Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Generation Next and Wales

I posted before about the Generation Next (Affinity-backed ministry thing not Welsh youthwork thing) report on young men and the ministry. They have a forum on their site, which is worth a look. The topics under discussion include training (interesting for those of us doing it), the role of the minister and gifts and calling. There are some interesting discussions under the topic Church Issues, including one which was started with a post by 'Osprey' with these questions:

I remain perplexed why there is not a significant denomination in England & Wales, that provides an alternative to the Anglican Church, for those who are Reformed and yet, maybe disillusioned with the compromise of Anglicanism, or for those who now see the limitations of Independence. In the late '60's/early'70s Dr. Martin Loyd-Jones called churches to leave compromised Liberal denominations and many left Presbyterian, Congregational and Baptist set ups to establish independent churches. It is interesting to draw a comparison with America and in particular the Presbyterians...
Is anyone able to explain to me why a Reformed denomination in England & Wales is yet to make a real impact? I know the Presbyterians in England & Wales are trying, but as yet have made little impression. I wonder why?

The thread goes on with various contributions, some posted by 'Predikeusi' mostly reflecting the situation in England, and also mentioning the 'disarray' that the non-conformist church seems to be in in England and Wales. It struck me (again) that the situation really is quite different in Wales with regard to Presbyterianism. There is a national Presbyterian denomination with over 33,000 members, about 90 ministers and 745 churches (at the end of 2005). This denomination has an evangelical component. Anyway, here is the post I contributed to the discussion:

Thanks to Osprey for this thread. I have been pondering these questions for a good number of years from the point of view of Welsh evangelicalism. I think that Predikuesi offers helpful observations. However, the situation in Wales has been different to that in England. You had a national presbyterian denomination (which had grown out of the secession in Wales that gave birth to the Calvinistic Methodists) with a Reformed theology,its own ethos and vision for mission in Wales and beyond. The Presbyterian Church of Wales still has a number of evangelical ministers, but has demoted its original Confessional document for a far looser statement. It was still young in the grand scheme of things when affected by increasing liberalism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Establishing a strong theological base for the denomination was a struggle. This contrasts with the States where strong Presbyterian training was around at Princeton etc. It seems to me that in the 60s and 70s, evangelical ministers (who had been trained under the influence of liberal views and had to battle against these in the denomination) abandoned the denomination and threw in their lot with other evangelicals. The EMW was formed (as I understand it) as the scaffolding (in the words of Hugh Morgan) to develop a new building, an evangelical denomination - but it never happened! The 6 million dollar question is why?! Did DMLJ have an exit strategy but not much beyond that? For these men sotieriology was the battleground, perhaps ecclesiology was a blind spot? Of course, there is a very immediate contrast when looking at Scotland. Despite secessions (you might say the Scottish Presbyterians are experts!) Presbyterianism is still held strongly. The particular history has ensured a theological committment not present in Wales. I agree that independency in Wales has not delivered the promise of the days of the EMW - it could be described as disarray! These are questions which are very sensitive, but need asking. For me, the important thing is to see a way to pick up the story again - a way forward.

I notice I didn't answer the question! Perhaps the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales has not made an impact in Wales because a national Presbyterian denomination exists?