The Fellowship of Word and Spirit was founded in 1984. It was originally closely linked with Oak Hill Theological College, which trains people for the Anglican ministry in a conservative evangelical tradition, through Rev. Dr. Paul Gardner, a former New Testament lecturer.
From the beginning, our goal was to promote genuine fellowship between believers committed to the infallibility of Scripture, and who are broadly in the Reformed tradition of the church. We do this through our conference program, whose relaxed style and opportunity for genuine interaction is especially valued; and in occasional larger conferences, with speakers such as David Phillips, David Peterson, Don Carson, Wayne Grudem, Wallace Benn, Richard Pratt, whose topics have included the Holy Spirit, Epistemology, Ecclesiology, Spirituality & Liturgy and the Kingdom of God.
Our overriding concern is to examine theological issues in a biblical-theological framework. In other words, to respond to pressing issues first by turning to Scripture- read not through isolated proof-texting, nor through a theological scheme, but in appreciation of the development of salvation history as it unfolds in the Bible.
Reformed evangelical theology has traditionally conjured up images of dry, academic and irrelevant dusty tomes and futile discussions; our conviction is that nothing could be further from the truth! The challenge to which the Fellowship of Word and Spirit (FWS) addresses itself, is to bring a rigorous detailed understanding of the authoritative truth of God’s Word, together with a passionate and obedient faith, and a careful grasp of our contemporary world and its trends, with the goal of communicating the relevance and power of the Scriptures’ truth in the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In short, good theology is God’s blueprint for a fulfilled life!
FWS is therefore committed to dialogue and discussion of reformed theology, seeking to reapply its whole world and life view to our own situation, culture and generation, so that we may help Christians to live out the call of God in their homes, workplaces, leisure activities, and even their churches! Our current mailing list of 400 has a wide spread of people, in various ministries, many in smaller churches with personal theological convictions not shared by their congregations. We are not a campaigning organisation seeking political influence. Nor do we have vast financial resources. But we do want to see God's Word applied powerfully in our churches to his glory.
FWS is overseen by a group of trustees, chaired by the Rev Jim Rushton, with Secretary Paul Darlington, and President Rt Rev Wallace Benn; with other members: Rev Simon Cox, Rev James Hughes, Rev Colin Randall, Rev Michael Walters, Rev Clare Hendry, Rev Simon Vibert, Rev Peter Cook, Rev Rob Munro.
The activity and organisation of the Fellowship is managed through the Council: : Rob Munro (Chair, Trustee), James Hughes (Secretary, Trustee), George Crowder (Minutes secretary), Julian Milsom, David Bourne, Kim Bourne, David Walker, Mark Lucas, Jim Rushton (Trustee), Simon Cox (Trustee) and Clare Hendry (Trustee)
One of our goals at FWS is to encourage the discussion and application of Reformed theology in a way that is contemporary and relevant. For any unfamiliar with the basic framework of Reformed theology, it is summarised below:
God is in total and utter charge of the world. He is free and independent of every force or being outside of himself. He created, sustains, governs and directs all things. His purposes are always and totally being fulfilled in his sovereign providence, by which one day the marvellous perfect purposes he has had from the beginning, will be fully and finally completed and perfected.
That means, though we cannot always and may never fully understand what God is doing through the world as we see it- especially when we face suffering, or death, nevertheless God never allows things to go out of control. He always has the last word, and therefore can be trusted with our lives.
There is nothing a human being can do to contribute to the incredible undeservable salvation of God. What God does in salvation is not only undeserved (we do not merit it), and unrepayable (we cannot ever become worthy of it), it is a sovereign definite act of God. That is to say, God purposes before the beginning of the world, to elect, create, call, redeem and save specific people- not by giving us a potential to respond to him in faith, but giving us a spiritual new life by which we come alive to him and the fruit of which is faith.
That means, our relationship with God is utterly dependent on Him. If he has begun a work of real faith in our lives, nothing and no-one will be able to prevent him completing it. That gives us the confidence to trust our lives to the one whose love has changed our relationship to God forever.
