Posted by: stpowen | November 12, 2011

F.I.E.C. Leaders’ Conference, 2011

FIEC Leaders Conference, 2011

I was privileged to attend the FIEC (1) Leaders Conference and AGM last week at the Hayes Centre in Derbyshire.  This was my second attendance there and once again it was a blessed event.

This year we filled the place.  There were 400 church leaders there, representing more than 150 churches.   Those who have attended similar events will know how blessed it is to enjoy fellowship with a large number of like-minded Christians.  The singing was a joy, and the ministry of Johnny Prime, Pastor of Enfield Evangelical Church was inspirational.  He gave three talks from Hebrews with the general text of Heb 2:1:  ‘Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.’  John Stevens, the FIEC National Director, gave three excellent talks from 1Timothy, though the last one did degenerate a little into a plea for more money.  However, we should not be ashamed to talk about finance in connection with Christian mission.  The Apostle Paul wasn’t, and maybe the world would be a better place if there was more preaching on 1Timothy 6:17-19.

The most controversial part of the meeting came at the AGM when two new statements were agreed expanding and amplifying the Fellowship’s position on women in ministry and on ecumenism.  In 1922, when the FIEC was formed, women did not enter the Christian ministry.  Today, it is felt necessary to spell out what is seen as the Biblical position.  Churches within the FIEC do not have women Pastors or elders (1Tim 2:12; 3:2), though women may be deacons (Rom 16:1; 1Tim 2:11) and are encouraged to minister to other women (Titus 2:3-5) and to the children.

On ecumenism, the present position was amplified and further explained.  FIEC churches desire fellowship with all other churches that hold to the basics of the faith, but there is no unity outside the Gospel, and specifically, FIEC churches do not become members of the Churches Together organization.  However, the FIEC holds to ‘one-stage’ separation, not ‘two-stage’ and we will have fellowship with individual Bible-believing churches who may themselves be members of C.T.

These two positions were affirmed by overwhelming majorities.  They were controversial only inasmuch as the unity of the FIEC is a fellowship and not a denomination, and there were those who felt that these two statements constitute direction from the centre and were expanding the unity of the Fellowship from a Gospel-based unity to a doctrinal one.  Regrettably, there may be one or two resignations from the Fellowship over these issues, but without them the FIEC would have lost credibility with other conservative bodies such as Reform and the Grace Baptists.

The leadership has exciting plans to encourage and support church planting in areas where there is no Gospel witness, and for the training of young potential Pastors.  This will mean asking the churches to give significantly more, but I believe that for Gospel purposes we should not be afraid to give generously and sacrificially (Acts 4:36-7). 

Note.

1. Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches for the uninitiated.  www.fiec.org.uk

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Responses

  1. I would have voted against the idea that women can be deacons, but I understand why the line has been drawn where it has. I doubt that the majority of FIEC churches have women deacons. I suppose the danger of this is that a church within FIEC that stands for male-only church officers could be challenged from within by those who point to the FIEC statement as justification for change.

  2. When will the FIEC statement be published? I think it might be useful (the seperation one, I mean)

  3. Hello Jonathan,
    I don’t think the latest statements are up on the FIEC website yet. The existing statement is here.
    http://www.fiec.org.uk/Home/SupportingWomeninministry/tabid/522/Default.aspx
    The new one merely amplifies this position without altering it. I will post the link to the new statement when it becomes available.

    It is important to remember that we are the Fellowship of INDEPENDENT Evangelical Churches. The desire is to keep to a Biblical position without dictating to the churches things which do not directly affect the Gospel. The question of women deacons is a vexed one. The statement in 1Timothy 3:11 which relates to deacons, ‘Likewise their wives must be reverent etc.,’ could equally be rendered, ‘Likewise women [deacons] must be reverent etc.’.

    In such a position, it is considered best not to dictate to independent churches.

    The existing statement on ecumenism is here:-
    http://www.fiec.org.uk/AboutUs/Ecumenism/tabid/640/Default.aspx

    Again, the new statement merely amplifies and firms up the existing position.

  4. Further to my last post, the FIEC Statement on Women’s Ministry is here:-

    http://www.fiec.org.uk/resources/article/women-in-ministry-statement

    The Statement on Ecumenism is here:-

    http://www.fiec.org.uk/resources/article/gospel-unity-statement

  5. An internet search will quickly reveal, there are several FIEC churches who are active and public participants in Churches Together and at least one flagship church who has sent a missionary who actively flaunts the old statement on ecumenism.
    This is very well known to the FIEC leadership, and nothing has been or is likely be done about it.
    As Spurgeon pointed out, it’s fine to have a confessional or position statement, but if it isn’t a basis of discipline, it means very little.
    By removing clear description of who should be separated from, this new statement accomodates actual practice and is effectively a renunciation of the old position of EJP-C and his companions – it’s tragic, shameful and it will lead to shipwreck, indeed it already has lead to major spiritual shipwrecks in Poland and further East.

  6. Well Mr. Soper,
    I can tell you what I know. Every year the minister and elders of all FIEC churches are required to sign a document declaring that the church and all its elders hold to the FIEC Statement of Faith and that the church is not a member of Churches Together. I know for a fact that some churches have not been able to sign this declaration in recent years and have resigned their membership. The FIEC do not have a heresy-hunting wing and accept these declarations in good faith. If you have evidence that some churches have lied in this matter, then if you feel it your duty I suppose you should inform the FIEC leadership.

    I wonder whether perhaps you are confused about the difference of ‘one stage’ and ‘two stage’ separation. Most FIEC churches practise one stage separation and therefore may have fellowship with churches who are part of Churches Together so long as they are otherwise evangelical in their theology. My own church has excellent relations with an evangelical Anglican church which is a beacon for true Gospel preaching in the area. One of the curates has preached at our church a couple of times to general approval. It is however a member of Churches Together. We wish it wasn’t, and have told the minister so, but we are not about to judge Someone Else’s servant.

