Robert Browne Edit Profile
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.
During the next eight years, he taught school, associated with the Reverend Richard Greenham at Dry Drayton, and preached for a few months at Benet (St. Benedict's) Church in Cambridge.
In 1580 he went to Norwich, lived with his friend Robert Harrison, and helped to organize a Congregational church there.
Because of the persecution and imprisonment that the church reformers met with, Browne, along with other church members, emigrated to Middelburg in The Netherlands, and he continued his ministry there for two years.
Browne left for Scotland about November 1583, received a cool reception from the Presbyterian Scots, and returned to England in 1584.
The exiles became homesick, however, quarreled, and fell apart.
Because of his disappointing experiences in Middelburg and Edinburgh, his difficulties with his bishop, and very likely because of his imprisonment and poor health, he made his peace with Archbishop John Whitgift on Oct. 7, 1585, by signing five articles of submission.
Browne's teachings, which culminated in Congregationalism, may be summarized as follows: government of churches by bishops, archbishops, and ecclesiastical courts is wrong; organization of churches and membership by parishes is unscriptural; dependence on magistrates for reform is cowardly; the congregation is the true locus of authority; churches should comprise the regenerate, the elect, the true believers, who should initiate reform with or without the secular officials.
The spiritual kingdom is composed of "rightly gathered churches, " which are characterized by reformation of life, the ministration of the sacraments, and preaching the Word. Browne's most important writings are: A Treatise of Reformation Without Tarrying for Anie (1582), which has been called the first plea in English for the independence of the Church from the State; A Treatise upon the 23d of Matthew (1582); A Booke Which Sheweth the Life and Manners of All True Christians (1582), which set forth the character of the church to be established; A True and Short Declaration (1584); and An Answer to Master Cartwright His Letter (c. 1585).
Throughout his last 48 years Browne remained a reluctant Anglican, serving intermittently as rector in the parish of Achurch-cum-Thorpe Waterville, in Northamptonshire.
Robert was married twice, firstly to Alice Allen, thought to be one of his Middelburg congregation, with whom he fathered nine children. Alice Browne died in July 1610 and in February 1612 Browne married Elizabeth Werner at St Martin's Church, Stamford.