Welcome to the Family (October 2019)
Meet the churches that joined FIEC at the summer meeting of our National Recognition Team.
One of the tremendous encouragements at FIEC is the growing number of churches that are applying to join us. At our National Recognition Team meeting in June we were delighted to affiliate 10 new churches and 2 new church plants, bringing the total number of FIEC churches up to 617. These new churches reflect the full spectrum of diversity that is the hallmark of FIEC. Some are long-established churches, whereas others are only a few months old. They reflect a diversity of contexts and communities and differing theological distinctives that fall within the ambit of our Doctrinal Basis.
Most of the churches that have joined this time are medium sized but is thrilling to hear how many conversions and baptisms they have seen in the last year alone. It is a good reminder that God is at work to grow his church through the faithful proclamation of the gospel.
I am especially pleased that a number of the churches are in deprived communities or the North East of the country, where we know gospel work is comparatively weak. Several also have a higher than usual degree of ethnic diversity amongst their congregation.
It is great to read that the churches fully understand and share the FIEC vision and have chosen to affiliate because they want to be part of it. The more churches that chose to join us the more effective we will be as “Independent churches working together to reach Britain for Christ.”
Chiswick Baptist Church
Chiswick Baptist Church (CBC) is a long-established church in an area of West London with a population of 34,000. It was founded in 1866 and was one of the churches started out of the Metropolitan Tabernacle and is now led by Steve Messersmith, who is originally from the USA.
The congregation - whose cultural heritage emanates from 20 different countries - comprises 60-70 adults and children. The church has seen five professions of faith and six baptisms in the last year. In July 2019 CBC voted to resign from the London Baptist Association and the Baptist Union, desiring to be part of an exclusively biblically orthodox association. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“We are looking for an association that will help us with reaching our community and world with the gospel and to build relationships with like-minded churches. We want to be in a fellowship that will hold to and not compromise doctrines. There are many things a church needs assistance with in our society today and we believe the FIEC has a good handle on these things and will be able to assist in matters as they arise. We can bring a strong love for biblical truth and love of the brethren.”
Firwood Church, Oldham
Firwood Church was founded in 1997 “to reach the unchurched and young people of Middleton, Chadderton and Oldham.” The church is led by Pastor Ronnie Evans and meets in a former Moravian church. It has a congregation of 60 adults and children and has an extensive kids programme. They work with other local churches to tackle the problem of homelessness. They have seen six professions of faith and seven baptisms in the last year. They have begun to develop strong relationships with another FIEC church in the area, Bethel Church Oldham, which has encouraged them to affiliate to FIEC.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“We hope that FIEC will allow us to network with other local churches (and not so local) like-minded gospel churches so we can support the work of the gospel and be supported through prayer and resources. We hope to be encouraged band equipped by others but also we want to have the opportunity to share our resources and encourage other churches.”
Grace Church Hartlepool
Grace Church was launched in 2015. It is led by three elders; Ben Parker, Scott Thomson and Michael Hall, two of whom work bi-vocationally for the church. They have a congregation of 45 adults and children, and they meet in a Methodist church building.
It is especially encouraging to welcome this new church into FIEC. Hartlepool has a population of 93,000 and we identified it as a town in need of gospel work in our “50 places” initiative. We are thankful to God that our prayers have been answered by the establishment of this church. They have seen three professions of faith in the last year. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“Grace Church Hartlepool is in agreement with the doctrinal basis of FIEC and keen to develop and maintain healthy partnerships with other evangelical churches. We are keen to support and be involved in initiatives to share the gospel and plant churches across the UK.”
Hope Community Church Barlanark
Hope Community Church is a recent church plant on a housing scheme in the East End of Glasgow, which is classified by the Scottish Government as an area of multiple deprivation. It is an initiative of 20Schemes and became an FIEC Recognised Church Plant in 2016. It is led by Pete Stewart and Pete Bell, who previously worked as Youth Workers for the Church of Scotland in the area but wanted to start a new gospel-focused church based in the community.
