The President of the Baptist World Alliance, the Rev David Coffey has urged evangelicals in the UK to make more of an effort to be united …
… some were ashamed of the name ‘evangelical’, and criticised others who claimed to speak on behalf of evangelicals but whose “graceless spirit and hectoring tone are a stain on the family name …
… a pattern of “disinformation, denigration and discrimination” akin to that found in despotic states had developed in parts of the evangelical world. He chided evangelicals for choosing to meet only with likeminded evangelicals and called for the creation of an ongoing forum to come up with an answer to one of the most important questions facing evangelicals today: ‘What is an evangelical?’ “If we meet in our ‘enclaves of separateness’ then we lack a broad forum to debate the substantive issues of the day,” he said. “What is lacking between the tribes at present is agreement about core evangelical commitments. We need to find ways of articulating what is primary and what is secondary … These debates need to take place in a forum which includes all the tribes.
I’M A LIBERAL-MINDED ANGLICAN CATHOLIC who thinks of himself as evangelical in the technical sense of being a bearer of (the Greek) euangelion or good news. Why ‘liberal-minded’, why ‘catholic’ and why ‘evangelical’? I’ve brought these utterly pertinent and necessary questions to God in prayer for over forty years. And the chief response stirred up in me, as answer to each and every question, has been to do with good news. That’s the signature on the Church’s cheque book.
The reason for the season, for our little-three-score-years-and-ten on the journey, is that we’re created to be headed for some place good (yes: in the here, and in the hereafter). And there’s something of the liberal mind, the catholic and the evangelical in just that; a statement not of indisputable doctrine, not of undeniable fact, but a faith statement about experience, human experience of a good and life-giving God, a God who is patently good and life-giving to immeasurably more than those who would call themselves liberal, catholic or evangelical.
Disinformation, denigration and discrimination are not good news.
In Beth saida – the house, the life environment, the proper home of the searcher, the hunter, the fisher – a blind man was brought into the presence of the ever creative saviour God and the people who brought him “begged him to touch him”. Being brought and being touched gave to a searching man the gift of a new seeing. In Beth – saida. (Mark 8.22)
We are to be at home in company with searchers. We’re to seek out new sight. We’re to know God as creative saviour who brooks no bounds. The liberal-minded are the community of the free. The catholic name signals welcome for all ”who see now, as through a glass darkly”. The evangelical is constantly learning afresh to sing the Lord’s song in an undoubtedly strange land. Those who answer the call of the good and creative saviour God look for the blueprint of his works and purpose in Jesus the Christ. And Jesus the Christ was, is and will be full of grace and truth.
Liberal, catholic, or evangelical we’ve no business being graceless. In the light of the tender compassion of our God we must ask of ourselves WHO is the head?
The President of the Baptist World Alliance is dead right. There are Christians whose behaviour is indeed “akin to that found in despotic states” … and not by a long way are all of them ‘evangelical’. We’re all blind in some degree and we need the touch of God and the gift of clarity in our seeing. Now we see “men like trees, walking”. Renewal requires root and branch talking. We need to quit the posturing, be a bit less sure of ourselves and a deal more inclined to searching. We need friends to bring us into the presence; a new and higher sight. Blind in Bethsaida. New (and hitherto elusive) vision is freely gifted here, at the hand of a saviour, in and of the “house” of the “searcher”.
Renewal is both essential and costly wrote Bishop Michael Marshall years ago …
Renewal is costly because it leads to the reformation of society. “Magellan discovered the world was round by sailing closer to the edge than anyone else before him! That is precisely where and how the Church needs to sail today – closer to the edges, where it can prove the power and truth of its gospel, challenging the prejudices and blindnesses of society, a society that is weary and largely spent”.
May God touch us. May we repent of any and all gracelessness, and of the despotic in all of us – and lift up our eyes to see over the hill.