Culverwell, Ezekiel (ca. 1554–1631)
Church of England clergyman and a leading member of the conference movement. Culverwell was born in London, son of Nicholas Culverwell. He was part of a network of puritan leaders. His eldest sister, Elizabeth, was the mother of William Gouge. Two younger sisters, Ceclilia and Susan, married respectively Laurence Chaderton and William Whitaker. His eldest brother, Samuel, married a daughter of Thomas Sampson.
Culverwell graduated from Oxford in 1573, proceeding M.A. in 1577. Ordained in about 1585, he became chaplain to Robert, the third Lord Rich, at Little Leighs, Essex, and preacher at nearby Felsted. He joined the conference of ministers led by George Gifford, which met in and around Braintree, in the process becoming a friend of the clergyman Richard Rogers, who frequently mentions him in his diary. It seems likely, therefore, that he stood godfather to Ezekiel Rogers.
Although his nonconformity soon drew the fire of John Aylmer, bishop of London, Culverwell was in 1592 instituted by Aylmer as rector of Great Stambridge, Essex. In 1598 he married, as his second wife, Winifred Barefoot (née Hildersham), possibly the sister of Arthur Hildersham, and was thereafter accepted as a member of the influential Barrington-Hildersham connection. In one of his three extant letters he addressed Lady Joan Barrington as "cousin."
Following the death of Arthur Dent in 1603, he saw Dent's last work, The Ruine of Rome, through the press, adding a dedicatory epistle to Lord Rich. In 1605 at Great Stambridge, he solemnized the marriage of Mary Forth to John Winthrop, the future governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who later acknowledged that it was Culverwell's ministry that had converted him to "true religion."
After many citations before the London consistory court following the implementation of the Constitutions and Canons of 1604, Culverwell was deprived of Great Stambridge by the High Commission in 1609 for his continued refusal to observe the ceremonies of the Church of England. Evidently spending the rest of his life in London, he maintained contact with Winthrop and was a friend and correspondent of such leading Calvinist theologians as John Burgess, John Dod, Richard Sibbes, and James Ussher. In his Treatise of Faith (1623; 8th ed. 1648), the most important of his handful of published works, he sought to modify the doctrine that Christ died only for the elect. When Alexander Leighton accused him of Arminianism in A friendly triall of the Treatise of Faith (Amsterdam, 1624), Culverwell issued a spirited defense--A briefe answere to certain objections against the Treatise of Faith (1626)--affirming his adherence to the decrees of the Synod of Dort.
Culverwell was buried in the parish of St. Antholin, London, on 14 April 1631, having made a brief will in July 1630. Among his bequests was one to young Ezekiel Cheever, presumably another godson: £10 and a third of all his Latin books. Culverwell's influence on Gouge, Winthrop (recipient of two [of] his extant letters), Cheever and, perhaps, the family of Richard Rogers earns him an honorable place in the dispersal of the "puritan" tradition of English Calvinism."