Across Denominational Divides
Did you know that FIEC belongs to a wider group of evangelical churches called Affinity? Graham Nicholls is an FIEC pastor and also the new Director of Affinity so we asked him to introduce us to their ministry.
Affinity. Who, or what is it? A meditation technique? A new kind of deodorant?
Well, we’re actually a Christian organisation made up of individual churches, whole denominations, fellowship networks and other Christian agencies. Through our members, Affinity connects with about 1,200 churches in addition to Christian groups in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The British Evangelical Council was founded in 1952 by George Collins and Murdoch Macrae from the Free Church of Scotland, and Theodore Bendor-Samuel and Edward Poole-Connor from the FIEC. They wanted to express gospel unity across denominational divides but also to be a defence against movements for unity based on sharing the name Christian, but not necessarily the same core beliefs.
In the 1960’s Affinity gained the enthusiastic support of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and many church groups joined. It was the natural home and meeting place for many sincere Bible believing and Bible preaching church leaders who felt alone and distressed with what was happening in their churches or denominations.
It may be hard for many of us to imagine what it was like then for Christian leaders in churches, denominations or Bible Colleges which were openly questioning or denying fundamental parts of the gospel. These men were often isolated and sometimes expelled just because they stood up for what we would call basic Christian beliefs.
If you’re interested in finding out more, Basil Howlett’s recent book 1966 And All That gives insight into those days and how much of an encouragement Lloyd Jones and Affinity was for them.
Nowadays, the evangelical landscape has changed. Proclamation Trust formed in 1986 drawing in evangelical Anglicans and Independent churches. There’s been the emergence of Gospel Partnerships and the continued development of the FIEC along with an explosion of Christian conferences, publications and blogs. Alongside this, many churches have links which span historical and denominational boundaries.
So is Affinity even necessary any longer?
We believe it is and our aim is to do a few things well. It’s easy to either romanticise those past days or to dismiss the battles of last century evangelicalism as irrelevant. The battles may not be quite the same but doctrinal challenges continue within the church and Affinity can facilitate understanding and debate.
There are also new challenges where beliefs and practices we might consider essential are becoming optional. Outside the church, we experience an increasingly secular and hostile world. A world that is so profoundly lost and leaderless and in desperate need to hear the authentic good news of Jesus Christ. We believe Affinity still has a part to play in helping churches publicise and defend the gospel.
These can be summed up like this:
We promote fellowship and gospel partnership by our meetings and conferences. We can hear stories of blessing and challenge and have a broader view of what is going on in churches across the British Isles.
Affinity is the natural place where all conservative evangelicals can meet. We complement the work of Gospel Partnerships which are focussed on training, evangelism and church planting and can connect denominational or fellowship groupings even though they may have differences on ecclesiology or a different history and culture.
Affinity equips churches for the challenges to orthodox theology as we engage with current theological debates, thinking and cultural trends.
Affinity publishes the online Foundations Theological Journal and a Social Issues Bulletin dealing with ‘citizenship’ issues in the realms of medical ethics, education, work, law, politics, marriage, disability and gender.
Our ambitious aim for the coming years is to provide a voice for conservative evangelicals in the secular press, where the voice of evangelical Bible believing Christians is rarely heard. We want to support the churches we represent by presenting a Christian worldview and defence of the truth and relevance of Jesus Christ.