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Welcome to the Family (March 2019)

It’s always a joy to welcome new churches into the FIEC family. John Stevens introduces us to the churches that joined us at the winter meeting of our National Recognition Team.

Welcome to the Family (March 2019) primary image

Over the past nine years more than 160 churches have chosen to join FIEC because they share our vision to be “Independent churches working together to reach Britain for Christ.”

Back in December 2018 nine new churches joined the Fellowship. It is especially encouraging that several have a very considerable degree of diversity in both their congregations and leaderships. This reflects our desire for FIEC to become a much more ethnically diverse family of churches, representing the reality of contemporary Britain and meeting both the challenges and opportunities of a multi-cultural nation.

Caerwent Evangelical Baptist Chapel

Caerwent EBC was founded in 1815 and served a village in Monmouthshire. It is a Reformed church with a congregation of more than 60 adults and children. The church has seen three professions of faith in the last year.

The church is led by Gwydion Emlyn, who was trained at Union School of Theology in Bridgend and was formerly assistant minister of St Mellon’s Baptist Church in Cardiff. The church also belongs to the AECW.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We want fellowship with other churches across the UK. We also want to benefit from FIEC resources and pastoral care, as well as contributing to the larger mission of FIEC.”

Christ Church Cambourne

Christ Church was planted by St Neots Evangelical Church in 2016 to bring the gospel to three growing villages in Cambridgeshire. Whilst St Neots took the lead for the plant, the core group was made up of five different churches from the East Anglian Gospel Partnership. It was a great example of gospel centred churches working together. They now have a regular congregation of just over 70 adults and children – with more than 12 nationalities represented – but would love more older people to join the church.

The work is led by Ben Twiss, who trained part-time at Oak Hill College with the help of a grant from the FIEC Training Fund.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We see the benefit of the church family partnering with other independent churches, and the encouragement of being part of a national vision and work. We see the importance of accountability, help and advice offered by FIEC. We would love to encourage other churches where we can, and give financially to the work of the FIEC as a whole.”

The church also belongs to the East Anglia Gospel Partnership.

Cornerstone Church Portsmouth

Cornerstone Church was also planted in 2016 by Christchurch Southampton, with a particular desire to reach the 20,000 students living in the city of Portsmouth. The church now has a regular attendance of more than 70 and has reached a wider range of people and not just students.

The church has seen two professions of faith and three baptisms in the last year. It is led by Jon Shulver, who trained at Oak Hill College and worked for the Contagious youth camps. The church plant was assisted by a “start-up” grant of £6,000 from the FIEC church planting fund to help them purchase PA equipment, projector, bibles and banners.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“Having greatly benefited from being an FIEC recognised church plant it was an easy decision to seek to join the FIEC as an independent church. Networks of shared wisdom, practical support and shared vision and ethos.”

Emmanuel Baptist Church Leeds

Emmanuel BC began to meet as Leeds Reformed Baptist Church in 1972. They changed their name when they moved into new premises in Horsforth in 2016.

The church subscribes to the doctrines of Grace as set out in the 1689 Baptist Confession. The church is led by Wes Johnston and also has a Minister-in-Training who joined them after completing the Cornhill Training Course. They have a membership of 121 with about 20 nationalities represented in the church congregation. They have seen four professions of faith and four baptisms in the last year.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“1. To build meaningful gospel partnerships with likeminded churches; 2. To join in mission to reach the lost in the UK; 3. To benefit from the expertise and experience of others; 4. To share with others in accordance with our experience, gifts etc.”

The church is also affiliated to the Yorkshire Gospel Partnership.

Emmanuel Church Bramcote, Nottingham

Emmanuel Church was planted in 2006 by a group looking to establish a clear Bible teaching church in Bramcote. The first minister was Nigel Styles. When he moved to become PT Director of Cornhill in 2016, he was replaced as Senior Minister by Richard Hopkins.
The church has a regular attendance of 165 adults and children and meets at Bramcote College. They have seen four professions of faith and three baptisms in the last year. The church is heavily involved in the Midlands Gospel Partnership, which is chaired by Richard.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We wish to stand together for the gospel with other like-minded churches in an increasingly hostile culture, and work together with other churches to reach a nation that needs to hear about Jesus.”

It is so encouraging that there are now ten FIEC churches in Nottingham, reaching students, the city, suburbs and deprived estates, and working together to advance the gospel in the region. We would love to see similar growth and cooperation between FIEC churches in major cities around the country.

Fellowship Baptist Church, Luton

Fellowship BC is a small church in a town with immense gospel need. It was planted in 1989 by Stan Boelman, an American missionary. They have a regular congregation of 23 adults and children and have seen one profession of faith in the last year.

Luton has a population of more than 200,000 people, a small majority of whom are from an ethnic minority background. 25% of the population identify as Muslim, and 3% as Hindu. There are relatively few evangelical churches in the town. Almost half the attenders of Fellowship BC are from an ethnic minority background and two of the leaders are from an ethnic minority group.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“For years we have enjoyed informal fellowship with local FIEC churches and found that we share much in common. We seek membership in order to partner with like-minded believers and communicate that fact to the local community. That, in our mind, helps to provide some spiritual credibility in the way that charity registration provides financial credibility. We also feel that we can both offer support to the work of the gospel and receive it. In particular, we are aware that one day we will be seeking a pastor and we feel that the FIEC offers us a good resource.”

