The Gospel Coalition

Adrian Warnock announced in the middle of the night that a website that is definitely not for me is now open: FREE The Gospel Coalition Network from The City NOW OPEN.

So here is The Gospel Coalition. Theologically this is a network which is focused as you might expect around the issues that Adrian finds important:

  • male headship
  • inerrancy in scripture
  • penal substitution as the only model of atonement
  • American city culture

So I won’t be joining.

But if you want to join a bunch of American men trying to build a Church Network free of women then feel free.

You can see their key foundational documents without joining.

  • The Gospel Coalition | About lists their council which consists of 49 men. One is from Canada, one from the Cayman Islands and the rest (that is 47) from the United States of America. Clearly this is not a global movement in any way, it ignores all but North America and ignores all women (oh and don’t expect a welcome if you are either GLBT or a supporter).
  • Foundation Documents: Theological Vision for Ministry makes it clear that essentially they stand against postmodernism.
  • In their Foundation Documents Confessional Statement we notice the (expected) very detailed views on scripture and (expected) minimal views on Baptism. This is typical of their approach. Key members don’t agree on baptism so they ignore those differences and present a very weak theological statement on baptism. However, as very conservative evangelicals that variation is swept under the carpet where in other areas such as the view of Scripture and Atonement where they agree no other view but their own is allowed.

As always there are huge areas of Christ’s ministry that are completely ignored in their statements. Just three straight off the top are non-violence, justice (it is only seen in individual relationships) and being Pharisaic about religion.

In terms of our Christian discipleship in the world today there are also the usual big gaps such as climate change (nothing at all), war (nothing at all), reconciliation between nations (nothing at all), trade justice (nothing at all), and global crises in health, education & poverty (nothing at all).

There are also the areas of silence where reading through the lines their views are clear but unstated. The two really obvious ones are male headship (obvious when you look at the make up of their council) and sexuality (they are not going to stand for any GLBT rights).

Summary, just more attempts by this group of extreme Christian leaders to redefine Evangelical Christianity in their own narrow way. Best keep away.

27 thoughts on “The Gospel Coalition

  1. julie

    “But if you want to join a bunch of American men trying to build a Church Network free of women then feel free.”
    lol, how refreshing! Try being a woman and living under that bunch of, fill in the blank… It was horrible and thank God for freedom and the true gospel, which brings men and woman together in harmony and equality rather teaching the curse that men are to rule over women and the women are to desire men.

    Reply
  2. Phil Whittall

    Dave,
    To have a dig at an organisation for things they haven’t said in foundational documents is I think a bit harsh. For example the EA basis of faith (akin to their confessional statement) also says nothing about most of the issues you raise, that doesn’t mean it’s ignored or not an issue for them. In fact not all of them are to be found (or at least not easily enough for me to find them all) on the Methodist Church website. Don’t bother to look on Newfrontiers website they aren’t there either.
    As for justice how about this: “Regarding money, the church’s members should engage in radical economic sharing with one another—so “there are no needy among them” (Acts 4:34). Such sharing also promotes a radically generous commitment of time, money, relationships, and living space to social justice and the needs of the poor, the oppressed, the immigrant, and the economically and physically weak.”
    or this, “We cannot look at the poor and the oppressed and callously call them to pull themselves out of their own difficulty. Jesus did not treat us that way. The gospel replaces superiority toward the poor with mercy and compassion. Christian churches must work for justice and peace in their neighborhoods through service even as they call individuals to conversion and the new birth. We must work for the eternal and common good and show our neighbors we love them sacrificially whether they believe as we do or not. Indifference to the poor and disadvantaged means there has not been a true grasp of our salvation by sheer grace.”
    Lastly it’s unfair to blame North Americans for coming from North America, I don’t think they’ve yet claimed this to be a global gospel coalition, have they?
    The point I’m making is, OK Dave you don’t agree with these guys on many issues fair enough, but I think you’ve made unfair charges and not made them very graciously.

