Recently I read two different posts on the issue of denominations and I thought I’d repost them here. First I read Andrew Wilson’s what’s wrong with denominations? which articulates some of the conversations I’ve had with friends in the past. I’ve passionately argued that Newfrontiers is not a denomination and yet the differences haven’t been all that convincing although I think some of those differences are more significant than Andrew suggests.
A day or so later I read on John Stevens blog his update on the progress of FIEC. FIEC for the uninitiated is the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches in the UK. It has perhaps twice as many member churches as Newfrontiers does in the UK.
But John is adamant that they are not a denomination. Their history is founded on not being a denomination. So John, who is National Director of FIEC, writes:
“We remain convinced that independency, meaning the ultimate authority of the local church to determine its own affairs (including its practice on secondary matters, the appointment of ministers and the control of its property), is the biblical pattern of church life, but are equally convinced that that autonomous local churches are called to be in relationships of fellowship and mutual support with each other, so that they are willingly interdependent rather than isolationist.”
To me that sounds like Newfrontiers and is a point that Andrew didn’t pick up on. Yet Andrew would, it seems, argue that despite John’s protests tot he contrary, FIEC is actually a denomination too!
“In short, I think that any gathering of local churches that shares a name and a set of values or doctrinal commitments – even if they call themselves a network, a movement, a family or even a fellowship of independent evangelical churches! – is functionally a denomination as far as the English language is concerned.”
You could be thinking, does it really matter? But I would argue that it does, I’m increasingly convinced that our ecclesiology is vital especially as we grapple with what it means to be a church in the increasingly secular world of western and northern europe.