Since 1952, Affinity has been committed to building unity between churches across the UK and Ireland and has passionately protected fundamental biblical truths. On this page, we take a look back at how and why Affinity was formed, and how it was developed over time.
The British Evangelical Council was founded by the Free Church of Scotland, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. This had a focus on “unity in the truth” and was an evangelical response to the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948.
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was invited to speak on Church Unity at the Second National Assembly of Evangelicals convened by the Evangelical Alliance. He appealed to evangelicals not to be divided on secondary issues but to come together in a church-based unity that transcended the liberal denominations to which they belonged. John Stott, the chairman of the meeting, said that the Doctor’s appeal was contrary to both Scripture and church history. Subsequently, some churches seceded from the mixed denominations and joined the BEC as an expression of evangelical ecumenism and of their desire for church unity based on biblical truth.
The BEC established an office in St Albans and Roland Lamb was appointed as its first General Secretary.
Alan Gibson became the General Secretary of BEC. The first issue of Foundations, the BEC’s theological journal, was published. It continues to the present day and is now published online. Around the same time the BEC established a Theological Study Conference, held every two years to consider, amongst other subjects, genuine differences in how BEC member churches understand biblical truths - for example, baptism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The BEC changed its name to Affinity - “a Church-centred Partnership for Bible-centred Christianity” and Jonathan Stephen was appointed as its Director. For the first time Affinity included evangelical churches and agencies in both the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland.
Peter Milsom became Director of Affinity. The membership of the Affinity Council was extended to include for the first time representatives from evangelical agencies.
Graham Nicholls was appointed Director and raised Affinity’s public profile with the media, becoming a respected evangelical voice in the public square.
Today there are 15 church networks affiliated with Affinity. Together with independent member churches, this makes a total of more than 1,200 evangelical churches affiliated with Affinity. There are also 40+ member evangelical agencies (Bible Colleges, mission agencies, publishers and specialist ministries) and affiliate members.