    Reply
  3. Dave Warnock

    Phil,
    Ok we disagree on whether it is a bit harsh.
    As for the Methodist Church Website I invite you to go to the home page and search for gender. The first hit is The Methodist Church of Great Britain | Gender Justice. On that page you will find the first paragraph reads:
    “The Methodist Church, affirming God’s intention for humanity to be inclusive, just and equal, all one in Christ, is therefore concerned about the issue of gender justice. In response to this conviction, it has set up a Gender Justice Committee, committed to promoting gender justice and equality within the Methodist Church.”
    If you know anything about our governance (and the “Church Life” section prominently displayed on the home page has lots of details) you will know that the Methodist Conference is our governing body. The papers for this year are on the website and that includes a report from the Committee for Gender Justice.
    Or you might have noticed on the home page of the Methodist Church that we have a woman as our first ever Youth President.
    I am confident you will not find anywhere on Methodist site a page with 49 men and no women.
    For comparison on The Gospel Coalition website do the same search. The first four hits are sermons from Mark Dever, two on gender roles and two on gender identity. Pretty clear difference I would say. Note that in fairness the next few links are a series on united the genders that I have not listened to and that may provide a better view point.
    I read those sections on Justice and I think my comments about them are perfectly fair. There is nothing about challenging institutions or Governments on Justice it is all about individual behaviour (which I agree is very important), a network ought to have policies of it’s own not just encourage individuals.
    As for the Global bit, clearly when Adrian announces this with a great fanfare he is seeing this as relevant to Christians in the same part of the world as he is. When you look at the (impressive) list of languages that the site is available in you have to conclude the audience is intended to be global, but a passive audience with no representation.
    As for a perceived lack of grace, you are probably right and for that I apologise. I still have a lot to learn about disagreeing vehemently but with grace. However, as I hope I have shown I do not think I have made unfair charges. If I have then as soon as someone from The Gospel Coalition corrects me I will update the post.

    Reply
  4. julie

    I don’t think the gender thing is an unfair charge, because they have said themselves that the issue is central to the gospel. Therefore, since I disagree with them they would view me as not believing or loving the true gospel. C.J. Mahaney has also said that the gender issue is ‘a hill we will die on’. The consider it a central issue that if you don’t agree with then you are outside the true gospel. Can I be saved then if I’m not their particular brand of complementarian anymore? They would probably not think so…I figure I’ll put my trust in Jesus to save me though so I’m not too worried about it at the moment.

    Reply
  5. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Can I be saved then if I’m not their particular brand of complementarian anymore? They would probably not think so
    I would be interested to see evidence that just one of those 49 believes you cannot be saved unless you hold complimentarian views.
    (they are not going to stand for any GLBT rights)
    And you accuse them of being narrow?!!!
    I would humbly suggest that pro GLBT evangelicals are a minescule precentage. You are not trying to pin your narrow view on the majority are you? ;o)

    Reply
  6. Dave Warnock

    Bwahoa,
    Narrow in expressing God’s love for all people. Never.
    Narrow in expecting all Christians to express God’s love for all people by welcoming them, being hospitable and accepting YES.
    Am I trying to pin a view that Christians are called to love people onto Evangelicals. Yes!!!
    Sad if you are right that pro GLBT Evangelicals are a minuscule percentage.

    Reply
  7. Phil Whittall

    Hmmm. So here you have a group of pastors who are linking together to proclaim Christ, and in their statements they challenge social injustice and materialism and racism. Yet this is no good why? Because they haven’t challenged institutional injustice in their foundational statements? I agree it would be great if they did but very few networks of churches seem to do that – (please show me ones that you think do well here), but it seems that because they have a different view on gender roles that everything they say and do is therefore no good.
    Now I’m no fan of everything Adrian Warnock blogs about but it seems that whatever he likes you have decided to dislike. No one is expecting you to shout hurray for another group that believes in male headship but you won’t win over any of us whose understanding of scripture convinces them of this either.

    Reply
  8. Dave Warnock

    Phil,
    I think in every case what we choose not to say is highly indicative of where we stand. For me what the Gospel Coalition is not saying tells us a great deal about their theology.
    We see this in a number of ways. For example I think you now agree that although they don’t say much about gender the composition of their council makes it clear that they are operating under male headship.
    When it comes to justice issues I agree that what they say on a personal attitude to justice is fine. But they do not challenge much beyond that individual level. So we see nothing about issues such as Climate Change. That tells a lot about their theology and relationship to the world. So yes I think this is very important. It tells us of a gospel that is essentially personal and private.
    As for Church Networks (which from my tradition means denominations). Just take a look at The Methodist Church of Great Britain | Campaigns (link prominent on the homepage). You can see campaigns by the Methodist Church, often working with partners, on a wide range of justice issues (Trafficking, Climate Change, Poverty etc). This indicates a gospel that is not simply personal and private but that has a relevance to the whole world, a gospel that talks of the Kingdom of God beyond the boundaries of the Church.
    If anyone wants to sell me the idea of a gospel coalition then make it worthy of the gospel ie for all people, for the whole world for the Kingdom of God in in all it’s glory.
    This is not about shouting hurray or otherwise but looking below the surface at something that is being promoted for Evangelicals in this country to see what it stands for. When organisations are not open about their beliefs, theology and mission then we have to dig a little.