    With regard to the church which supported a missionary of whom some people disapprove, this is very old news. I know nothing of the missionary’s theology, but I understand that the church in question was approached and that he has now retired.

    I think it is rather sad that the Bible League and others feel the need to appoint themselves as arbitors of orthodoxy. It would be better if we spent our time trying to build each other up rather than tear one another down.

  7. Thank you Martin, there are many FIEC churches who are engaged in CT publicly. I was first told about this by the Gen Sec. Shall I name them here? They are easily found. This is not secondary separation, it’s basic obedience, and it has not been addressed. The Carey missionary’s appalling legacy in Wroclaw and a large number of other Polish and other Eastern European bodies is still very much in evidence. He makes John Stott’s record of vigorous ecumenism look pallid by comparison. This is the backdrop to the evisceration of the position statement.
    Building one another up is laudable, but solid unity necessitates a basic, common foundation of loyalty to the Saviour. Poole-Connor saw that very clearly, and the BLQ only reflects views he would probably articulate yet more strongly – he was after all its editor too. However he too was mistaken to seek organic, formal church unity, (Rev.2.1, 1 Tim.3.15).

  8. Mr Soper,
    I can only draw your attention to my previous post. I would certainly be very irresponsible if I allowed unproven allegations to be published on this weblog, and I shall not do so. I suggest that if you have evidence of FIEC churches being in membership of Churches Together then you should publish them on your own website and/or write to the FIEC and the churches concerned. I certainly know nothing more about about the matter than I have written, and I know of no FIEC churches that are members of C.T.

    I should just add that the FIEC is the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. The unity we aspire to is not an ‘organic’ but a Gospel unity. The directors of FIEC have very little authority over individual churches so long as they adhere to the Statement of faith and to the Statements on Christian Unity and Women Elders. Long may that position continue!

    Finally, Poole-Connor has been dead for nearly half a century. We can all wonder what his view would have been about Christianity today. My hunch is that he would be most disappointed by the hyper-separatist approach of the Bible League Quarterly, but we shall all have to wait until we get to heaven to ask him.

  9. Dear brother ‘Stpowen’, these churches have advertised their joint affiliation to both organisations on their own websites – so it’s already a matter of public record, not an allegation. I didn’t search this out, it was brought to my attention by an FIEC officer. The annual requirement for elders to sign a declaration they’re not part of CT is welcome – is it new? I don’t recall it when our church was affiliated. I’ve modified my response in consequence.
    I heartily agree the aspiration of contingent cooperation with faithful churches preserving real independency is a healthy one to be strived for.

    May I ask the evidence that Malcolm Clegg has retired? Would you please post it here? He is still listed on EST’s website as a seminary lecturer and he’s clearly still active elsewhere.

    I doubt Poole-Connor’s or much more importantly the Saviour’s view of the abomination of the Mass or Mary worship, or the lethal denial of penal substitution is any different today than when EJP-C finished his course on earth, do we really need to wait to find out?
    Was Spurgeon’s or P-C’s position ‘hyper-separatist in their own time? If not, please clarify in what way has BLQ or I have exceeded them?
    I have already presumed on your hospitality here, though a little disappointed you haven’t posted the links (one to FIEC). I won’t trouble you again with further posts, unless requested. Yours in Christ, Charles Soper

  10. I do beg your pardon, the links have suddenly appeared.

  11. To answer your questions as well as I can….
    1. If your allegations are a ‘matter of public record’ then I suggest you publish them on your own blog. Then perhaps something will be done. I have neither time nor inclination to trawl through 500 church websites looking for errorists.

    2. I am not aware that the requirement to sign that a church is not a member of C.T. is a new development. I have only been an officer in a FIEC church for a couple of years. However, I understand that church officeres have always had to affirm their agreement with the Statement of Faith which declares, ‘True fellowship between churches exists only where they are faithful to the gospel.’

    3. I was told by someone in FIEC that the church involved with the Polish missionary was spoken to, but that no action was taken because the missionary was retiring. I did not know his name is Malcolm Clegg, and conceivably we are talking about two different people. I know no more about the case than I read in the BLQ. I have not heard anything from the church involved, which I would certainly wish to do before coming to any opinion on the matter. Furthermore, whom an individual church wishes to support is a matter for them; it is outside the jurisdiction of the FIEC, and rightly so.

    4. I used to buy the BLQ from a Christian bookshop which has now sadly closed. There were always good, helpful articles in it, but I never felt able to take out a subscription because of the magazine’s A.V. only stance on Bible versions, and their opposition to almost all modern hymns. I myself prefer the older hymns but I do not believe that either of these shibboleths should prevent church unity.

    5. I am astonished that you feel that the new FIEC Statement on ecumenism is not stronger than the old one. The reason it is longer is that it is more detailed and gives a defence for our stance. I was at the meeting that approved it, and those few churches who opposed it did so precisely because it strengthened the position. That it does not mention the Church of Rome by name is not relevant. It prohibits fellowship with all churches that cannot sign up to the basics of the Gospel. For instance:-

    ‘Whilst we long to enjoy unity with all who profess the name of Christ, the New Testament warns repeatedly of false teachers and false prophets coming into the church. Whilst such false teachers profess to know Christ as Lord, and appear as brothers, they are in reality wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7v15, Acts 20v29-31). In twisting or distorting the Gospel they rob us of our message for the lost, and instead of building up believers in the truth lead them astray to spiritual ruin (Col 2v18-19, Rev 2v20-23)……..Matters of spiritual life and death are at stake if these false brothers are accepted and their deviant doctrines embraced.’

    I think that is clear and firm enough for anyone.


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