Our Chapel Hall was packed on Monday evening as people gathered to hear Graham Harrison reflect on Lloyd-Jones' address Evangelical Unity: An Appeal (see here ).
The message that Lloyd-Jones gave in October 1966 under the auspices of the Evangelical Alliance was a watershed moment for evangelicalism in the UK. Much controversy still surrounds what was said and done 40 years ago. This month's The Banner of Truth magazine is almost wholly given over to an article by Iain Murray entitled Dr Lloyd-Jones: A Review of Criticism. Harrison was able to draw upon this article to illustrate the highly critical attitude of some toward Lloyd-Jones' message in 1966. For example, John Brencher dismissed Lloyd-Jones' appeal as 'sectarian' and alleged that he 'divided those whom God had united on the basis of Scripture and who had a common purpose and trust.' Dr Gaius Davies is critical of Lloyd-Jones' 'very scurvy treatment' of Dr Jim Packer in the wake of the events of 1966.
Part of the problem in assessing exactly what Lloyd-Jones meant is that his address was not published until 1989 in Knowing the Times (Banner of Truth Trust). Contemporary press reports gave the impression that Lloyd-Jones had demanded that evangelicals in the 'mixed denominations' should leave their churches immediately and join a new evangelical super-denomination. But this is a distortion of Lloyd-Jones address.
Some have suggested that Lloyd-Jones hijacked the Evangelical Alliance event by delivering an altogether unexpected message. But this is not the case. The convening committee had been made aware of Lloyd-Jones' views in private meetings. They had asked him to share his views with the conference.
Graham Harrison drew our attention to the substance of Lloyd-Jones message. The preacher had three basic concerns. 1) The historical situation that faced evangelicals in the 1960's. Since the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948, the ecumenical movement had been gaining ground. It was hoped that all the different denominations would be subsumed into one church with the pope as its figurehead. How were evangelicals to respond to this? 2) The doctrine of the church. For too long, evangelicals had sidelined discussion of this vital New Testament doctrine. They were content to remain in their historic denominations and to have fellowship with other evangelicals only through movements and para-church organisations. Was it right that evangelicals should put allegiance to theologically compromised denominations before church-level fellowship with other evangelicals? 3) The gospel: How could evangelicals go on being identified with men who did not believe the essentials of the faith? There were men in the mainline denominations who denied the New testament teaching on resurrection of Christ and his atoning death. Some even dismissed the Biblical doctrine of God in favour of an impersonal 'ground of all being'. To divide from such false teaching is not schism because schism is division between evangelicals over matters not essential to the gospel. The integrity of gospel witness was being compromised by evangelicals not standing apart from serious false teaching in their denominations. In the light of these facts, Lloyd-Jones urged evangelicals to come together and stand unitedly for the gospel on a church level.
John Stott, the meeting's chairman was alarmed by all this. He envisaged evangelical Anglican clergy leaving the Church of England en mass. Stott used his position to publicly contradict what the preacher's message, '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.' But Lloyd-Jones did not want evangelicals to leave their denominations overnight. Ministers had to help their people to see the issues with patience and grace rather than leave their churches on impulse. His plan was not for a new evangelical super-denomination, but for a loose affiliation of evangelical churches under the umbrella of the old British Evangelical Council.
Harrison refuted suggestions that Lloyd-Jones' policy was motivated by a Welsh Nonconformist prejudice against Anglicanism. He pointed out that "the Doctor" was hardly a tongue-tied Welsh backwoodsman, uncomfortable in English society. In fact he spent much of his life as an 'exile' east of Offa's Dyke. Lloyd-Jones happily co-operated with evangelical Anglicans prior to 1966. Even after that fateful year, he remained on good terms with evangelical Anglican men.
But tensions between Lloyd-Jones and evangelical Anglicans were exacerbated by the Keele Conference in 1967. At that Conference, the evangelicals repudiated their former exclusive stance and opted for further involvement in the denomination. It was accepted that all who were involved in ecumenical dialogue had the right to be treated as Christians whatever their doctrinal standpoint. The keynote conference address was given by the Liberal and Anglo-Catholic Archbishop Ramsay. Evangelicals now wished to be recognised as a 'wing' within the Anglican Communion rather than the true upholders of the gospel embodied in the 39 Articles.(See here for more details.) It was this kind of thinking, which was in development in the years prior to 1966 that Lloyd-Jones was seeking to challenge. L
What of his 'scurvy' treatment of Jim Packer? The two men had worked closely in the Puritan Conference. But in 1970 the Conference was wound up and reconstituted as the Westminster Conference without the involvement of Packer. The reason for this was that Packer, together with another evangelical, had co-authored a book entitled Growing into Union with two Anglo-Catholics. The authors agreed that evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics belonged together in the Church of England and appeared to endorse baptismal regeneration. It was Packer's emerging ecumenical tendencies that precipitated the breech between the two men.
Graham Harrison concluded by suggesting that Lloyd-Jones had spoken with prophetic insight back in 1966. The failure of evangelicals to stand together in church-based fellowship aside from the mixed denominations has been disastrous. Evangelicalism in the UK has weakened both doctrinally and spiritually. The inability of the Evangelical Alliance to deal adequately with Steve Chalke's repudiation of penal substitution was given as a case in point. The older, critical attitude to Roman Catholic teaching has been replaced by a new openness to ecumenical relations between evangelicals and Catholics. Evangelicalism's faithfulness to the gospel itself is at stake. The message of 1966 for today is that our churches need to stand together for a robust Biblical gospel. But beyond that, we need a mighty outpouring of the Spirit in revival to breathe new life and power into contemporary evangelicalsim.