Browne, Robert

Browne, Robert,

c.1550–1633, English clergyman and leader of a group of early separatists popularly known as Brownists. Browne conceived of the church as a self-governing local body of experiential believers in Jesus. Preaching without a license, Browne attacked the forms of government and the discipline of the Established Church; he gathered a congregation at Norwich c.1580. In 1581 he and his followers sought refuge in Holland. There he published (1582) several treatises that are generally regarded as the first expression of the principles of CongregationalismCongregationalism,
type of Protestant church organization in which each congregation, or local church, has free control of its own affairs. The underlying principle is that each local congregation has as its head Jesus alone and that the relations of the various congregations
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. Circulation in England of these tracts was punishable by death. Upon his return to England in 1584, Browne was imprisoned and later excommunicated. But by 1586 he was sufficiently reconciled with the Church of England to be made master of the Stamford grammar school, and in 1591 he submitted to episcopal ordination and became rector of Adchurch, Northamptonshire.

Browne, Robert


Born about 1550, in Tolethorpe, Rutlandshire; died about 1633, in Northampton. English Protestant theologian. Initiator of a radical movement in Puritanism.

Browne studied at Cambridge from 1570 to 1572. His study of the Bible led him to reject the organizational principles of the Anglican church. Proceeding from a concept of religious freedom, Browne advocated a self-governing church company (congregation), autonomous and independent of secular and church authority. He pressed for the right of every believer to separate himself from the existing church. Around 1580, Browne attempted to establish an independent company in the city of Norwich, but persecution forced him to emigrate to the Netherlands. He began preaching again in England and Scotland in 1584 and was subjected to constant persecution. He died in prison. Browne’s followers have been called Brownists, Congregationalists, and Independents.

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Children's authors Vivian French, Anthony Browne, Robert Crowther and Alan Durant will be star attractions.