I’m a little bit late in reading this one but Andrew Wilson has written a fascinating article that explores the role of Holy Trinity Brompton and its associated courses, events and activities. Wilson argues that the centre of contemporary evangelicalism is increasingly becoming aligned by shared conferences, courses and choruses, rather than confessions, creeds or catechisms. Because HTB’s conferences, courses and choruses are amongst the most widely used, they play a significant role in shaping UK evangelicalism in the UK and abroad.
HTB represents British evangelicalism’s friendly face: biblical but not dogmatic, evangelistic but not ranty, activist but not politicised, Anglican but not really, centred rather than boundaried. Hard not to like, right? And certainly more likely to unite evangelicals, and to get favourable write-ups from cultural gatekeepers in the Telegraph or the Guardian, than the hardline confessional types. As such, if HTB represents the new centre of British evangelicalism, then nearly everybody wins.
The degree to which HTB has avoided taking a ‘position’ on a number of controversial contemporary issues is one that is especially close to the bone and deserves a lot more reflection. Churches that managed to hold together a diverse group of people – many of whom may disagree with one another on the hot issues of the day – are often, in my view, the stronger for it. But holding together these diverse views within church can often be in competition with the danger of appearing ‘wooly’ on important (if not primary) issues.
I also agree that if you wanted to meaningfully group evangelical churches together into like-minded segments
you’d get a more accurate picture if you divided them by the evangelistic course they use (Alpha for most, Christianity Explored for those who find Alpha too floaty, individualistic or charismatic, and nothing at all for the churches that aren’t that fussed about preaching the gospel) than by the denominational family they come from (Anglican / Baptist / Methodist / Free).
To a degree, I think this is the evangelistic courses that churches run is a fault-line that defines what ‘unity in the gospel’ often looks like in local communities – especially where these courses are run jointly between churches.