Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Martyn Lloyd-Jones - 1966 and all that

2006 Will be the 25th anniversary of the death of Welsh Evangelical leader Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The great preacher has left a controversial legacy behind him. Next year also marks the 40th anniversary of his famous 1966 address to the Evangelical Alliance on "Evangelical Unity". Ironically, that address was the cause of great divison in UK Evangelicalism. Much has been written about the events of this period and it is essential to get our facts right.
.
A Call for Evangelical Unity

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had long been concerned about the position of Evangelicals within the mixed denominations. He has been involved in Ecumenical discussions in the 1950’s, and he did not like what he saw. But most Evangelicals were content to remain in their theologically mixed denominations, having fellowship with other Evangelicals through the Evangelical Alliance and other agencies.

In October 1966 the Evangelical Alliance convened a conference to discuss the issue of Christian Unity. Lloyd-Jones had already expressed his views to leaders of the EA in private. He was given to opportunity to speak his mind in public.

Lloyd-Jones argued that the setting up of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and the whole Ecumenical Movement had created an entirely new situation. The ambition of this movement, he argued is to create “territorial, comprehensive national churches” in which all the denominations could unite. He asked, “Are we content with just being an evangelical wing in a territorial church that will eventually include, and must, if it is to be a truly national and ecumenical church, the Roman Catholic Church?”

Lloyd-Jones suggested that it was quite wrong for Evangelicals to be divided from each other by remaining in their denominations.

You and I are evangelicals. We are agreed about these essentials of the faith and yet we are divided from one another…we spend most of our time apart from one another, and joined to and united with the people who deny and are opposed to the essential matters of salvation. We have our visible unity with them. Now, I say, that is sinful.

Finally, “the Doctor” urged evangelicals to seize the historic opportunity to come out of their denominations and come together “as a fellowship, or an association, of evangelical churches”.

Lloyd-Jones’ argument sounded so persuasive that the chairman John Stott was genuinely concerned that Evangelical ministers would leave the Church of England the next morning. He used his position as chairman to flatly contradict what “the Doctor” had said.

I believe history is against what Dr Lloyd-Jones has said…Scripture is against him, the remnant was within the church not outside it. I hope no one will act precipitately…

Alister McGrath, in his biography of J. I. Packer, wrote that, “‘the shadow of 1966’ has lingered over English evangelicalism ever since.” He is right, Lloyd-Jones made Evangelicals face up to the challenge of the Ecumenical Movement. Are we only to be a “wing” within this great Movement, or shall we stand together united in the gospel? These matters have become even more urgent with the advent of “Churches Together” - (A UK-wide ecumenical body). We are now in the position of Churches being affiliated to the Evangelical Alliance, the Baptist Union ( a theologically mixed denomination) and Churches Together. Evangelicalism has become just one theological option that is no more or less valid then Catholicism or Liberalism. This is what happens when we fail to think through the challenge of the Ecumenical Movement.

Lloyd-Jones subsequently withdrew from the Evangelical Alliance and threw his weight behind the BEC. The BEC was founded in 1952 as an Evangelical response to the founding of the WCC in 1948. The founders were T. H. Bendor-Samuel and E. J. Poole-Connor of the FIEC and representatives of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches in Scotland and Ireland. The BEC was robustly anti-ecumenical, but also stood for Evangelical unity. The BEC was re-launched as Affinity in 2004.
.
A Call for Separation

A call to secede from the denominations was implicit in Lloyd-Jones’ 1966 call for Evangelical unity. In 1967, the Doctor gave the main address at the BEC Conference on “Martin Luther and his message for today.” He challenged Evangelicals who had wavered over their involvement in the denominations to consider their position.

So I close with an appeal. The position round and about us is developing rapidly. The ecumenical movement is advancing day by day, and it is traveling in the direction of Rome. But it is not only heading to Rome, it is heading towards an amalgamation of so-called world religions, and will undoubtedly end as a great World Congress of faiths…

What then are evangelicals to do in this situation? I reply by saying that we must heed a great injunction in Revelation 18:4: ‘Come out of her my people!’ ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’ Come out of it! But also come together into an association such as the BEC that stands for the truth and against compromise, hesitation, neutrality and everything that ministers to the success and plans of Rome and the ecumenical movement. Come out; come in!

But Lloyd-Jones’ call was not heeded by all evangelicals.
.
A Policy of Evangelical Intergration

In 1967 the first National Evangelical Anglican Congress meet in Keele. John Stott was conference chairman. Stott, who, as we have seen, publicly disagreed with Lloyd-Jones in 1966, was determined that Evangelical Anglicans be fully involved in their denomination. Prior to the conference he set out his agenda:

It is a tragic thing, however, that Evangelicals have a very poor image in the Church as a whole. We have acquired a reputation for narrow partisanship and obstructionism. We have to acknowledge this and for the most part we have no one but ourselves to blame. We need to repent and change.

The Liberal, Anglo-Catholic Archbishop Ramsey was invited to address the conference. He told these Evangelicals that they should put experience before doctrine and that they should turn their backs on their old exclusive stance. The Archbishop stated that, “We are all called as Christians and as Anglicans we should be learning from one another.”

The Conference responded to this call and accepted that all who were involved in ecumenical dialogue “have the right to be treated as Christians.” John Lawrence, who had long worked for a change of attitude among Evangelical Anglicans was well satisfied with the result:

Now this wall is down Evangelicals will be heard in a new way, but this would not have happened if they had not shown that they are now ready to listen to others.

As Lloyd-Jones had warned, this policy meant that Evangelicals had reduced themselves to being a mere wing in the great ecumenical project. Can we be content with that? Is it right to assume that Liberals who deny the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ “have the right to be treated as Christians?”
.
We Stand alone Together!
.
The attitude of Evangelials to the ecumenical project is one of the pressing issues that we have to face in the 21st Century. Our stance should be that of the US 101st Airbourn Division, immortalised in the Band of Brothers TV series, "We stand alone together".

7 comments:

Tim Ellsworth said...

Interesting read. My father, a Baptist pastor in the United States, is a great admirer of Dr. Jones. In fact, my younger brother is named Martyn in his honor.

Exiled Preacher said...

Thanks for that. Good to hear of Lloyd-Jones' influence across the pond. Have you read Iain Murray's two volume biography of "the Doctor" published by The Banner of Truth Trust?

Tim Ellsworth said...

I haven't, but maybe I'll borrow it from my dad sometime.

By the way, maybe you've heard of my father -- Roger Ellsworth. His first couple of books were published by Banner of Truth, and his last several books were published by Evangelical Press.

Exiled Preacher said...

Hi Tim,
The name does ring a bell.
Guy

Paul said...

There is an interesting link to a radio show on the Affinity Web site. http://resources.christianity.com/details/mrki/20051222/b60a385f-1f83-4369-b5c2-1a0ba5f4c595.aspx

I've just posted a comment there so I won't repeat it here but I was quite impressed with what the speakers had to say. It's worth listening to.

We found a secondhand childrens book on MLJ in Limerick and my young son read it. He's generally quite choosey about what he reads but he thoroughly enjoyed it and started enquiry about the Welsh revival. Funny, I would have thought something like David Livingstone fighting lions would have been more interesting for him but it just goes to show.

T.A. Ragsdale said...

I'm searching for a transcript of MLJ's address (October 18,1966). Anyone know where to find it?

Exiled Preacher said...

You'll find the 1966 address in Knowing the Times: Addresses on Various Occasions D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Banner of Truth Trust, 1989, Chapter 13 Evangelical Unity: An Appeal.