Saturday, June 19, 2010

Presbyterianism in England Today ( Part 2

My first article described the origins of The International Presbyterian Church (IPC) in England. In 1979 Anglo-Catholic nuns in Ealing were selling their convent. There was a chapel , 40 bed convent building, guest rooms and a four bedroom caretakers house,. When the church offered the asking price of 200,000 the Charity Commissioners intervened saying it was not enough. The IPC increased the offer to 250,000 and the nuns told the Charity Commissioners that they would be accepting this offer as no-one else would continue to use their chapel for Christian worship. God’s timing was perfect. 1979 was the year Mrs Thatcher removed foreign exchange controls. A deacon could borrow from his family in Hong Kong, to fund the purchase, sell off the parts the church could not afford to keep and send the profits back to his family. I do not think the nuns ever returned to see how the iconoclastic Presbyterians had removed crucifix and altar.

The Keyes as L’Abri workers had left Ealing and though there was growth the congregation struggled to find the services of a teaching elder committed to stay the course. English Presbyterian ministers are few and other British men did not hear a call to London. Those who came from America did not settle. But in 2003 Paul Levy, a Welshman, came to accepted the call and the Lord has blessed his ministry. In 2009 morning congregations were to large for the chapel and we now meet in the Students Union Hall of the local university. We are working in partnership with the South healing work of The London City Mission and from February 2010 plan to have services for Farsi speakers at their premises.

Our second congregation in Liss, Hampshire, had grown to nearly 200 but we faced a problem with the leadership. For a number of years the pastor had said that most of his men qualified to be elders were of Baptist views. The presbytery had sought to encourage Presbyterian principles but when the then pastor wanted Baptist elders the presbytery ruled that though such men had the spiritual gifts they could not be elders in a church calling itself Presbyterian. Pastor, elders and about three quarters of the congregation left to form a new church. We are grateful to an American missionary, Bill Nikides, who, serving with the Presbyterian Church of America’s Mission to the World (MTW), trained new elders and re-establish the now smaller congregation.

The IPC already had links with another Presbyterian mission from the USA. World Harvest Mission, founded by the late Dr. Jack Miller. Bob Heppe had started work among South Asians in Southall. His aim was to evangelise second generation British Asians from non-Christian backgrounds. New Life Masih Ghar is now an IPC congregation with converts from Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. Another church plant is underway among the Hindus in Harrow.

IPC’s First Presbytery in England now has a congregation in Warrington, Lancashire and church plants underway in Camden Town, London and in York. We also partner with MTW missionaries working to evanglise among the Pakistani community in East London and Iranians in West London. We also have links to continental Europe with congregations in Ghent, Belgium and Timisoara, Romania. The Ghent congregation is mainly Turks and Bulgarians converted from Islam. Our Romania work originated with a Korean missionary in Bucharest.

We have a strong Korean connection in England too with our own Korean presbytery of six congregations. These are churches of expatriate Koreans worshipping or studying in England. Most are only here a few years. The exception to this rule is Pastor KimBuk Kyong who started the Korean work and with an English wife has now retired here

In the third part of my survey I will look at the IPC’s sister denomination the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales (EPCEW).

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