Baptist president calls for greater unity among evangelicals

Published 05 July 2009
|PIC1|The President of the Baptist World Alliance has urged evangelicals in the UK to make more of an effort to be united.

The Rev David Coffey argues in his new book, ‘All one in Christ Jesus’, that evangelicals are losing the ground gained in the 1970s and 1980s “when we honoured and accepted one another with greater grace across the denominational and organisational divisions”.

“It grieves my spirit that evangelicals cannot find a greater gospel unity, and I fear we are in grave danger of missing the fullest expression of evangelical cooperation to face the demanding missionary opportunities here in the UK,” he said.

Rev Coffey said the spiritual needs of the world “command a greater unity” from evangelicals, and warned that the present disunity was weakening the potential for “thoughtful and effective” evangelism in the UK.

“Unity amongst evangelicals has never been as threatened as it is now, with the apparent divisions that have developed over the last decade,” he said. “The evangelical church must take their own disunity more seriously and put their house in order - the current disunity is of critical importance.”

He said 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”.

Turning his attention to broken relationships between some leaders and organisations, he said evangelicals needed to address their divisions and seek “with urgency the fresh consensus on the essentials of evangelical faith which could contribute to a deeper expression of our unity”.

Rev Coffey said 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.”

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