Today we take for granted that we can govern our churches by ourselves. What we sometimes don’t stop to think is how we got here, the prize paid for it. The way to govern a church from below, or by the rule of the congregation, is known as Congregationalism. But this was not the way the church, or even some Reformation churches carried, and still carry church government.
Here it’s something from Christianity Today:
This was the day that Richard Fitz and several others were arrested in Plumber’s Hall, London. To understand why, we need to remind ourselves of conditions of that day. Many Englishmen and women were unhappy with the Church of England. According to some it went too far in reform. According to others, not far enough. Some of this last group called for purifying the church. They were called Puritans. Others wished to separate themselves entirely from the Church of England. They became known as Separatists.
Around 1550 small, secret congregations of Separatists sprang up. One was led by Richard Fitz and John Robinson (who later played a key role as leader of the Pilgrim Fathers who came to America). Their movements are hard to trace.
The Separatists really surfaced when they established what they called a “Privye” or private church, one that would not answer to English bishops or to Rome or any other religious authority. In short, it would be governed by its own pastor and members. This put them on a collision course with the queen who was head of the Church of England and personally liked the color, splendor and ritual of worship that the Puritans and Separatists detested.
One particular band of Separatists, reported as a hundred strong, rented Plumber’s Hall to celebrate a wedding. Before the nuptials were fairly under way, the sheriff broke up the meeting.
He and his men arrested Richard Fitz, a deacon and others. Many of these Plumber’s Hall Separatists spent time in prison for illegal religious activities. We know from a petition later put forth by the Separatists that Fitz and several others paid for their religious views with their lives.
So there you go, some people paid with their lives so we could run our churches by ourselves. Let’s give thanks to God for this brave souls, and let us honour their sacrifice for the church of Christ.