Conservative evangelicalism is a term used in the United Kingdom to describe a theological movement found within evangelical Protestant Christianity, and is sometimes simply synonymous with evangelical within the United Kingdom. The term is used more often in the first sense, but conservative evangelicals themselves tend to use it in the second.
Conservative evangelicals are sometimes called fundamentalists, but typically reject that label and are keen to maintain their distinct identity, which is more Reformed. In this sense, conservative evangelicalism can be thought of as being distinct from liberal evangelicalism, open evangelicalism, and charismatic evangelicalism. Some conservative evangelical groups oppose women ministers or women preachers in mixed congregations.
Before the Second World War
By the 1930s, the term conservative evangelical was being used in contradistinction to liberal evangelical. The points of distinction largely were that while liberal evangelicals "maintain some of the other typical evangelical emphases, do not maintain, and often repudiate, the total reliability of the Bible and usually do not preach substitutionary atonement, even if they stress the cross in a doctrinally undefined way. Movements such as the Anglican Evangelical Group Movement and the Student Christian Movement could be described as liberal evangelical, the former organisation glad of the title "Liberal Evangelical". Organisations such as the Bible Churchman's Missionary Society (now Crosslinks) and the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelicals Unions (now UCCF) were distinctively Conservative Evangelical in the Anglican and university spheres respectively.
The conservative evangelical movement was small and as such largely defensive, in part because "In academic circles it was almost universally assumed that a CE view of the Bible was dead." The Keswick Convention, which would later have a very significant role in the shaping of conservative evangelicalism in the UK, was a small outpost of evangelicalism still thoroughly committed to the sufficiency and authority of the Bible.
A key event in the development of British conservative evangelicalism was the 1966 National Assembly of Evangelicals, a convention organised by the Evangelical Alliance. Martyn Lloyd-Jones made an unexpected call for evangelicals to unite as evangelicals and no longer within their "mixed" denominations. This view was motivated by a belief that true Christian fellowship requires evangelical views on central topics such as the atonement and the inspiration of Scripture. The meeting was chaired by Anglican evangelical John Stott. Lloyd Jones and Stott were the two leading figures within the conservative evangelical movement at that time, Lloyd Jones being a key figure to many in the Free Churches and Stott likewise amongst evangelical Anglicans. The two leaders clashed spectacularly as Stott, though not down as a speaker that night, used his role to urge Anglican clergy not to make any rash decisions, saying that Lloyd-Jones' opinion went against history and the Bible.
The following year saw the first National Evangelical Anglican Congress, which was held at Keele University. At this conference, largely due to Stott's influence, evangelical Anglicans committed themselves to full participation in the Church of England, rejecting the separationist approach proposed by Lloyd-Jones.
These two conferences effectively fixed the direction of a large part of the British evangelical community. Although there is an ongoing debate as to the exact nature of Lloyd-Jones's views, they undoubtedly caused the two groupings to adopt diametrically opposed positions. These positions, and the resulting split, continue largely unchanged to this day.
From at least around this time, conservative evangelicals have on occasion been referred to as fundamentalists, but typically reject that label and are keen to maintain their distinct identity, which is more Reformed.
From the war up until the 1960s, Conservative Evangelicals had been less of a distinct group within Evangelicalism than they had before the war. The contributions, during the war, of CS Lewis to the Evangelical cause helped to blend the lines between Conservative Evangelicals and others committed to Evangelical distinctives from outside the movement. The stand taken by Stott and Lloyd-Jones against the Liberalization of Christianity in the 60s, meant that the biggest disagreements between Evangelicals were over how to maintain Evangelical distinctives in the light of the increasing shift of the major denominations toward Liberalism. However, there were distinctions and disagreements within Evangelicalism that went beyond this. With the dawn of the 70s, Evangelicals "were less united than they had been on church policies and on some theological issues." One of the most significant of these was the rise of the relatively young Charismatic movement, which saw the importation of some of what had previously been Pentecostal distinctives into the other mainline Protestant denominations (but at this stage, largely within the Evangelical constituency). The impact of this movement was so large that "By the 1970s, it was said, the majority of younger evangelicals in the Church of England were charismatic in outlook."
The Conservative Evangelical movement can now be said to have a clearer definition from Charismaticism. But the two movements could never be clearly separated as "Many congregations included a charismatic element... This was partly because the more extreme groups tended to leave and form their own congregations, and partly because a charismatic element was more often accepted as a possible constituent of a broader fellowship, even by those who did not share its emphases."