    Reply
  9. Rhea

    I saw Adrian tweet about it the other day, and I was all confused b/c he simply referred to it as GCN. And I thought “wait….why is he promoting the Gay Christian Network???” (gaychristian.net)….I found the whole thing to be quite hilarious :D

    Reply
  10. julie

    I was not necesarrily saying that all in the gospel coalition would think me unsaved, but was referring specifically to C.J. Mahaney (and for that matter Josh Harris would be included in that). I spent about 8 years in their group of churches and am very familiar with their doctrines and when you leave their church for something outside their narrow view of ‘christianity’ you are going to be viewed with suspicion and condescension. On the doctrinal views, I was basing it also on the t4g statements as well that c.j. and other in the coalition signed where the gender issue is stated as central to the gospel. If it truly is central to the gospel (and funnily enough baptism apparently is not) then I according to them do not believe in a central foundational portion of the gospel. I guess I assumed that would be calling my salvation into question…

    Reply
  11. Dave Warnock

    Rhea,
    I love the idea of Adrian promoting the Gay Christian Network – may I live to see that day.
    Julie,
    I am sure you are right, that would match my expectations too.

    Reply
  12. Dave Warnock

    Rhea,
    I love the idea of Adrian promoting the Gay Christian Network – may I live to see that day.
    Julie,
    I am sure you are right, that would match my expectations too.

    Reply
  13. anon

    I don’t think I’ll be signing up, either.
    Their council (apart from being male and north american) represents a very narrow spectrum of churchmanship.
    Their statement of faith is a fascinating read. As you say, it’s quite interesting to see what is and isn’t included, and the particular emphases that they have.
    To be a member, you have to be in full agreement with this, and their other foundational documents (which rules me out).
    I find it quite sad that they have taken a very partisan view of Christianity (and I write as an evangelical).
    In particular, I don’t see anything that considers how they relate to Christians who don’t share their approach. Perhaps they regard them as unbelievers who will be subject to “eternal conscious punishment in hell” (their words).
    Oh, and one of their pages is called “The Gospel for all of Life”, but by their own admission they take a Reformed (ie Calvinist) position, in which the gospel isn’t for all, but only for the elect. That sounds like a different gospel to me…

    Reply
  14. Tim

    Dave:
    Narrow in expecting all Christians to express God’s love for all people by welcoming them, being hospitable and accepting YES.
    Am I trying to pin a view that Christians are called to love people onto Evangelicals. Yes!!!

    Dave, I’m somewhat disturbed by your implication that Christians who do not agree with your view on LGBT issues do not think they are called to love people.
    The issue is not whether or not we are called to love people, but rather, what form that love should take – to be precise, the exact balance between affirmation and challenge.
    I say this as a person of traditional view on the LGBT issue, who later this year will be attending the same-sex wedding of his oldest daughter, so please don’t assume this is merely a theoretical issue for me!

    Reply
  15. same anon as before!

    I’ve been thinking a bit more about “The Gospel Coalition”.
    The thing I dislike about this new organisation is that they effectively expand the definition of the gospel to include a whole load of stuff that isn’t central and over which there is disagreement amongst Christians (including disagreement amongst evangelicals).
    You see this in the way that their “Confessional Statement” is far longer than anything I’ve ever seen before. The Nicene creed is 224 words, the Evangelical Alliance’s basis of faith is 284 words, theirs is about 2300 words!
    For instance, witness their “complementarian” view of gender roles. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel. You categorically don’t need to believe in male headship (their position) to be a Christian.
    I’d suggest what they are basically trying to do is redefine the gospel (ie Christianity) to mean their particular brand of conservative evangelicalism. As an evangelical who doesn’t share their distinctives, I find this rather offensive.

    Reply
  16. Dave Warnock

    Tim,
    “Dave, I’m somewhat disturbed by your implication that Christians who do not agree with your view on LGBT issues do not think they are called to love people.”
    H’mm re-reading I see that you might have picked up that implication. It was not intended that way.
    Yes I do believe that the medical profession are correct that homosexuality is not a choice but an orientation.
    Yes I do believe that it is not loving to deny someones sexual orientation.
    Yes I do believe that we should encourage all individuals (whether attracted to the same gender or not) to be faithful within a stable, long term, monogamous, loving relationship or abstain from sex.
    Yes I do believe it is unjust to treat stable long term, monogamous, loving same sex relationships differently.
    But no I do not believe that everyone who cannot echo all those yes statements does not love GLBT people.
    However, I do challenge people as to how denying people rights (which was my original point) can be loving. We do not accept it as loving when Afghanistan law is going to deny women rights and I do not understand why GLBT people should have fewer rights.
    My original point was about this “global” gospel coalition defines evangelical based on spurious factors such as sexual orientation and whether you support male headship.

