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“to be part of a movement”

It’s always a pleasure to welcome new churches into our family. John Stevens introduces us to five churches that have recently joined our Fellowship.

“to be part of a movement” primary image

Our National Recognition Team meets four times a year to review affiliation applications from churches, alongside applications from men who wish to join our Pastors’ Network. We were delighted to affiliate five new churches at our recent meeting in February. Here’s a little introduction to them:

Christ Church Newcastle

Christ Church Newcastle is a thriving and growing church in the eighth largest urban area in the UK. It is an area of immense gospel need as there are very few strong evangelical churches.

Christ Church Newcastle

Christ Church was planted in 2006 and now has a membership of 122. The church is led by Hugo Charteris, who was previously an Anglican vicar on the Wirral. The church used to be part of Crosslinks, an Anglican mission agency, but they have decided that their future lies within FIEC and they are keen to support and encourage other churches in the region.

Their reasons for joining were:

“Christ Church has always had a commitment to being networked with other like-minded churches, and has done so previously through the North East Gospel Partnership and through Acts 29. We play an active role in both of these. We are keen to learn from and assist other gospel-centred churches and see FIEC as another way in which we can do this.”

Christ Church has already been instrumental in supporting Trinity Church Sunderland, an FIEC church in the region that was revitalised. I am excited that they have a vision for the region and hope and pray that in years to come many more gospel churches might be planted or revitalised in Tyneside and the North East.

Lichfield Christian Church

In contrast to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Lichfield is one of the smallest cities in the UK (it’s the twelfth smallest), with a population of 32,000. Lichfield Christian Church was started in 2007 and has membership of eight people. Despite the small numbers it runs youth groups which are growing and attract over 40 children. It is also clear that the church has a strong gospel vision for the future.

Lichfield Christian Church

The church is led by Jeff Fry, who works bi-vocationally as a self-employed web designer. They are receiving help and support from Pelsall Evangelical Church, another FIEC church which is around 10 miles away.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We see the need to be a part of a larger gospel-minded movement of churches for our own encouragement and growth. We also see that, for the sake of the gospel, gospel-minded churches must band together as we have a stronger public voice together.”

We pray that the support and encouragement that FIEC can provide will help this church to thrive and grow. We will be praying that the Lord will graciously save many people in Lichfield through their witness.

Grace Church, Bridgend

Grace Church was started in 2002 and meets on the campus of WEST (Wales Evangelical School of Theology). It has 44 members and a Sunday morning congregation of 60.

The church is led by John Orchard, and Jonathan Stephen (Principal of WEST) is one of the other elders. The church is also affiliated to Affinity and the AECW (Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales).

Grace Church Bridgend

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“To share fellowship with like-minded churches. To co-operate with like-minded churches in gospel initiatives. To benefit from the FIEC advice and resources.”

The affiliation of Grace Church will increase the number of FIEC churches in Wales to 28. As I explained in a recent News article, Wales is probably the neediest constituent nation of the UK. Despite a long and glorious spiritual heritage, secularism is rampant and churches are rapidly declining.

FIEC is committed to serving the gospel in Wales as effectively as possible, and I will be holding a consultation with Welsh church leaders in April so that they can help us to do this.

Southbourne Evangelical Church, Bournemouth

Southboourne Evangelical Church buildingSouthbourne Evangelical Church is a long-established church in Bournemouth, a town that is well served by gospel churches, including two large FIEC churches (Moordown Baptist Church and Lansdowne Baptist Church). The church is led by John Hughes, has a membership of 20 and a Sunday morning congregation of 26.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“For many years we have had informal fellowship with folk from a number of FIEC Churches in our area. We have valued the partnership with those who share our Bible-based beliefs. We recognise the value of showing this partnership in a way which demonstrates our oneness with other like-minded Christians, our Independent ecclesiology, and will forward the work of the gospel both in this area and in other parts of the country. Whilst we are, at present, a small church with limited ability to contribute financially, we will do what we can to seek to encourage and support FIEC in prayer and other ways.”

Whilst the church had natural concerns about the cost of joining FIEC, we were able to reassure them that we do not charge a fee or a subscription. Churches are asked to make a suggested donation to support our work, but we know that some churches will be unable to give the full amount.

Our overriding concern is that the churches that join us share our gospel convictions and vision. We would hate any church to feel that they could not affiliate because they lack the resources to make the suggested donation. On the other hand we hope and expect that the churches that are able to give the donation will be willing to do so, precisely because they support our vision and want to see it realised.

Trinity Church Oxford

Trinity Church Oxford is a church in the centre of the city that was formed in 2014. Although Oxford is very well served by gospel churches there was no specifically Independent church in the city centre, which is the natural location to reach the student and international student community. The larger FIEC churches in the area are further out and have a particular focus on reaching their immediate communities.

Trinity Church logo

Trinity Church is led by Peter Comont, who had been the pastor of Magdalen Road Church, and was started with the full support of the other FIEC and evangelical Anglican churches in the city. It now has 35 members and a congregation of 55.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“Peter Comont, and other members, have a long association with FIEC. FIEC is the closest body theologically to where we stand. FIEC would offer us a national network which we’d love to be a link for us as well. We would also be an FIEC church meeting in the very heart of Oxford.”

As with all major university cities, Oxford is a very strategic centre for the gospel. Many of the 40,000 students in the city will go on to become future leaders, both in the UK and for their home nations.

Whilst we know that God is not interested in human status, and that he delights to choose the weak to shame the strong, that is no reason to neglect the opportunity to bring the gospel to these future leaders, provided that does not mean we neglect the less privileged. The great strength of FIEC is that our churches are collectively reaching all different kinds of people across the country, not just those who belong to a particular social class or educational category.

Considering Affiliation?

I am hugely encouraged that such a diverse group of churches has chosen to join FIEC. They are a microcosm of what we hope to be: a truly national family of churches united by the core doctrines of the gospel and working together to make disciples for the Lord Jesus in every community.

If you would like to find out more about affiliation then this is a good place to start. If you are unsure what it means to be an Independent church, or how FIEC supports churches to advance the gospel, you might find our recent book Independent Church: Biblically Shaped and Gospel Driven helpful.

We also recognised six new church plants in February, which we hope will become fully-affiliated FIEC churches in due course. Click here to find out more about church plant recognition.

Footnotes

Image of Southbourne Evangelical Church building is copyright Michael Ford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

John Stevens photo
John Stevens - FIEC National Director

John is FIEC's National Director. He's married to Ursula and they have four children. He loves books. John blogs regularly – and at length – over at www.john-stevens.com


Follow John Stevens on Twitter – @_JohnStevens