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John Owen

1616-1683. An advocate of the Congregational way and a Reformed theologian, he was educated at Queen's College, Oxford. Because of the Laudian innovations he left Oxford in 1637. His first parish was Fordham, Essex, to which he went in 1643. At this time he was a moderate Presbyterian, but the reading of a book by John Cotton convinced him of the biblical basis of the Congregational way. In his next parish, Coggeshall, he formed a gathered church. In the Civil War his sympathies were wholly with Parliament and he accompanied Cromwell in expeditions to Ireland and Scotland in 1649-51 as a chaplain. In 1651 Parliament appointed him dean of Christ Church, Oxford. A year later Cromwell made him a vice-chancellor, a post he held until 1657.

From 1651 to 1660 he devoted his energies to the production of “godly and learned” men, and to the reform of the statutes and ceremonies of the university. During this period he was also influential in national affairs. Apart from serving on many committees he was the chief architect of the Cromwellian State Church. He helped to compose the Savoy Declaration* of Faith and Order (1658), and he wrote important books against Arminian and Socinian views. Ejected from Christ Church in 1660, he settled temporarily at Stadhampton, the village of his youth, and gathered a church in his home. For the next twenty-three years he was an acknowledged leader of Protestant Nonconformity. He was pastor of a church in London, friend and guide to many ejected ministers, defender of the legal rights of Dissenters, expounder of the Congregational way, biblical commentator, and devotional writer. His books were treasured by Nonconformists and have constantly been reprinted. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, London.

See P. Toon (ed.), Correspondence (1970) and Oxford Orations (1971); idem, God's Statesman (1972).