Grace Church Brockley

Grace Church was planted in April 2012 by Grace Church Dulwich, which itself was planted from St Helen’s Bishopsgate in 2005. Brockley is an ethnically diverse area of South East London.

The church is led by Raymond Brown and three other elders and has a regular attendance of 80 adults and children, having lost 20% of its congregation to a recent plant in the Catford area (SE6). This new church plant is currently being led by two Nigerian pastors.

More than a quarter of Grace Church are from an ethnic minority background, and this is reflected in the leadership or teaching positions held in the church. The church has seen two professions of faith and two baptisms in the last year and is hoping to baptise at least two teenagers later this year (April 2019).

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We want to be part of the FIEC because we are excited by the prospect of being part of an organisation that stands for everything we stand for as a local church., and that will connect us with similar like-minded churches.”

Pemberton Free Grace Church, Wigan

Pemberton FGC is the result of a recent merger of two existing churches, Pemberton Evangelical Church (affiliated to the FIEC since 1985) and Jireh Baptist Church in a town abutting Wigan with a population of 14,000.

Both churches were experiencing the problems associated with lower numbers in an area that is not wealthy, and neither of the buildings were in themselves fit for purpose, and so a merger would lead to a stronger and more effective work. The new church has a regular attendance of approximately 50 adults and children, and is looking to buy or build premises that will be fit for purpose, on a single site. They have seen three professions of faith and two baptisms in the last year. They have also welcomed six new people into membership since the church was formed in the summer of 2018.

The church is also associated with the Grace Baptist Assembly, and belongs to the West Lancashire Fellowship of Reformed Baptist Churches.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“Our church is a newly formed merger of two former churches. As part of our merger agreement we recognised both the legacy of one of our former churches, as well as the present benefits of belonging to the FIEC. We also wished to affiliate the new church with FIEC, as our basis of faith and constitution would be similar and reflect evangelical independency.”

Union Hall Evangelical Church, Manchester

Union Hall is a long-established church right in the heart of Manchester, a city with a population of 545,000, with 2.7m in the Greater Manchester area. It is a city with a relative paucity of evangelic witness, but a huge cultural influence on the UK, with a reputation for progressive liberalism. There are almost 100,000 students in the city and the BBC and ITV have relocated large parts of their operations to nearby Salford.

The church was originally started as a mission to a poorer part of the city, but after successive regenerations of the area it now finds itself in the middle of Manchester Metropolitan University’s campus with thousands of students on its doorstep.

Union Hall is led by Adam Beattie, who was trained by Daniel Grimwade at Dewsbury EC with the help of the FIEC Training Fund. One of his hopes in accepting the call to the church was that it applied to join the FIEC. The church has a regular attendance of more than 90 adults and children, more than 50% of whom are from an ethnic minority background. They have seen four baptisms in the last year. The church also belongs to the North West Gospel Partnership.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We believe local independent evangelical churches are stronger when they work and have fellowship together. We share the same doctrinal position and commitment to building the church of Christ and it would be good to be linked to what FIEC is doing. It would provide us with a clearer national identity and protect us from isolationism. It allows us to contribute to the evangelisation of the nation, not just Manchester.”

Until a few years ago FIEC was relatively weak in Manchester. It has been hugely encouraging that there are now several thriving and growing FIEC churches in the city that are working together and planting new churches.

New Church Plant Recognitions

A number of these new churches are relatively recent church plants that are now thriving as fully independent churches. We are also delighted that we have been able to recognise two new church plants, one in Yorkshire and the other in London.

Emmanuel Church Keighley

Emmanuel Church is a new church plant in one of the neediest and most deprived communities in Yorkshire. It was an initiative of South Craven Evangelical Church and is led by former FIEC Council member Martin Woodier. The church is also supported by Gospel Yorkshire. Keighley has a population of 70,000, of whom 22% identify as Muslim. The church meets in a former Methodist church that has been turned into a community hub. They currently have about 30 regular attenders.

Hope Church Vauxhall

Hope Church Vauxhall is a plant onto the Vauxhall Gardens Estate, an inner London estate within the London Borough of Lambeth. It is a joint venture between FIEC, Co-Mission and London City Mission, in partnership with The Globe Church.

The plant is led by Sam Gibb, who trained at Oak Hill College with the help of a grant from the FIEC Training Fund, and Kevin Croft, who works as an LCM evangelist and Team Leader in Vauxhall. From the launch of Hope Church in September 2018 the church has been encouraged as they have seen ‘local’ people from many cultures, classes and countries coming together to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Church Closures

Whilst we are encouraged by new church affiliations and new church plants, we are always sorry to hear of church closures. Two churches have closed recently, Widney Evangelical Church in Solihull and Nettleton Baptist Church in Wiltshire.

As a result of these new affiliations and church plant recognitions, FIEC is now a family of 609 churches across Britain. We are still tiny in comparison to the scale of the gospel challenge we face in our nation, in which only 3% of the population are born-again believers in the Lord Jesus. However, we are deeply grateful to God for growth. If you share our gospel convictions and vision to reach Britain for Christ we’d love to hear from you. You can find more about affiliation here on our website.

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