[Source: Christian Herald Published: Saturday, 29 July, 2000]
Controversial churches welcomed into Alliance membership
Worldwide Church of God, publishers of The Plain Truth magazine, has just been accepted for church membership of the Evangelical Alliance.
The denomination, with branches across the globe, has been no stranger to controversy in the past. It now has an estimated 2,000 members worshipping in some 45 congregations through-out the British Isles.
John Smith, the Alliance’s church life director, said: “Membership is open to groups who are able to subscribe to the EA basis of faith and are in good standing with other evangelicals. The story of the transition of the Worldwide Church of God towards evangelical orthodoxy has been known to us for a number of years.”
Every membership is subject to intense scrutiny by Evangelical Alliance, but John Smith said he had been particularly impressed at the church’s attitude towards the necessary investigations. “They have expressed incredible humility in the way they have handled negotiations with ourselves and changed the content of The Plain Truth.
“The fact is they are now part of the EA family and can raise their head above the parapet.” In practical terms, it means that the Church is networked with the rest of the EA membership which cuts across 30 denominations. John Halford, editor of The Plain Truth, said: “We are delighted. When I first explored the possibility of EA membership five years ago, we were advised to change slowly. It was case of ‘do not ask for credit as refusal often offends’.
“I liken it to being able to go through the green ‘nothing to declare’ channel at an airport every time. It means that we don’t have to go through an inquisition by some groups when we want to participate in an event with them — and we certainly want to participate in the spreading of the Gospel in this country.
“Our attitude as a Church was that we used to stand outside the room and throw stones through the window. Now we are in the room, saying ‘show us where to sit’. In many ways we are the new kids on the block. I hope other churches will find that we are ready and willing to learn and be involved.”
Another high-profile movement who joined the EA family last autumn is the Jesus Fellow-ship Church — also known as the Jesus Army. The fellowship left the EA in the late 1980s in relation to issues with other evangelicals. John Smith explained: “They again have moved considerably since then. It is an organisation that has had a lot of allegations made against it, most of which are based on past reputation rather than present practice.
“We do take the business of consultation very seriously, and we do know there will be controversy over some of our membership decisions — we might even lose some friends, but we can’t keep someone out of EA on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations and innuendoes.”