    Reply
  17. Dave Warnock

    Tim,
    I really do not believe that every conservative who believes that Scripture says homosexuality is wrong automatically does not love homosexuals.
    But far too frequently we do see behaviour from Christians that does appear to be very loving.
    “The issue is not whether or not we are called to love people, but rather, what form that love should take – to be precise, the exact balance between affirmation and challenge.”
    Ok if we accept that then my challenge to the Gospel Coalition etc is where is any affirmation, I do not see it.
    “I say this as a person of traditional view on the LGBT issue, who later this year will be attending the same-sex wedding of his oldest daughter, so please don’t assume this is merely a theoretical issue for me!”
    I don’t assume this is theoretical and in fact the time when it is not is the most critical. I believe that it is vital for us all to consider our response should one of our children turn out to have a homosexual orientation.
    For me it is that response that dictates whether this is love or not. Do you feel affirmed in your love for your daughter by the teaching of the Gospel Coalition? Do you feel supported by them in going to her wedding? Do you think she would find anything affirming from them.
    By all means hold them accountable in the way you suggest. In your support and attendance at the wedding I see affirmation and support (and there may well be challenge there too). In other words I see love. I do not see any of that in the gospel coalition statements.
    Please pass onto your daughter my best wishes for her marriage.

    Reply
  18. Blue, with a hint of amber

    For instance, witness their “complementarian” view of gender roles. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel. You categorically don’t need to believe in male headship (their position) to be a Christian.
    Where in their statements does it say that you do?
    So Dave W: The church should surround all persons suffering from the fallenness of our human sexuality with a compassionate community and family.
    Is that the same as what Tim is doing?
    Yes I do believe that the medical profession are correct that homosexuality is not a choice but an orientation.
    Yes I do believe that it is not loving to deny someones sexual orientation.
    Yes I do believe that we should encourage all individuals (whether attracted to the same gender or not) to be faithful within a stable, long term, monogamous, loving relationship or abstain from sex.
    Yes I do believe it is unjust to treat stable long term, monogamous, loving same sex relationships differently.

    The thing is Dave. You are saying you don’t want to join them because of their distinctives from you on this issue.
    They are attempting to link like minded people.
    Which you aren’t.
    And you object to.
    Even though you do not want to be associated with them anyway.
    Because of what they believe.
    So you don’t believe what they do, don’t want to be associated with them because fo that, because of what they believe, and don’t want them to link with other people who agree with them because that excludes you.
    Do you read Adrian Warnock just to get angry?
    If you read “Fly fishing bloggers coalition” they go on about fly fishing a lot, and there appears nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing in their foundational documents about Carp Fishing. Do you deny their right to exist?

    Reply
  19. Dave Warnock

    BWAHOA,
    I wrote “You categorically don’t need to believe in male headship (their position) to be a Christian.”
    You responded: “Where in their statements does it say that you do?”
    Read point 3 from their confessional statement this excludes from their confession egalitarians, homosexuals and their supporters.
    If people are excluded by a confession of faith then how can this not be a statement that you do not believe their faith to be acceptable?
    ‘If you read “Fly fishing bloggers coalition” they go on about fly fishing a lot, and there appears nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing in their foundational documents about Carp Fishing. Do you deny their right to exist?’
    But the Gospel Coalition is essentially saying that Carp fishermen are not fishermen. That is quite different and is what I am unhappy about.

    Reply
  20. Blue, with a hint of amber

    That is the confession of faith of people joining the coalition.
    If people are excluded by a confession of faith then how can this not be a statement that you do not believe their faith to be acceptable?
    Where does it say anyone else is not saved? That is the confessional statement of those joining that particular group.
    What confessional statement says all the other views other people hold as well?
    Your “gospel” includes egalitarian sympathies, theirs complimentarian. What is the difference? You don’t WANT to join them because of what they believe, so why does it matter? At least they are up front about what they stand for rather than feigning a desire for some sort of wider unity then spending their whole time arguing about the same issues they don’t agree on.
    You say that complimentarianism is at odds with the full teaching of Jesus as it leaves women in what you liken to slavery. How is that any different an accusation?
    The Methodist website says Conference recognises, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church. Conference calls on the Methodist people to begin a pilgrimage of faith to combat repression and discrimination, to work for justice and human rights and to give dignity and worth to people whatever their sexuality.
    What if I don’t hold that view?
    Do you believe the faith of those in the Gospel Coalition is “acceptable” given the above?
    The methodist website implies more traditional views are discriminatory, repressive, unjust and denying of human rights.
    How is that different?

