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 served as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church aka First Church of Seattle Washing from 2008 to 2014.
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 during its AIDS education controversy. 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 advocated for acceptance of Tent City 4, helping the homeless encampment with legal challenges in several suburban Seattle communities, leading to a successful challenge in the Washington State Supreme Court against the City of Woodinville on behalf of the Northshore United Church of Christ  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, such as bringing an end to conflict in the Middle East and (with his former 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 as leader of the successful 2005 Veterans and Human Services levy. 
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.
Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Seattle
From 2008-2014, Brown was senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Seattle, Seattle's first church and oldest ongoing organization. Brown oversaw the construction and successful move of First United Methodist Church from 5th and Marion, where First United Methodist Church congregation had worshiped since 1908, to a new $18 million building in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle on 2nd and Denny. He helped the church secure $1 million in funds from King County and the City of Seattle for the Blaine Center Men's Shelter, connected to the new Belltown location of the church.
During his time as senior pastor, Brown led the religious community’s support of Referendum 74, the successful referendum for marriage equality in Washington, and condemned United Methodist policy on same sex marriage. After leading public marches promoting gun safety following the Sandy Hook Massacre he helped organize the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility and the successful Initiative Measure No. 594, promoting background checks for firearm sales and transfers in Washington State.
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- "Pastor: Anti-gay stand is "wrong, stupid & evil"". Strange Bedfellows -- Politics News. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
- First United Methodist Church, Seattle