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John Greenwood

John Greenwood (d. April 6, 1593), English Puritan and Separatist (the date and place of his birth are unknown), entered as a sizar at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge[?], on March 18 1577-1578, and commenced B.A. 1581.

Whether he was directly influenced by the teaching of Robert Browne[?], a graduate of the same college, is uncertain; in any case he held strong Puritan opinions, which ultimately led him to Separatism[?] of the most rigid type. In 1581 he was chaplain to Lord Rich, at Rochford, Essex. At some unspecified time he had been made deacon by John Aylmer, bishop of London, and priest by Thomas Cooper, bishop of Lincoln; but are long he renounced this ordination as "wholly unlawful."

Details of the next few years are lacking; but by 1586 he was the recognized leader of the London Separatists, of whom a considerable number had been imprisoned at various times since 1567. Greenwood was arrested early in October 1586, and the following May was committed to the Fleet prison for an indefinite time, in default of bar for conformity. During his imprisonment he wrote some controversial tracts in conjunction with his fellow-prisoner Henry Barrowe. He is understood to have been at liberty in the autumn of 1588; but this may have been merely "the liberty of the prison." However, he was certainly at large in September 1592, when he was elected "teacher" of the Separatist church.

Meanwhile he had written (1590) "An Answer to George Gifford's pretended Defence of Read Prayers." On December 5 he was again arrested; and the following March was tried, together with Barrowe, and condemned to death on a charge of "devising and circulating seditious books." After two respites, one at the foot of the gallows, he was hanged on the 6th of April 1593.


HM Dexter, Congregationalism during the last three hundred years; The England and Holland of the Pilgrims; FJ Powicke, Henry Barrowe and the Exiled Church of Amsterdam; B Brook, Lives of the Puritans; CH Cooper, Athenae Cantabrigienses, vol. ii.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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