In the 21st century there are an estimated 2 million Evangelicals in the UK. According to research performed by the Evangelical Alliance in 2013, 87% of UK evangelicals attend Sunday morning church services every week and 63% attend weekly or fortnightly small groups. An earlier survey conducted in 2012 found that 92% of evangelicals agree it is a Christian's duty to help those in poverty and 45% attend a church which has a fund or scheme that helps people in immediate need, and 42% go to a church that supports or runs a foodbank. 63% believe in tithing, and so give around 10% of their income to their church, Christian organisations and various charities 83% of UK evangelicals believe that the Bible has supreme authority in guiding their beliefs, views and behaviour and 52% read or listen to the Bible daily. The Evangelical Alliance, formed in 1846, was the first ecumenical evangelical body in the world and works to unite evangelicals, helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society.
In December 2014, it was announced that the Church of England would appoint a new Bishop of Maidstone to provide alternative episcopal oversight for conservative evangelical members of the Church who take an alternative view on "headship". In September 2015, Rod Thomas was consecrated as the Bishop of Maidstone and became the first flying bishop for conservative evangelicals.
The conservative evangelical presence in the Church of England is represented by groups such as the Church Society, Reform, and the Fellowship of Word and Spirit, whose mission is the continued reformation of the Church of England. In May 2018 these groups officially merged into Church Society. Anglican Mission in England, an offshoot of GAFCON, alongside the Free Church of England seek to plant Anglican churches outside the established structures of the Church of England.
In 2007 Word Alive split from Spring Harvest due to the increasingly liberal theology of Spring Harvest leaders, prompted by Steve Chalke's denial of penal substitution, and along with the Keswick Convention is a distinctly conservative evangelical convention.
In recent years there has been an resurgence in cross-denominational partnerships between conservative evangelicals (which suffered in the disagreement between John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones), particularly in the training of gospel workers. Such initiatives include 9:38, The Proclamation Trust, and the Gospel Partnerships, who run the Cornhill Training Course, and the Ministry Training Course respectively.
- Barclay, Oliver (1997). Evangelicalism in Britain 1935-1995. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press. pp. 12ff., 114f., 124f., 127, 133. ISBN 0-85111-189-0.
- O. R. Barclay, Whatever happened to the Jesus Lane lot? IVP: 1985, p.80
- James Barr, Fundamentalism, Westminster, 1977
- Laynton, Robert (2014). Walking Away from Jesus - Leaving Christian Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalism (2nd ed.). ISBN 978-1291356182.
This book looks at what happened when an individual Christian believer started to become discontent with the particular Christian framework known as 'conservative evangelicalism' or 'Christian Fundamentalism'.
- Olson, Roger E. (2007). Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4412-0110-2.
sometimes "conservative evangelical" is just a euphemism for fundamentalist
- Sherwood, Harriet (13 August 2016). "As traditional believers turn away, is this a new crisis of faith?". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
Conservative evangelicals are biblical fundamentalists
- Packer, J. I. (1958). "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God. IVP. ISBN 9780802811479.
- Kings, Graham (September 2003). "Canal, River and Rapids: Contemporary Evangelicalism in the Church of England". Anvil. 20 (3) – via Fulcrum Anglican.
- Barclay 1997, p. 12.
- Barclay 1997, p. 13.
- Barclay 1997, p. 16.
- Barclay 1997, p. 35.
- Cook, Paul (February 2007). "Evangelicalism in the UK". Evangelical Times. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- Gibson, Alan (October 1996). "Thirty Years Of Hurt?". Evangelicals Now. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- Murray, Iain H. (2000). Evangelicalism Divided, A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust. p. 135. ISBN 0-85151-783-8.
- Barclay 1997, p. 104.
- Churchgoing the UK published by Tearfund 2007
- Life in the Church published Evangelical Alliance 2013
- Does Money Matter? published by Evangelical Alliance 2012
- 21st Century Evangelicals published by Evangelical Alliance 2010
- "Suffragan See of Maidstone". News releases. Church of England. 4 December 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
- "Ordination and Consecration of the new Bishops of Maidstone, Kensington and Edmonton". Canterbury Cathedral. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- "Church Society". churchsociety.org.
- "Home". Anglican Mission in England.
- Cunnington, Ralph. "Home – 9:38". Nine Thirty Eight.
- "The Proclamation Trust". The Proclamation Trust.
- "Gospel Partnerships". gospelpartnerships.org.uk.
- "Cornhill Course". The Proclamation Trust. Proclamation Trust. n.d. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
- "The Ministry Training Course". The Gospel Partnership. Ed Moll. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
- The Gospel Partnerships - a network of cross-denominational regional partnerships of conservative evangelical churches
- Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches -an affiliation of Independent conservative evangelical churches
- GraceNet UK - contains a large directory of conservative evangelical Baptist and Free churches
- The Latimer Trust - Conservative evangelical thinktank