I have just returned from a particularly good day at the tenth Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference, where the speaker, dealing with various themes from John’s Gospel, was Don Carson.
Carson, as those who have heard him will know, has an unusual ability to combine immense scholarship with a pastor’s heart, which means that he can preach as well as teach. It was thus both a mentally stimulating and spiritually refreshing time.
The aim of the CABC has always been to put Bible teaching at the heart of the life of our diocese. And after ten years, it does just begin to look as though this may be happening, with our largest attendance yet.
Recently, we have enjoyed the personal attendance and interest of the Bishop of Barking, David Hawkins. But today, we were also pleased to welcome our new Bishop-elect, Stephen Cottrell, who received a warm round of applause when it was announced that he was in the audience. He stayed for much of the morning and seemed very pleased with the event.
Evangelicals sometimes seem to lament that ‘nothing can be done’ to change the Church of England. For my own part, I cannot believe that is true. Looking around the world, I do not see that the various offshoots of Anglicanism are uniformly disappointing and ineffective. And if that is the case here, then something made it so — it is not, surely, an inevitable feature of any formal manifestation of Christ’s kingdom.
So to those across the country who wonder what can be done, may I suggest they follow our example, and start their own Anglican Bible Conference? Yes, it is hard work. And it has taken us ten years and some disappointments to get where we are today (plus, recently, the extraordinary contribution of our conference organizer, Carolan).
Twelve years ago, I sat in a Diocesan Evangelical Association committee meeting, listening to people bewail the lack of biblical input on an official diocesan conference and asked why we didn’t do something ourselves. And here we are today.
For those who feel the same about their own diocese, my response is the same: “Why don’t you follow our example? Who knows what you might achieve? And it might take you far less than our ten years.”
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