WHAT'S IN A NAME?
This is an age-old question, yet it is a worthy question, for there should be no ambiguity when a company of God's people choose a name for themselves or their mission. When WECF was first conceived, we wanted a name that would clearly and unmistakably tell who we are. Allow me to enlarge a little on the message our name carries.
Is it perhaps a little presumptuous for us to speak this way of ourselves? Not really, for the membership of the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship encircles the globe. We touch every continent and so, in that sense, we are indeed, a worldwide fellowship.
Members are found in Eastern Europe in countries such as Bulgaria and Macedonia. In Western Europe we are in England, Wales, Ireland and Portugal. In the great continent of Africa we are to be found in South Africa. In Asia you will find our members in India and the Philippines. Across the vastness of the Pacific you will find our members in Australia, New Zealand and the islands of Micronesia. Finally, in the Americas we are in Brazil, Canada and the United States.
This international family is indebted to those Congregationalists of years ago who obeyed the Great Commission and sent their sons and daughters to the mission fields of the world. We ought never forget that many of these early missionaries laid down their lives and some were martyred as they carried the gospel to the far reaches of the world.
This defines our theological position, in that we hold to 'the faith once delivered to the saints' (Jude 3), a truly apostolic faith and doctrine. As evangelicals, we believe in a fixed body of truth enshrined in the Holy Scriptures and enunciated in the historic creeds and reformed declarations of the fathers (e.g. The Savoy Declaration).
By identifying ourselves as evangelicals we join hands with believers in every place and time who uphold the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This gospel is a life transforming dynamic, which is ours through the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Christ and validated by His resurrection from the grave. It is a salvation that is ours by grace alone and received by faith, not works.
Fundamental to the belief of evangelicals is our attitude towards the Bible. We accept and unreservedly believe that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, divinely inspired and therefore, authoritative in matters of faith and practice.
While 'evangelical' defines our theology, 'Congregational' speaks of our belief in the Church and particularly, the place of the local church. Congregationalism is a set of principles which are New Testament in origin and which re-emerged in the Protestant Reformation. The great characteristic of Congregationalism is a commitment to the principle of the Lordship of Jesus Christ manifested in the life of each gathered congregation.
Article V of our WECF Constitution declares, 'We believe that Jesus Christ is the head of His body, the Church universal, and of each local church.' It continues, 'We believe that Jesus Christ exercises His authority in each local church by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Scriptures.' This explains why we, as Congregationalists, believe that each local church is in itself a complete church and therefore autonomous, ultimately answerable only to Jesus Christ.
By standing on this principle we also believe in the necessity of a regenerate church membership. That is, we believe that every church member must be born again and living under the Lordship of Christ.
The WECF exists as a fellowship of national associations of evangelical Congregational churches of the historic biblical persuasion. We exist to promote fellowship, encouragement and cooperative endeavours among our members. By this means we seek to keep alive the uniqueness of our heritage as biblical Congregationalists. Furthermore, by our very existence, we endeavour to present to the world, a witness to our oneness in Christ, the Lord of the Church.
Rev. A. Barry Jones