Developments in Scotland
John Stevens gives an update on the work of the Fellowship in Scotland and the exciting appointment of a Scotland Director for FIEC.
FIEC has always had a presence in Scotland. Clarkston Baptist Church in Glasgow, for example, was one of the very first churches to join the FIEC way back in 1922. However the number of churches affiliated has been relatively small and the churches themselves have tended to be smaller churches.
Many of the larger Independent churches in Scotland, which would have a natural affinity with FIEC, did not see any great advantage in affiliating. The strong Presbyterian heritage in Scotland meant that Independency did not have such deep and widespread roots as in England and Wales, and the Scottish Baptist Union was less affected by the intrusion of liberal theology than its English equivalent during the twentieth century.
However Scotland today is facing a rapidly deteriorating spiritual situation. Secularism is advancing quickly as the public culture catches up with that south of the border. Confessional Presbyterianism has proved incapable of ensuring doctrinal faithfulness, as is evident in the recent tragic decision of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to allow churches to ordain and appoint practicing homosexual ministers. It has also failed to achieve church unity, with multiple splits that have led to a proliferation of small denominations, some of which are culturally anachronistic. Open evangelicalism and emergent church influences are increasingly apparent amongst other formerly evangelical churches.
There is therefore a great need within Scotland for churches which are committed to the core doctrines of the gospel to work together to bring the saving news about Jesus to the lost. This is precisely the vision and purpose of FIEC. This vision is being developed and implemented across the country by our team of Directors, and has encouraged 69 churches to join the Fellowship in the last 4 years. It is wonderful that there has been a growing upsurge of interest in FIEC in Scotland, with churches and leaders wanting to see the development and implementation of a similar gospel vision for their nation.
There are currently 18 FIEC churches in Scotland, several of which affiliated in the past four years. 21 pastors ministering in Scottish churches are currently members of the FIEC Pastors’ Network, eight of whom joined in the past four years. A number of larger and medium sized churches have been considering the possibility of joining FIEC, and two strategically important churches will be affiliated in the next fortnight; Charlotte Chapel and Niddrie Community Church, both of which are in Edinburgh.
The affiliation of both these churches will be a great blessing to the work of FIEC in Scotland, and encapsulates our desire to reach all kinds of communities with the same gospel message. There are seven or eight other significant Independent churches in Scotland that we hope might be encouraged to affiliate and help to make FIEC a dynamic and effective movement for the gospel in Scotland.
We hope that FIEC will become a natural home for all the gospel-centred Independent churches in the country that share our core convictions; who want to work together to ensure that churches and pastors are supported and encouraged in their ministries; that suitably gifted men are being identified and train for pastoral leadership; that new churches are planted in areas of gospel need; and that churches can obtain expert advice on the legal, regulatory and practical issues that they have to address. We want to be at the forefront of supporting and developing the infant Gospel Partnerships starting in Scotland, and to support initiatives such as the A Passion for Life mission as fully as we can.
In order to make sure that we can advance the development of FIEC in Scotland as effectively as possible, I am delighted that we have appointed Andy Hunter to the new role of FIEC Scotland Director. Many of the developments within FIEC in Scotland over the past three years have been a result of the tireless work undertaken by Alan McKnight, who is a member of the FIEC Trust Board. However it has rapidly become evident that there is a need for a full-time FIEC role in Scotland.
Andy has been the Senior Worker at Greenview Church in Glasgow for nine years, prior to which he trained at Oak Hill College in London. He will be joining the team of FIEC Directors on 1st November. His role is not to set up a separate FIEC for Scotland, but rather to ensure that the FIEC churches in Scotland are fully engaged with the national initiatives of FIEC, and to make sure that these initiatives are able to serve the churches and the gospel in a way that reflects the distinct culture and context of Scotland.
Andy will be sharing something of his vision for FIEC in an interview in the autumn edition of our Together magazine, and also at the Leaders’ Conference in November (it’s exciting and humbling to hear that a sizeable group of Scottish church leaders are travelling all the way down to the North Norfolk coast to attend the Leaders’ Conference this year!).
In the goodness of God a grant has been made to cover the cost of employing Andy for the first year of his appointment. In the longer term it is our confident hope that a growth in the number of churches affiliated to FIEC in Scotland will support his ministry. Most importantly we long and pray that this important new step will enable the cause of Christ to be advanced in Scotland in these times of great spiritual challenge, doctrinal confusion, need and opportunity.