They meet in a local community centre and have a congregation of just over 50 adults and children. They run a number of church activities, but their main aim is to build everyday relationships in the community. Members are involved in a local book club for kids, a boxing gym, a pipe band and attend community bingo evenings. In the last year they saw four professions of faith and seven baptisms. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“As part of our vision to reach ‘beyond’ Barlanark we want to be part of FIEC and be engaged with gospel work throughout the UK”
They are also members of 20Schemes, Acts 29 and the West of Scotland Gospel Partnership.
Kelvin Grove Church
Kelvin Grove Church was planted in 1972 by people from a Presbyterian background and has met in a number of locations in Gateshead. It recently appointed Chris Evans as teaching elder, who was trained at Oak Hill College, where I preached at his graduation and led his preaching group at a Proc Trust ministers conference.
The church has been without a pastor for the last ten years and have now moved venue to enable midweek mission, are about to change their name and get a new website. They have started new ministries and the church now has a congregation of 40 adults plus children and have seen two professions of faith in the last year. They would like to employ a Families’ and Youth Worker and one day buy their own building. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“To contribute to and benefit from Independent evangelical churches working together for the glory of God, evangelisation of the lost and edification of the saved.”
Netley Christian Fellowship
Netley CF was founded in 1993. It serves a village to the south east of Southampton with a population of 7,000. The church is led by Paul Oliver, who was previously pastor of Old Baptist Chapel in Bradford-on-Avon, and has a congregation of 115 adults and children, reflecting a diverse range of ages.
They also employ a part-time women’s worker who also works as a GP, and who took the one-year Formation School course run at Above Bar Church in the city in conjunction with Living Leadership. The church has seen two professions of faith and baptisms in the last year. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“We recognise the struggles and weaknesses of being an Independent church. We feel it is important to be in fellowship with like-minded churches across the UK. We feel we will gain from being in that ‘church family’ and hope our prayers and contributions help that family to grow in the UK. We have long been supportive of mission ourselves but see FIEC as facilitating mission as well as fellowship in the UK. Also, we’ll gain from access to help in legal matters.”
The church is also a member of Affinity, the Grace Baptist Association and the Solent Gospel Partnership.
St John’s Wood Road Baptist Church
St John’s Wood Road BC is a long-established Grace Baptist church in north-central London, founded in 1826. Today it has a regular congregation of about 40 adults and children. The church is led by Scott Little, who took up his post in 2017 following a hand-over with Chris Hawthorne who moved to become Principal of Proclamation Institute in Zambia.
The church has a wide range of ethnicities, with only about 30% from a white British background. They run a Sunday afternoon Arabic church, hold some Bible studies in Farsi and actively engage in street evangelism among the local Muslim population. A Brazilian church uses their premises on a Saturday evening. They have seen three professions of faith and six baptisms in the last year. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“We want to join FIEC because it is a fellowship of independent churches, not a denomination, and a Fellowship whose vision we share; to reach out to the ‘lost’ and build up followers of Jesus. Membership will also allow us to be part of a national body with representation on national issues at national level.”
They are also members of the Association of Grace Baptists Churches (South East), Affinity and the Grace Baptist Mission.
Saltburn Evangelical Church
Saltburn EC was founded in 1935 in the North Yorkshire coastal town of Saltburn-by-Sea, which has a population of 6,000 and is 13 miles west of Middlesbrough and 20 miles north of Whitby. The church is led by two elders and has a regular congregation of about 30 adults, many of whom are retired. One of the elders was able to attend the recent FIEC Pastors’ Network conference in Harrogate, and the church has been visited by FIEC Scotland Director Andy Hunter and Associate National Director Andrew Nicholson.
One characteristic of the church is that they hold to a pre-millennial dispensation position, which was the position of Edward Poole-Connor, the founder of the FIEC, and many of the original churches that joined the Fellowship from a Brethren background. They already have good relationships with FIEC churches in Guisborough, Whitby and Loftus and wants to be more connected with other gospel churches. They have seen one profession of faith in the last year. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“To maintain and deepen our relationship with like-minded churches. To help and support each other with ministry and sharing resources.”
