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Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England

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Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England

The Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England is a small Christian body that came into being in 2003 as a result of fundamental theological disagreements within the Free Church of England with particular reference to the very nature of the church and specifically the authority and hence function of those chosen to lead the church. The Connexion group regard these views, based more on church tradition than the bible, to in fact be a contradition of the bible [1] to which the FCE is supposed to hold as its sole basis of authority.

The FCE's Declaration of Principles recognises the essential unity of all who, by a like faith, are united to the one Divine and Common Head of the Church (Jesus Christ) and requires the FCE to maintain communion with all other Christian churches.[2] However, FCE Bishops Barry Shucksmith and Arthur Bentley-Taylor, believed this should not go as far as participation in what they termed 'the unbiblical ecumenical dialogues' of the FCE and resigned as Bishops of the FCE in 2003 in protest at the direction that the church was taking. Ten congregations followed them and formed the Evangelical Connexion, a name derived from an earlier phase of the FCE's history when it grew out of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion.

The Evangelical Connexion saw itself as the true FCE and refuted the charge that it had left the FCE. However, since the Evangelical Connexion separated from the FCE three congregations have returned to the FCE, Exeter, Middlesbrough and Oswaldtwistle. Hollinwood in Oldham was closed (but re-opened as an Associate Congregation of the Free Church of England) and two, at Farnham and Teddington, have become independent. This leaves the Connexion with 5 congregations, located as follows: ,

St. Pauls Church Fleetwood.

Christ Church, Cross Gates, Leeds.

Christ Church, Leigh on Sea, Essex

Christ Church, Tuebrook Liverpool.

Emmanuel Church Workington.

In addition former member Emmanuel Church Farnham in Surrey is an Associate Church. However it is fully independent and a member of the fiec.[3]

Church Location Founded Link Minister
St Paul's Church, Fleetwood Fleetwood, Lancashire 1907 [1] Virgil Tountas
Christ Church, Cross Gates Leeds, West Yorkshire [2] Grahame Wray
Christ Church, Leigh-on-Sea Leigh-on-Sea, Essex [elizavictoria@gmail.com] Lee Potter
Christ Church, Tuebrook Liverpool, Merseyside [arthuraubrey@hotmail.com] Arthur Williams
Emmanuel Church, Workington Workington, Cumbria [3] Tony Pietersen

The Connexion was committed to a particular interpretation of the founding principles of the FCE. Biblical theology, paedobaptism, liturgical worship, and episcopal polity were claimed to be important, although understood in the light of the Declaration of Principles, as was a repudiation of indiscriminate ecumenism (in common with other bodies such as the FIEC or EFCC).[4]

The Connexion held to Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, in determining doctrine and practice [5] and stood in the body of continuing Anglican churches which take their inspiration from the English Reformers. The Connexion also contended that in it's worship it was genuinely based on the Prayer Book, though exclusive use of the Prayer Book in Connexion congregations was not required.

In April 2008, a former Roman Catholic priest, Dominic Stockford, was consecrated as bishop for the Connexion by Arthur Bentley-Taylor and various other leaders of the wider Reformed church in the UK. Right Reverend Stockford resigned in 2012, for health reasons, following a hospital visit due to arrhythmia. Bishop Stockford is now Pastor of a former member Church in Teddington who are now associate members of the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches.

A 'Co-ordinator' post was then created in 2012 to advise and maintain fellowship until such time as suitable episcopal oversight can be re-established. Rev Tony Pietersen served in this role from then doing sterling work in an effort to reach some agreement to heal the rift in consultation with the Connexional Bishop Arthur Bentley Taylor. In 2017 Rev Grahame Wray of Christ Church Leeds was elected to this role and is the current co-ordinator.

At Convocation in 2018 Bishop Arthur Bentley Taylor retired as Bishop Emeritus.

Following Convocation in September 2018 Trevor Jordan the former Lay Reader at Free Church of England's Emmanuel Church Morecambe was made General Secretary of the Evangelical Connexion. When Bishop Mclean retired in April 2017 Trevor Jordan also stood down from that role and left the group within the FCE to which that church belongs to join the Connexion group.

The Evangelical Connexion still remains true to its Reformed Evangelical Protestant tradition. Most of the Connexion's church buildings are still claimed by the FCE Central Trust to belong to them, on the grounds that their use by congregations of the Evangelical Connexion contravenes the terms of their trust deeds, some of which appoint the Central Trust of the FCE as one corporate Trustee but these same churches are administered on a daily basis by local Trustees (usually the local church council members) in those churches and any claim by the FCE Central Trust comes despite the fact that the buildings were built and paid for by the local congregations themselves, as are the daily running costs of these churches.[6]

The Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England Denomination holds firm to its Heritage as an Independent Anglican, Reformed, Evangelical and Protestant Church. Several approaches have been made by both groups in the Free Church of England to attempt a reconciliation, but the Connexion group has always rejected and continues to reject a view of the church that has recently used terms to describe the position of the Free Church of England as Evangelical Catholic. The Church had a proud Evangelical History the first parish in 1844 began in Bridgetown, Totnes, Devon by James Shore due to Bishop of Exeter withdrawing his license and trying to impose Anglo Catholicism. Bishop Vaughn in his book the Free Church of England (1936) objected very strongly to heresy of the real presence. Catholicism and its links with ritualism was something church was set up to fight against.[7]

The Free Church of England has been holding talks with the established state run Church of England to bring about a merger. In 2016 several vicars were loaned from Church of England. unfortunately they were Anglo Catholics and it resulted in closure of the Evangelical John Knowles memorial Church at Hoyland, Barnsley.

The Free Church of England has recently adopted the Anglican broadchurch position of Evangelical Catholic meaning you are both Evangelical and Catholic at same time. This has been view of main stream Anglicanism for sometime making merger with Church of England a possible reality. The Connexion cannot support such a path as they are true to the Protestant Reformed Evangelical position and are definitely fully evangelical. Also the Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England cannot support the other group so long as it continues on a pathway of seeking to embrace what this term is taken to mean concerning its view of the church. viz: what has been called the "old high churchmanship", insofar as this seeks to establish a hierarchical church structure, with unbiblical authority and mediatorial powers being given to bishops according to a High Anglican concept popularly termed "Apostolic Succession".[8] whereas the Free Church of England Constitution specifically forbids such a role to bishops, unalterably declaring "... this church CONDEMNS AND REJECTS that Christian ministers are 'priests' in another sense than that in which all believers are a "royal priesthood".[9]


  1. The Free Church of England by John Fenwick T+T Clarke International 2004pp169-171
  2. https://ecfce.com/declaration-of-principles-and-framework-for-refereence/
  3. https;//ecfce.com/history-of-evangelical-connexion-fce/
  4. Declaration of Principles
  5. "FCE-EC Framework of Reference for Covenanting Churches & Individuals". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
  6. https://ecfce.com/history-of-evangelical-connexion-fce/
  7. History of the Free Church of England otherwise called the Reformed Episcopal Church F. Vaughn 1936 PP1-17
  8. "Anglican Ecclesiology & the Gospel" J. Fenwick. pg 15 as developed especially in chapter 9
  9. https://ecfce.comdeclaration-of-principles-and-framework-for-reference/

External links[edit]

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