Francis Johnson and the English Separatist Influence is the first thorough treatment of Francis Johnson as the central focus of an academic work. Johnson (1562-1618) was the pastor of the English Separatist Ancient Church in London and Amsterdam from 1592-1618. Once referred to as the "Bishop of Brownism" by one of his contemporaries, Johnson's theological and practical influence on Christian traditions as diverse as the Baptists, Congregationalists, and English Independents demonstrated the wide breadth of English Separatism's formative influence.
Francis Johnson's quest to create a perfectly ordered, scriptural, Christian congregation led him to fiery debates with the most influential leaders of his day. A curious mix of the noble and ignoble, Francis Johnson was a man of contradictions. He could argue passionately for the proper ordering of God's covenant community while excommunicating both his father and younger brother from the ministry of that community. An uncompromising champion of Christian moral purity, his wife's apparel caused scandal in his congregation and his favourite elder was accused of moral failings that encouraged ridicule from his adversaries.
This very human English Separatist leader influenced a number of Christian movements in the dynamic context of early seventeenth-century Amsterdam. His example encouraged John Smyth, Johnson's Cambridge pupil, and Smyth's associate John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims, to separate from the established Church and seek sanctuary in Amsterdam. Francis Johnson's own journey from radical Puritan to fervent Separatists, and finally rediscovery of the importance of reconnecting with the larger Christian tradition is one that vitally speaks to our current pluralistic context.