The ‘Jonathan Edwards for the Church’ conference met for the first time, on 27-28 February. Convened in the excellently equipped and user-friendly Penthouse Suite of Collingwood College, at Durham University, it was attended by more than 80 people.
As the first ever dedicated Edwards conference to be held in England, it was prayer answered to see the mix of international participants, from a cross-section of churches. Feedback indicates a much appreciated and exciting two days. It is hoped that a further conference will be arranged, probably within the next 15-24 months.
This conference was only possible through the generosity of God’s people. Designed to avoid an overly academic feel, it focused on God’s working through this ever-challenging figure of the 18th century transatlantic Evangelical Awakening.
Mr Edwards’ preaching and teaching was applied to today’s church and his emphasis on God-centredness pervaded the conference. Michael Bräutigam and William Schweitzer addressed these things incisively, speaking on, ‘Our God is an awesome God’ and ‘God is a communicative being’.
Jonathan Edwards’ strong belief in the necessity of the whole person being engaged with God, and having a willingness to suffer, soon became apparent in all the papers presented. Especially memorable for its impact was Gerald McDermott’s paper, entitled, ‘Directing souls: what pastors today can learn from Edwards’ ministry’.
Doug Sweeney, Steve Nichols and Nick Batzig all very ably addressed Scripture and the power of God’s Word, written and ever focusing like a laser on Christ. John Murray enabled us to see Edwards’ effect on Britain and his relation to God’s reviving work here.
Roy Mellor reminded us of the events surrounding Jonathan Edwards’ astonishing dismissal from First Church, Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1750, and cited conversion as being the real issue.
William Macleod preached on revival after a wonderfully presented conference dinner, while Kevin Bidwell and Eric Alldritt led our start-of-day devotions. The Evangelical Bookshop of Belfast provided a comprehensive range of books by and about Jonathan Edwards, by our speakers and many others.
Several participants have highlighted the need for a network of UK-based preachers, theologians, teachers and researchers to engage more closely. We would love to hear from any interested people(www.edwardsconference.org). All the papers, with one or two additions, will be published by Evangelical Press in the not-too-distant future.