Foundational to Reformed faith is the conviction that the Word of God, the Bible is utterly true and trustworthy, infallible and inerrant. God has ensured that the right people, in the right places, at the right times, have been rightly led to write the right things, so that the Bible gives us the true and trustworthy word of God. The implication of this, is that faith (trust in God) is expressed in our obedience to the Scriptures. God has the last word, not human tradition, reason or experience, and the new Spirit-life of a Christian will confirm to us that what Scripture speaks, God speaks to us. That is in particular true in that the OT law is designed to do more than just show God's righteousness and our sinfulness to lead us to Christ, and to proclaim God's judgement on sin and so restrain evil & promote righteousness living; the law is also given to guide the obedience of our faith, not as a means of life or way to life, but as a way of life- something that reveals, informs and guides the way Christians are to apporach thier owns lives in their families and nations.
That mean, our only wholly reliable experience and encounter with God, will come through his Word. The way for a deeper experience of the presence and power of God, is through a greater obedience to his Word. The Bible is more than a guide for faith, it is the very Word in whose obedience our faith is truly expressed.
A sovereign God has rights over every aspect of our life, and so the whole of our life is to be lived consciously before him. True worship is therefore living every moment in such a way that God is honoured and will be pleased. It is not that even the best of our actions are in themselves deserving of his pleasure, but he treasures our activities which arise from and express faith, however flawed, (much as parents treasure the artwork of their children- not for their art-worthiness, but their expression of relationship). There is consequently no divide between secular and sacred aspects of life- by faith the exhuberant joy of the sports field may be as much worship as the reflective praise of a Sunday congregation.
That means, that what we do in our working life or leisure time is as important to God as the so-called 'religious' activities. We are to have a distinctively God-honouring attitude to everything in which we are engaged. Christians are called to honour God in their politics, their shopping, their choice of TV programs, their sex-lives, and in each the honouring of God will be a blessing to us.
God is no less in charge of non-Christians as Christians, and he works out his sovereign purposes for the world through all of his creation. That means we are to affirm as part of the good providence of God, much that we see in so-called 'secular' people and institutions. God has not so given-over to evil those who rebel against him that his image in them is erased, so we are to identify the providential hand of God and honour him in the lives of others. In particular we recognise that God has and does work through people whose understanding of him is flawed and through institutions who are deficient in Christian truth; but where the knowledge of God is imperfect, we endeavour to teach; where practice deviates, we rebuke, correct and encourage godliness; and where the gospel is denied or opposed, we proclaim the judgement of God and call people to repent.
That means, that there can be no ghetto mentality for Christians. In all of life, we need to look out for the signs God is working, even amongst non-Christians. We are called to challenge things that are wrong, not just keeping our heads down for a quiet life; but we are also to be affirming of things that are right, even when they bear fatal deficiencies with respect to saving faith. Even as all life is worship, so all the world is God's work.
Central to understanding the necessity for the gathering of Christians as the church, is the preached Word of God. Preaching is more than just exposition and application of the Bible, it is the Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered proclamation of God to his people. For that reason preachers are to be first and foremost obedient disciples, conscious of their accountability to God, and made accountable to others called to Word-ministry, so that God's truth is proclaimed with a Spirit-given life-transforming power. Similarly the gathering of Christians is to be Word-centred in its structure and activity, so that nothing will distract or divert or mislead people in the Word of God. It is God's Word which constitutes the church, as the means of its spiritual life, the focus of its sacramental activity, the guide for its praise and prayer, and the power of its encounter with God.
That means, that sermons need to be taken on board not taken when bored. Christian gatherings are not to be judged by their style or music, but by their effectiveness in humbling us before God through his Word. Ministry is to be honoured and supported because of the continual challenge and spiritual battle involved in bring challenging truth to a rebellious people and world. So a 'church' that denies God's Word, is denying that which makes it a true church.