in accordance with their custom and that of the East India Company; see NYCD, 12:1. Both companies, especially the WIC, were supporters of the Gomarists, who desired to establish the doctrine of the Reformed Church as the national religion.
Also in LO, 211-12.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., New Netherland Documents Series: Vol. 16, part 1, Laws and Writs of Appeal, 1647-1663 (Syracuse: 1991).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.