Monday 31 March 2008

The New Focus Conference

The inaugural New Focus Conference was held over the past weekend in idyllic surroundings. Teesdale really is a lovely spot, and more so because it is often overlooked by tourists in favour of the better known dales further to the south. Somewhat a metaphor in fact for the conference itself. We just went up for the Saturday sessions to supply the bookstall, but it appeared that few local evangelical churches supported it. We counted 45 people, many of them from quite a distance. What is the organiser Peter Meney's crime? Is it that his 'New Focus' magazine has become synonymous with George Ella and his campaigning ways? Perhaps, but he deserves a voice. Like him, loathe him if you will, but at least engage with the research he does even if you don't like his conclusions. Leaving aside such things, Peter and his wife Jill did a great job of organising the conference down to the last sausage roll! Thanks again you two.
The (loose) theme of the conference was 'Salvation, past, present and future'. Re the past, George Ella presented an historical paper in two parts. He focused on a few individuals from the North of England who have been influential in the spread of the Gospel while this country was in its formative years. Indeed his opening thesis was that the true gospel arrived on these shores in the north long before Pope Gregory sent Augustine to 'convert' the heathen Saxons. He moved on to highlight the Venerable Bede and then Alcuin before devoting much time in the second part of the paper to John Wycliffe (from Teesdale!). Wycliffe was compared in some respects to Luther, and shown to be a great reformer. His sound biblical views were expounded, which are much less recognised than his bible translation work itself. I'd like to go on and read more about his views now.
In between George Ella's contribution a slot was given to Ken Cotty. He preached a sermon which I only got tantalising bits of, due to surpervising the children in a side room. It was an uplifting message on the future for the true christian and was well received. Lorna and I necessarily had to 'dip' in and out of sessions for the children's sake, but after a meal freely provided, we were all together for the final part at 7pm. Don Fortner (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Danville, Kentucky) preached a short sermon and set forth the gospel in his usual dogmatically God-honouring manner. All in all, we felt it was a very heart-warming and stirring conference. Heavy rain was the only dampener as people finally dispersed (and the lost hour!)
NB. New Focus can be obtained from us or directly from the editor Peter Meney
Evangelical Press have printed a number of books by Don Fortner, as well as Go Publications. All are obtainable from us.

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