Sound an alarm!
As the Anglican Church prepares for an even more uncertain future, with the resignation of Archbishop Rowan Williams from Canterbury at the end of the year, nonconformist evangelicals cannot afford to be complacent. There is an elephant roaming within their own camp — it is called unbiblical ecumenism.
In this connection Evangelical Times — which is not affiliated to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) — heartily commends the FIEC Statement on ecumenism, published in April 1996. This reads in full:
‘All gospel loving Christians face many kinds of tension, but there is one particular way in which we are increasingly pressurised at the present time. Since the formation of the Churches Together movement in 1991, with its avowed aim to pursue ecumenism at the local level, we are constantly being urged to join other churches in united services, prayer meetings, marches and evangelistic activities.
‘If all the other local churches and their leaders involved in a united activity are wholly committed to the one true gospel there is no problem. Indeed, the FIEC desires to encourage that kind of true and biblical ecumenism.
‘Often, however, some of the churches and leaders with whom we are urged to unite neither believe nor preach those essential gospel truths which are embodied in our FIEC Doctrinal Basis or a similar statement of faith.
‘Some do not accept the inerrancy of Scripture, the eternal punishment of the unsaved, or that Christ died bearing the punishment due to sinners. Some deny the deity of Christ, his virgin birth, miracles and literal resurrection. Others teach that religious ceremonies such as baptism, the mass and the adoration of Mary have some saving efficacy.
‘The FIEC has always felt it to be confusing and unbiblical to unite in public acts of worship and outreach with those who question and deny the faith. Our Doctrinal Basis clearly states: “True fellowship between churches exists only where they are faithful to the gospel”.
‘If an evangelical church or leader unites with those of a liberal persuasion who deny essential gospel truths, or with those of a Roman Catholic persuasion who add to the gospel, then great confusion is created.
‘The impression is given either that the evangelical, liberal and Roman Catholic are all agreed when in fact they are worlds apart doctrinally, or that their different messages are equally valid when in fact there is only one gospel. Not only is this confusing but it is also a contradiction of the gospel on which our FIEC churches unite.
‘The gospel of salvation by grace is so precious to us that we desire to stand together with all who believe and preach it. For the same reason, we are compelled to remain separate from those who deny it. By taking this position we are seeking to follow the commands of Scripture (Galatians 1:8; Romans 16:17)’.
The above paragraphs are saying this: the subliminal message to unbelievers from ecumenical events involving Roman Catholics (or theological liberals) and evangelicals is that these diverse groups agree in the essentials of faith. This false impression risks the eternal destiny of countless people.
Recently, ET has taken issue with evangelicals sharing ‘Christian worship’ with those who deny essential gospel truths like justification by faith alone and the finished work of Christ in salvation. This inconsistency is not confined to one evangelical church grouping.
In the face of such a serious challenge, what is the answer for evangelicals? It is simply this — we must learn to love the Lord Jesus Christ even more than we do. We must love him and his precious gospel even more than we love people, even more than we love our churches!
And when we do this, then we will know what it is to really love people, because we will help them to the truth as it is in Christ, in all kindness and gentleness.