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Browne, Robert

Browne, Robert (c.1550–1633). An early puritan separatist preacher and pamphleteer, Browne was born in Rutland of a wealthy family. After graduating from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1572), where he was under Cartwright's influence, he had a spell in London as a schoolmaster and open-air preacher (1572–8) and then in Cambridgeshire. Hostile to any form of church government, he and Robert Harrison established independent congregations, later known as Brownists, in East Anglia. Arrested for heresy (1581), but protected by his kinsman Burghley, he emigrated to Middelburg (the Netherlands), where he continued publishing heretical literature. At odds with other puritan exiles, he returned to England (1583), was imprisoned, but, after submitting to the church, became master of Stamford Grammar School (1586–91). Accepting episcopal ordination (1591), he was rector of Achurch (Northants) until his death. A turbulent, unstable character, he is still regarded by many as a founder of congregationalism.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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Browne, Robert

Robert Browne, 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 Congregationalism. 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.

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Browne, Robert

Browne, Robert (1550–1633) English clergyman, founder of the “Brownists”, a separatist religious sect. In Reformation without Tarrying for Any (1582), he presented the first argument for Congregationalism. In 1584, he was imprisoned and late excommunicated. By 1591, Brown had been reconciled to the Church of England.

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