One Christian's plea : the life, ministry, and controversies of Francis Johnson.
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Culpepper, Kenneth Scott.
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Francis Johnson (1562-1618) served as pastor of the English Separatist congregation that became known as the "Ancient Church" from 1592 until his death in 1618. The congregation was first gathered in London under the guidance of Henry Barrow and John Greenwood before its members fled to Amsterdam in 1593 under Johnson's leadership to escape persecution by English civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Johnson joined his flock in 1597 after being released from prison. His ministry was filled with strife and conflict as he sought to implement the Separatist ecclesiological ideal of a congregational polity. Despite the turbulence of his early years in Amsterdam, Johnson's Ancient Church finally enjoyed a period of relative peace and growth from 1604-1608. Johnson caused a split within his own congregation in 1610. This fissure was created by his determination to pursue a more congregational rather than presbyterian polity in response to external conflicts with his former Cambridge pupil, John Smyth. After a self-imposed period of exile from 1613-1617 at Emden, East Friesland, Johnson returned to Amsterdam in 1617 to publish his final polemical work. He died at Amsterdam in 1618. In this research project, the author explored the evolving theological views, career, social context, polemical exhanges, controversies, and writings of Francis Johnson with two primary objectives. The first of these objectives was to analyze the course of Francis Johnson's ecclesiological views as he transitioned from an early presbyterian position to congregationalism and back to presbyterianism before he finally came to moderate his original hard-line Separatism. The second major objective of this project was to assess Johnson's contributions to the religious and social context of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Even though Johnson held such an important place in the development of English Separatism and Nonconformity, there has not been a major study of his ministry. Assessments of Johnson's career have been scattered throughout various general studies of English Separatism that have contributed much to our knowledge of Francis Johnson, but have not focused primarily on him. The purpose of this research project is to fill that unfortunate lacuna with a comprehensive treatment of Johnson's life, influence and theology.