    Reply
  21. Dave Warnock

    BWAHOA,
    Sorry but I find your arguments to be totally unconvincing.
    You talk of slavery. So let us revisit that.
    Imagine two groups. Group A requires you to support slavery. Group B requires you to NOT support slavery.
    Your argument appears to be that these two groups are exclusive in the same way. Rubbish! Just think about the nature of who is being excluded, it does not make sense to equate these two exclusions.
    Group A excludes people (slaves) who have no choice in the matter.
    Group B excludes people who enslave others (and thus prevent them from joining the group).
    The exclusion is entirely different.
    Now consider the Gospel Coalition and it’s attitude to women and compare it to the Methodist Church. Your suggesting there is a similar exclusion is ridiculous.
    Also are you really saying that you do hold a view that people are not entitled to justice and human rights whatever their sexuality?
    I want to challenge you on that. If all people are not entitled to justice and human rights then you are saying some people are sub-human and therefore presumably not created in the image of God. Please explain how you believe that to be Christian.

    Reply
  22. Blue, with a hint of amber

    You talk of slavery.
    That is the analogy you use against complimentarians.
    The exclusion is entirely different.
    Your “inclusivity” is exclusive of people with a different view.
    BTW, I don’t want to exclude anyone. Why would I actually want to? I may believe scripture to mean a certain thing but you make it a personal accusation rather than a scriptural difference.
    Group A requires you do not support slavery.
    Group B requires you build a partnership based on love that is a reflection of the trinitarian godhead as laid down in creation.
    That is why the viewpoints clash.
    Also are you really saying that you do hold a view that people are not entitled to justice and human rights whatever their sexuality?
    No, of course not. But the wording of the methodist website seems to assume that holding a traditional view on sexuality means I do. i.e. only by holding their position can we combat repression etc.
    Please explain how you believe that to be Christian.
    I don’t. Who would? But it is where the Methodist statement on the issue implies that I am. i.e. I am evidently outside of their “gospel” which is exactly your accusation against the gospel coalition when they include complimentarian beliefs in their statement of faith.
    Part of the gospel the methodist church in the UK promote recognises, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church
    I don’t think scripture teaches that, by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore I am outside of that gospel.
    If I am repressive, discriminatory and regard females as slaves and homosexuals as subhuman then am I really saved? How could I be? Those are their accusations by implication if not word for word.
    So your complaint about the gospel coalition is that you feel theye xclude you from their gospel.
    My point is just as you exclude them from yours.

    Reply
  23. Dave Warnock

    “That is the analogy you use against complimentarians.”
    Yes it is one that many women use to describe their experiences of male headship.
    I do not understand how you imagine building a partnership of love where people are excluded because of things outside their control (eg gender and sexuality).
    Actually if you look at the complete policy on sexuality within the Methodist Church you will also find support for a traditional view on sexuality, one that is held by many within the Church. But one where there is a challenge by the Church to hold that view AND love and affirm those who do not conform to your own view. That is inclusive.
    “Part of the gospel the methodist church in the UK promote recognises, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church” and part of the same set of notes refers to chastity outside and fidelity inside marriage.
    “If I am repressive, discriminatory and regard females as slaves and homosexuals as subhuman then am I really saved? How could I be? Those are their accusations by implication if not word for word.”
    That is inaccurate at best. The Methodist Church does not, anywhere, talk of these issues deciding whether you are saved. We are saved by faith and we are all sinners. Such attitudes may be sinful but there is no one among us who is not a sinner. This is in stark contrast to the words of many of the board of the Gospel Coalition eg as was pointed out by Julie above.
    My point is not that the Gospel Coalition excludes me. I have a choice, I can accept their gospel or not. My point is that approx 55% of humans do not have this option. They are excluded due to gender or sexuality (50% female and 10% of the males excluded for sexuality). I stand by those excluded.

    Reply
  24. Dave Warnock

    Oh and note, in his latest blog posts Adrian writes:
    “Those of God’s people who are concerned that the church has been drifting away from the message delivered once for all to the saints are rallying almost as one man.” (emphasis added).
    Kind of makes my point for me.

    Reply

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