Brown was born in Lancaster, California in 1957 and moved to Seattle with his family in 1965. A graduate of Evergreen High School in 1975, Brown went on to receive his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Washington in 1978, his M.Div. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1982 and his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1997.
He was ordained a United Methodist deacon in 1979 and became an elder in the church in 1984. He served the Fall City United Methodist Church, Fall City from 1982–1986, the Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland, from 1986 to 1992, and was senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Wenatchee from 1992 until 2001. He is currently senior pastor First United Methodist Church aka First Church of Seattle Washing from 2009 to date.
Public office, contested election
Brown was elected to the Board of Directors of the Lake Washington School District in 1989 in one of his first acts of public service beyond the local church. He served as president of the board from 1991-1992. He ran unsuccessfully for school board in the Wenatchee School District in 1997.
Brown gained local notoriety for his challenge, along with Rev. Kel Groseclose, of the 1999 election of the Wenatchee mayor. Brown and Groseclose contended in Chelan County Superior Court that Mayor Gary Schoessler was not a resident of Wenatchee for the requisite one year prior to his election. The court agreed, the verdict was upheld on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court on April 20, 2000, and Schoessler was removed from office.
In 2001 Brown left the pastorate to serve as executive director of Deaconess Children's Services, a United Methodist mission agency, in Everett. In 2003 he was elected as executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, one of the largest regional ecumenical bodies in the U.S.
At the Church Council, Brown's work has focused on ending homelessness. He has been an advocate of Tent City 4, helping the homeless encampment with legal challenges in several suburban Seattle communities, and he has been leader of the legislative advocacy arm of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County.
Brown has authored numerous op-ed pieces in support of ending homelessness as well as other topics, like bringing an end to conflict in the Middle East and (with his wife) has advocated for high ethical standards in the practice of medicine. He has also written on the subject of living wages  and the need for additional human service funding 
While at the Council, Brown led in the establishment of the Service of Hope, an interfaith program that brings a service of prayer to sites of homicides. Services of Hope were held at sites of the Capitol Hill massacre and the Jewish Federation shooting. Brown was criticized by Ken Schramm of KOMO-TV for considering a prayer service for the killer of a police officer simultaneously with the service for the officer himself
In 2005 Brown received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. In 2007, former Bishop Edward Paup announced his intention to appoint Brown to serve as senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Seattle beginning in July 2008.
- Washington State Supreme Court decision, April 20, 2000
- Seattle Times, November 17, 2003 "New leader for city's 'moral voice' as church revisits social justice role"
- Seattle Times, June 10, 2006, "Judge pulls up the stakes on Woodinville's Tent City
- Seattle Times, June 7, 2005, "Rules for homeless camps generate spirited debate" (Bellevue)
- Seattle Times, February 8, 2006 (with Anson Laytner and Hisham Farajallah) "U.S. Leadership Essential for Israeli-Palestinian Peace"
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 20, 2007, "Organ donation a personal decision" and Seattle Times, April 1, 2005, "Compassion and Choice in End of Life Decisions"
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 15, 2007, "Stop the middle-class wage slide"
- Seattle Times, November 2, 2005, "Proposition 1 will help improve the lives of veterans"
- KING-TV News, March 28, 2006, "Killer: 'plenty for everyone'"
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 29, 2006, "Interfaith community expresses solidarity"
- KOMO-TV, December 8, 2006, Ken Schramm: "A warped sense of ministry"
- Garrett-Evangelical website at http://www.garrett.edu/content.asp?C=20098
- Seattle Times, April 3, 2007, "Church Council Leader to Step Down"
- First United Methodist Church, Seattle