British Baptist leader the Rev David Coffey, who is now President of the Baptist World Alliance, is calling on evangelical Christians in the UK to be more accepting of the diversity among them.
Coffey, who was formerly head of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), and has significant ecumenical experience, says in his new book, All One in Christ Jesus (http://tinyurl.com/mcr6tu), that evangelicals are losing the gains of the the 1970s and 1980s “when we honoured and accepted one another with greater grace across the denominational and organisational divisions”.
In recent years, evangelicals have been falling out with each other and with Christians of different traditions over a range of questions - including ethical-theological questions like human sexuality and doctrinal issues such as atonement theory.
On the latter question, many argue for a retributive and punitive idea of atonement (overcoming evil and division between humanity and God) called 'penal substitution', while others call for a transformative and nonviolent approach to understanding the significance of the death of Christ.
“It grieves my spirit that evangelicals cannot find a greater gospel unity and I fear we are in grave danger of missing the fullest expression of evangelical cooperation to face the demanding missionary opportunities here in the UK,” he adds.
Coffey says the spiritual needs of the world “command a greater unity” from evangelicals. He warns that current divisions are undermining the capacity of Christians for “thoughtful and effective” promotion of the Christian message and Christian living in the UK.
“Unity amongst evangelicals has never been as threatened as it is now, with the apparent divisions that have developed over the last decade,” he says.
Coffey adds: “The evangelical church must take their own disunity more seriously and put their house in order - the current disunity is of critical importance.”
All One in Christ Jesus, by David Coffey (Authentic Media, 2009), can be purchased through Ekklesia here: http://tinyurl.com/mcr6tu