Tuckingmill Baptist Church
Tuckingmill BC was planted in 1970 in Camborne in Cornwall, serving originally an area primarily of terraced miners' cottages, but which is now increasingly encircled by new residential accommodation and commercial properties. The church has a Grace Baptist background and planted Falmouth BC and Helston BC. The church is now led by Pastor Peter Ham, who attended the FIEC Leaders’ Conference in 2017, and has a congregation of 30 adults and children. They have seen one profession of faith and baptism in the last year. They work closely with other evangelical churches in West Cornwall, including some from an FIEC, Brethren, AoG, Elim and New Frontiers background. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“We recently had a visit from Andrew Nicholson, presenting the FIEC aims and ethos, which we are very happy to embrace. We have good relationships with local FIEC churches, and our pastor went through the Prepared for Service course (2001-2003), as well as having previously been a member of an FIEC church (Oakwood Chapel, Harlow) and still a regular individual supporter. We are therefore well conversant with the FIEC’s warm heart, but firm and principled stance on Gospel issues. The breadth of concern, thought, for Gospel churches around this country (we’re highly supportive of Grace Baptist Mission around the globe), is something which would be of help to the church. And, if we’re honest, with a pastoral transition – or at least the retirement of our current pastor – looming even closer, the extra links and contacts would also be something strategic for the future of the church.”
Weymouth Independent Evangelical Church
Weymouth IEC began in 1996 in a large seaside town on the Dorset coast with a population of 65,000. It is the third largest settlement in the county after Bournemouth and Poole, and has a higher than average population aged 65 or over.
The church has a regular congregation of around 20 adults and children and is led by two elders. There are no local FIEC churches within a 30-mile radius but they have good relations with the reformed Baptist church in Bridport, 20 miles away. They undertake regular open-air evangelism to engage the community and have an evangelist attached to the church who works door-to-door. They also support the gospel work in the two prisons in Portland, where one of the church members is employed as a Free Church chaplain. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“To access a network of like-minded gospel churches. To stand together in the gospel to reach Britain. To receive practical support in sustaining the work locally.”
Recognised Church Plants
Alongside these new affiliations, we have also recognised 2 new FIEC church plants. We hope that these plants will eventually become fully affiliated independent churches, but recognition helps us to support and encourage them in the early days of their existence.
Fernwood Community Church
Fernwood Community Church was planted in April 2018 by Newark Evangelical Church in Nottinghamshire to reach a rapidly growing community on the edge of the town. It is led by Carl Meachem and has a congregation of around 40 people. Their reasons for seeking FIEC recognition were:
“It is an important next step in the plant becoming an independent church. We have greatly benefitted from being part of FIEC at Newark EC. The support of FIEC will be valued as we continue this new venture. It is also exciting to be part of a wider network of churches who not only hold to the same biblical truths, but are actively seeking to share the gospel in similar ways to us – particularly in church planting.”
Redeemer was planted in February 2019 by Christ Church Southampton in Winchester, a city with a population of 60,000 people, including 8,000 students attending the University of Winchester and the Winchester School of Art. It is led by Jonny Clifton, and has a term-time congregation of 60-70 adults. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:
“We are supportive of the FIEC vision and we would benefit hugely from the support, encouragement and nationwide partnership that being a part of the FIEC provides.”
They are also seeking to join Acts 29.
Church Closures and Resignations
Whilst we were delighted to welcome 10 new churches into FIEC, a number of churches have closed or resigned from the Fellowship. Park Langley Church in Beckenham has closed, and the congregation has been reabsorbed into Christ Church Beckenham, with a view to a re-launch in the future. Stoke Gabriel Baptist Church in Devon joined the South West Baptist Association. Heathfield Church Newton Heath has resigned.
Coton Green Church in Tamworth has resigned having only been affiliated to FIEC for a short period of time. The church appointed a new pastor who is egalitarian, so they could no longer affirm the FIEC policy on Women in Ministry. We were pleased to provide this church with considerable assistance during a difficult time, and whilst we are sorry that they are no longer part of FIEC we are thankful that they have been able to appoint a new pastor and pray that God will bless their future gospel ministry in Tamworth.
If your church shares our gospel conviction, ecclesiology and vision we would love you to join us to help reach Britain with the good news of the Lord Jesus. With only 3% of our population of 65m people born again believes this is the urgent task we face in our generation.