The good name of WEST

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The good name of WEST - Kerry Orchard

April 2013

Dear Sir,

Ruth Palgrave’s Bible League Quarterly article alleges that WEST is ecumenically compromised and implies it is no longer a safe place for training evangelical, reformed preachers and missionaries, because of links with SaRang Community Church, OM and the Porterbrook Network.

I am the author of the response on WEST’s website (www.west.org.uk/negative-publicity/2378/). There I show that the entire article is based on the argument of ‘guilt by association’ and gives no evidence whatsoever of any false teaching by WEST staff.

An edited version of her article appeared in The Sword and Trowel with similarly alarmist comment by Peter Masters. Both it and the original give the impression that a recent sea change has taken place at the Bryntirion-based college. But Peter Masters and his followers have never supported WEST, nor its predecessor ETCW.

A third critical article appeared in The English Churchman, the work of Dr E. S. Williams of Met Tab. He is the author of an article on the ‘New Calvinists’, quoted approvingly by Miss Palgrave.

      This term is used in a derogatory way to dismiss the contributions of the likes of John Piper, Tim Keller, Al Mohler and Vaughan Roberts. Dr Williams endorses her arguments. He misleadingly refers to SaRang Community Church throughout as a Charismatic church, when it is in fact Presbyterian subscribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith, whose senior pastor was trained at Westminster Seminary.

One wonders if the magazine is aware of Miss Palgrave’s earlier work critical of Affinity, in which she clearly implies that all Anglicans (evangelicals included) will inevitably end up in Rome!

So who are Palgrave and Williams? They have in common that neither has formal theological training, nor first-hand knowledge of WEST. I am similar in the first regard, but, from 1999 to 2011, I was WEST’s Development Manager, under both Eryl Davies and Jonathan Stephen. I saw a change in leadership style but not in substance.

I now work as a volunteer. I can testify to the godliness of the staff and their faithfulness to the Word of God. I count it a privilege to be associated with WEST. I am glad my son and daughter-in-law trained there. At the church I attend, its assistant pastor trained there, as did 7 of the 13 pastors and 6 of the 12 missionaries sent out by the church.

These unfounded claims are very harmful to the cause of Christ. WEST has wisely refused to be deflected from getting on with its God-given work (Nehemiah 6: 3). Paul in Romans 14: 17 said, ‘the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’.

The Reformed Faith is a biblical system of doctrine. It is not tied to a church dress code, a hymn book, a Bible version (as long as it is accurate), nor a host of non-essentials that Christians have different views on. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones rightly distinguished between primary and secondary issues.

Brothers and sisters, we are in a fierce spiritual battle. Stop shooting at one another! Instead encourage, build one another up and get on with gospel work.

Praise God that SaRang Church is investing in WEST, OM missionaries in Europe now will receive Reformed teaching, and the gospel zeal and church-planting which characterises Porterbrook will be undergirded by sound doctrine.

I happen to know that WEST has been greatly heartened by messages of prayerful support since this campaign of vilification began — and both donations and student enquiries have noticeably increased.

Kerry Orchard

Cardiff, Wales

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