There were two conferences recently held in the United Kingdom which will be of interest to our readers.
In early October a Day Conference was held by the Southern Chapter of the Reformed Episcopal Theological Fellowship. This Fellowship is a private fellowship within the Free Church of England, otherwise called the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church, USA. Membership is open to members of both the denominations “who pledge themselves to maintain its Protestant and Reformed character, and who are prepared to subscribe to the Aims and Basis of Faith.” Among its aims are those of “fostering the spirit of Prayer and Fellowship and to encourage younger brethren who are called to a Reformed ministry. The Fellowship exists to foster:
a) The study of the Holy Scriptures;
b) The study of Church Principles;
c) To stimulate study and discussion concerning those problems which confront Churches in the Reformed tradition. This shall be done through conferences and publication of suitable literature.” The Basis of Faith is as follows: “The Basis of Faith shall be the Articles of Religion of the Free Church of England, otherwise called the Reformed Episcopal Church.” In the case of the Reformed Episcopal Church, USA, they have 35 Articles which are based upon the 39 Articles, and have adjusted their Basis of Faith accordingly. It should also be remembered that, the 39 Articles of the Free Church of England are far more Reformed on a number of points than are those of the Church of England, the State Church.
The Day Conference was held at Christ Church, Crowborough, Sussex, at the kind invitation of the Minister, the Rev. Eric Aldritt. There were two sessions. The morning session was taken up with the discussion of a paper read by the Rev. Paul D.L. Avis, B.D., of Emmanuel Church, Carshalton. The subject of this paper was “An Introduction to the Biblical View of Infant Baptism.” This is a most important issue in a country which has a State Church which practices indiscriminate baptism, and where the Calvinistic influence is mainly among Baptist brethren. It was clearly brought out that the only basis for baptism was that based upon a true understanding of Covenantal Theology. There was a most stimulating discussion period; and it was generally accepted that it would have been very profitable to have spent the whole day on this subject. After a good lunch of cold beef at Christ Church House, the Conference resumed for its second session. The subject this time was “An Introduction to the Biblical View of Missions.” The speaker was the Rev. Stanley R. Baxter, Minister of St. Paul’s Church, Bexhill on Sea, Sussex. With the present state of Evangelism in the United Kingdom which is Arminian and anti Church through and through, it was felt that there was a real need for some suitable Reformed literature which could be used for evangelistic purposes, and that there was a need to look into the whole question of the Theology of Mission. This conference was a most profitable one; and it was agreed to meet again in January. It was also decided to publish some papers on the Ministry in the Free Church of England, particularly in relation to Reformed Episcopacy as it is practiced within the FCE and the REC.
The second Conference was sponsored by the English Reformed Fellowship. This Fellowship was founded in London, December 15, 1970, to foster fellowship between Reformed Evangelicals throughout England, to bear witness to the great Biblical and Reformed principles, and to help formulate policy in matters of mutual concern. The Basis of the E.R.F. ii as follows:
1) The full acceptance of the Holy Scriptures; their authority and sufficiency as not only containing, but being in themselves, the Word of God, and the supreme standard for the rule of faith and practice.
2) A cordial acceptance of the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
The Aims are: 1) Doctrinal: To explain, expound and uphold the Reformed heritage of theology, polity and worship. 2) Practical: To stimulate prayer, to strengthen fellowship, and to propagate Reformed truth by means of literature, meetings, and conferences, without intruding upon the prerogatives which the Church exercises under the headship of Christ. Un like the R.E.T.F., which is a fellowship within the denominational context, the English Reformed Fellowship ig interdenominational (but not non denominational!!).
This particular Conference was held from Friday evening, October 29, until 3 P.M. on Saturday afternoon, October 30, 1971. The meeting was held at the Central YWCA building in London; and amusingly enough, the room next to us was taken by the (Roman) Catholic Counter Reformation Group. Some of our speakers were accompanied by Gregorian chants wafting in from the Roman Catholic Conference!!
The Chairman for the Conference was the Rev. Murdo MacLeod, M.A., who is the Chairman of the English Reformed Fellowship (although he is a Scots man!). Mr. MacLeod is a Presbyterian Minister the Free Church of Scotland, and is at present the Director and General Secretary of the International Society for the Evangelization of the Jews (a Society which I com mend to Reformed Christians who wish to support Jewish work and are not happy with the extreme prophetic views of certain Jewish Missions.) The subject of the conference was “The Church: Its Nature; A Community; Its Order; and, finally, The Church Today: Need, Opportunity, and Prospects.”
Our first speaker was the Rev. Neil MacLeod, B.D., of the Free Church of Scotland, Glasgow, who spoke on “The Church: Its Nature.” Although this was familiar ground to many present, it was nevertheless a needed introduction to the whole Conference. This session was followed by an evening meal available in the Dining Room of the YWCA. Our second session was addressed by the Rev. Dick Keyes, B.D., an American, Minister of the International Church Presbyterian Reformed, Ealing, London. Mr. Keyes spoke on “The Church: A Community.” This promoted some warm discussion, as it was felt by some present that there was rather a subjective (in the wrong sense) presentation of the subject. On Saturday morning we resumed our Conference; and the speaker was once again Rev. Neil MacLeod, who had as his subject this time “The Church: Its Order.” As could be expected, this also provoked warm discussion, the membership of the E.R.F. consisting of Reformed Episcopalians, “John Owen” Independents, as well as Presbyterian brethren. The Conference was an open one; so some of our Baptist friends were also present. The final session took the form of open discussion, with a forum consisting of the speakers and the Rev. John Legge, B.A., B.D., of North Allerton, Yorks. Although both the conferences were small, it is some evidence that there are still some groups in England who are taking the Church issue seriously and are seeking to promote the Reformed Faith. Do continue to pray for us all, that the Lord will be pleased to do a great work through these fellowships. The following addresses may be of interest to those who wish to be kept informed of the work of these fellowships.
Reformed Episcopal Theological Fellowship
Secretary, USA, Rev. Dick White A.B., B.D.,
Christ Church Memorial,
Forty Third and Chestnut Streets,
Philadelphia, PA 19104
General Secretary, U.K.,
Rev. Stanley R. Baxter, Dip. Th.
St. Paul’s Church House,
71, Wickham Avenue, Bexhill on Sea, Sussex, U.K.
English Reformed Fellowship
Secretary, Rev. S. R. Baxter (address above)