UCCF & Keswick End Spring Harvest 'Word Alive' Partnership

The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and Keswick Ministries are looking to the future after the announcement that their partnership in producing Spring Harvest's 'Word Alive' Bible Study week has come to an end.

The decision to end the partnership was made by Spring Harvest, which will now promote its own student-based Bible Study week at Minehead. UCCF and Keswick Ministries expressed their sadness at the conclusion of the partnership, but are both now looking forward to a new separate event, scheduled for 2008 in Pwllheli.

Rev Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF, said: "For the past 14 years, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and Keswick Ministries have been delighted to partner Spring Harvest in organising Word Alive, one of Europe's top Bible Study weeks, with a vibrant student track aimed at young people. Widely recognised, orthodox Bible teaching has been the hallmark of the event."

Mr Cunningham said, however, that the decision to end the partnership lay in the 2003 publication of the controversial The Lost Message of Jesus by the Rev Steve Chalke, a member of the Spring Harvest Event Leadership Team and Council of Management (trustees).

In The Lost Message of Jesus, Chalke promoted unorthodox views of the nature of the atonement, and hit national media headlines over his controversial and graphic description of penal substitution.

"The Word Alive committee, of which UCCF is a part, believed such views to be contrary to orthodox biblical teaching and as such, decided that the Rev Steve Chalke could not teach from a Word Alive platform," said Mr Cunningham.

This decision has become one of the main reasons behind the dissolution of the partnership.

Following the publication of the book, the Evangelical Alliance held a theological forum at which various theologians debated with Chalke on his position. Mr Chalke continued to publicly affirm, however, that he had not changed his personal theological views.

In September last year, Spring Harvest announced that the 14-year Word Alive partnership had come to an end and that it would now promote its own student-based week at Minehead in 'week one', resourced by Fusion, of which the Rev Steve Chalke is on the Council of Reference.

In response to the closing of 'Word Alive', Peter Maiden, the chair of the Keswick Convention council, said: "The decision to separate from Spring Harvest, and to set up our own new event in Pwllheli in 2008 has been taken with enormous pain and regret.

"Word Alive has been a very important partnership for the church in the UK. There have been, however, increasing pressures on this partnership in recent years."

Explaining the mutual decision to close the partnership, Maiden continued: "These [pressures] have concerned the number of weeks available to Spring Harvest and whether it was possible to fit Word Alive into the programme.

"The controversy over the atonement, which has been an issue in the church in the UK in recent years, has also created difficulties in the partnership, and in the light of these pressures, it was considered best to bring Word Alive to an end."

"We at the Keswick Convention pray that our brothers and sisters at Spring Harvest will know the blessing of God as they continue their ministry."

The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, chair of the Word Alive committee, said, "I am sad at the ending of the partnership. The new Word Alive event remains totally committed to our distinctives of lively Bible teaching for all the family and to having on the platform only those who are enthusiastically committed to the historic evangelical faith. In the present climate, that means commitment to a high view of Scripture and to a penal substitutionary view of the atonement."

The replacement for the 'Word Alive' event, organised jointly by Keswick Ministries and UCCF, has been planned for 7-11 April 2008 at Pwllheli. Confirmed speakers include John Piper, Terry Virgo and Don Carson.

The UCCF said there would be an increased capacity and further details will be released shortly.