Around 150 people came for all or part of the time, with inevitably, more on Saturday than on Friday. The attendance did not match the quality of the papers; a fact which perhaps in itself shows the need for such a conference! However, those who were there enjoyed a spiritual feast.
The conference opened and closed with preaching, from Chris Rogers of Liverpool and John Marshall of Hemel Hempstead. Both encouraged us to faithfulness in these dark days. We are not to follow those who downgrade the place of the Word in its practical authority in belief and conduct. Nor are we to be discouraged by them, even if they are in our churches; but we must hold to the Lord in faith.
Stephen Rees from Stockport taught us to put God at the Centre. He is at the centre of the Bible- it is a book about God. So he is to be at the centre of our worship, our evangelism, and our daily life.
Nick Needham of the Highland Theological College disturbed us with the truth of how far some who are accepted as Evangelicals, and who write influential books, have rejected the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of God’s word.
Walter Johnston from Manchester exhorted Christians that, if our lives are to glorify God we must take commitment to his people, at the local church level, seriously. He illustrated this with practical examples of obedience and disobedience.
Tim Mills from Bradford challenged our thinking about ‘Singing for God’s Glory’. This is a matter of the heart and the mind. We need what we sing to be ‘little sermons’ which will stretch our thinking about God and our relationship with him.
Martin Grubb from Chester spoke movingly about how he entered the Anglican Ministry with a dream, which turned into a nightmare. Instead of being part of a body of men who were transforming the nation, he endured hatred and indifference, and unendurable pressures to compromise, and the heartache of seeing many good men succumbing to these. This was a challenge not to see Anglican Evangelicalism through rose-tinted spectacles.
The papers were all serious, yet there were many lighter moments. John Marshall warned ministers that when Christians tell him they love him, that’s when he starts feeling an itch between the shoulder-blades. When they tell him they’re praying for him, that’s when he looks for the knife. Tim Mills assured us that when revival comes, we’ll all give up singing. (Quite a prophecy for a Welshman). Martin Grubb edifyingly compared evangelical Anglicanism to elephant droppings covered with fancy icing. Listen to the tapes if you want to understand the context!
Apart from the papers and question times, we enjoyed the great benefit of meeting fellow-believers from like-minded churches. Many spoke of the blessing the conference had been to them and urged that further conferences should be held.