'I'm all for para church as long as they don't do much'
June 4, 2014
The latest edition of the Affinity Foundations Journal is out and has 3 excellent articles. Ralph Cunnington is doing a really good job as editor in producing a journal that people actually want to read which is a rarity in my experience.
There are 3 major articles:-
Extra-Ecclesial Gospel Partnerships: A Mess Worth Making - Ryan Kelly and Kevin Deyoung seeks to trace some of the history of these TGC/ T4G type groups in church history and apply it to today. The article is seeking to answer many of the concerns that Carl and others have made regarding the TGC in the recent past. It's a thought provoking piece but I wonder in particular whether using the Westminster Confession helps its cause. That body had a limited and very specific aim for a limited time and, once the job was done, it shut up shop. It was not a self-perpetuating, self-policing group, though I would acknowledge that their point that Presbyterians and Congregationalists worked together is correct.
As a defence of TGC I'm not really the one to address it. A couple of issues stood out from the paper. What do these organisations do about financing themselves? I would suspect it takes a vast amount of money to keep this show on the road and I always think this is a somewhat murky area. Once an organisation gets so big that it takes millions and millions of dollars to keep it going, one has to ask is that a wise use of resources? I was hoping that the article might address that. If you asked ministers in the UK what's the problem with para churches in the UK my hunch is you'd get the answer that they want your money and they want your people.
Secondly and more importantly what do you do when council members need either to be disciplined, or to be removed. How does this happen? Again I think Kelly and DeYoung would agree that this hasn't/ isn't happening in a way that's particularly helping the church. It is quite possible that these discipline could derail the whole project.
The second major article - Parachurch Groups and the Issues of Influence and Accountability - Carl Trueman
I won't talk about Carl's piece as you'll have to read it , I don't want to give him any more publicity than he gets already, though if you go on his church website you can print out a massive head shot of him from the front page, it's practically a poster. If only all Presbyterian ministers were treated with such acclaim, Ref21 won't even stick my photo up (how on earth did Pruitt and Brown get one so soon?)
As for John Stevens article, you might have guessed I wouldn't agree with bits of it. He's far more positive about the influence of para-churches than I would be; he quite obviously and rightly as Director of FIEC has a far rosier view of independent church government (the lunatics running the asylum, the kids running the school - It's a joke, calm down). He also sees the Gospel Coalition as more of a model for how para churches can run than I would want to. However, having said all that, if you want to understand the conservative evangelical world in England, I think it's an excellent place to start and provides a great summary of the current climate. John correctly hits some of the problems for us Presbyterians particularly when it comes to parachurch organisations, that some of the doctrines we hold dear such as the sacraments and our primary loyalty lying with the church creates issues for us with these groups. I'm an enthusiast for the South East Gospel Partnership but that's because it doesn't do very much and if it did more and wanted to exert it's influence further I think I would become very reticent in being involved. I don't suppose it's a great strapline but I wonder whether 'I'm for para church as long as they don't do much' should be used more than it is
Do read these important articles - well done Ralph