The first six years at Evangelical Times
Evangelical Times was launched in February 1967, four months after the much-discussed division between Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. We look back and hear more from ET’s founding editor, Peter Masters.
During the 1960s tension built among evangelicals as to whether ministers and churches should leave broadly liberal denominations to associate in congregations of believers. Congregationalist Lloyd-Jones was increasingly discussing separation at the Puritan Studies Conference he organised with Anglican J. I. Packer and at his Westminster Fellowship Fraternal.
In 1963, Lloyd-Jones quoted the Independent, John Owen, to show ‘the duty of every saint of God’ was to withdraw from a church where ‘notorious, scandalous sins had gone unpunished, unreproved’. In 1965, Lloyd-Jones dismissed arguments against separatism as ‘sheer lack of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit’ in favour of ‘trusting to expediency’.
The major division came in October 1966 at the Second National Assembly of Evangelicals, organised by the Evangelical Alliance. Lloyd-Jones compared the ecumenical movement characterised by ‘fellowship before doctrine’ with evangelical ecumenicity characterised by ‘doctrine before fellowship’.
He contrasted belonging to an evangelical wing of a liberal denomination with the opportunity to be part of ‘a fellowship or an association of evangelical churches’. Stott used his position as chair to immediately oppose this, fearing evangelicals might leave the Church of England.
This seminal public division was reported by various Christian newspapers – some owned by prominent Americans – but there was no prominent newspaper for independent churches. Increasingly, ministers and churches were leaving compromised Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Anglican denominations.
In this context, ET was launched. Historian David Bebbington described it as ‘the monthly organ of principled separatism’. The first edition was published in February 1967 as a 20-page tabloid format priced 9d.
The founding editor, Dr Peter Masters, had been a member of Lloyd-Jones’s Westminster Chapel and was then pastor of Cowley Hill Free Church, Borehamwood. ET caught up with him to ask about those early days.