Embracing Gospel Unity
As a Fellowship of Independents, how can we support churches who share our biblical convictions but are currently part of denominations that do not? John Stevens explains our position with reference to Newquay United Reformed Church who affiliated to FIEC in late 2016.
Over the years many churches have joined FIEC having left other denominations or associations because they have compromised the gospel.
This was particularly the case in the 1960s and 1970s when many churches left the Congregational Union and Baptist Union because of their concern about liberal theology or ecumenical compromise. Many of these churches found a home within FIEC.
Today we see many denominations abandoning the clear biblical teaching on gender and sexuality, and either actively condoning or passively allowing their churches and pastors to perform or accept same-sex marriages. Therefore it is no surprise that churches are once again leaving historic denominations and seeking to join FIEC.
One such church is Newquay United Reformed Church (Newquay URC). It was established in 1967 as an independent Congregational Chapel and in 1972 it became part of the United Reformed Church, which was a result of a merger of the English Congregational and Presbyterian churches.
But the church began a journey into a clearly evangelical position in 2003 through the ministry of an American pastor based on biblical convictions and it has now resolved to leave the United Reformed Church because of growing concerns about the spiritual trajectory of the denomination. This came to a head for Newquay URC when its denomination’s General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to allow same-sex couples to marry in its buildings.
Although the church has not left formal membership of the URC yet (this process will take two years) the FIEC Constitution has always allowed the affiliation of churches that have “come to occupy a position of detachment from the denominational bodies with which they had been associated.” This is the case for Newquay URC even though they have not yet altered their constitution.
FIEC allows this provision specifically to help churches that are wanting to leave their denominations for good theological reasons, and who wish to receive the support and encouragement of a new association while they undertake the formal steps to leave.
In the case of Newquay URC, the church has unanimously resolved to leave the United Reformed Church and have initiated that process, so we were delighted to welcome them into formal affiliation with FIEC at the end of 2016. In the meantime we will seek to provide them with all the support we can.
You can read more about Newquay URC in my article about new affiliations.
We live in times of tragic gospel compromise, in which historic denominations are abandoning the biblical faith and failing to exercise biblical church discipline when those who engage in homosexual sexual activity are unrepentant.
A number of congregations have left the Church of Scotland over this issue and I would imagine that there are many other gospel churches like them who are seriously questioning whether they can remain in such compromised bodies.
Of course, it requires true courage and sacrifice to leave a compromised denomination, and FIEC has always honoured the faithfulness of those who have done so in the past. We stand ready to welcome and support all those who feel that they need to take this step today.