On Friday 24 and Saturday 25 March, a record number gathered for the eighth Birmingham Conference at Ebenezer Chapel, Old Hill, Cradley Heath.
This conference is organised by the committee of the Christian Worship Trust. The aims include strengthening one another in the great doctrines of the faith, against a background of increasing secularism and compromise; to encourage heartfelt experiential devotion, and promote vigorous evangelism.
The 2017 conference did not disappoint in these aims, with stirring and helpful addresses and warm fellowship. The main speakers were Rev. William Macleod (Glasgow), Dr Michael Haykin (Canada) and Rev. Malcolm Watts (Salisbury). It was encouraging to see an increased number of young people attending this year.
William Macleod’s clear and concise addresses were on the so-called ‘New Covenant Theology’ of today. The first address, ‘The new covenant and the old’, gave a broad survey of the covenants in Scripture, seeing them as sovereign dispensations of God, and demonstrating that the covenant of grace is seen through the Old Testament, as well as the New. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 shows that ‘instruction in righteousness’ is achieved by ‘all Scripture’ including the Ten Commandments.
Mr Macleod’s second address was on ‘The perpetual obligation of the Sabbath’. He reminded us that Sabbath-keeping is rooted in creation and re-iterated in the Ten Commandments. Matthew 24:20 — ‘but pray ye that your flight be not on the sabbath day’ — shows that, after Christ’s resurrection, there would still be a ‘sabbath day’.
Michael Haykin’s two engaging addresses were focused on two pillars of the Reformation, sola Scriptura and sola Christus, in relation to the lives of William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer.
William Tyndale was God’s means for placing the Reformation on solid scriptural grounds. Ninety per cent of the Authorised Version translation is his work. Duty is undervalued in today’s Christian world, but Tyndale’s martyrdom shows he knew his duty and calling were more important than his life.
Dr Haykin’s second address showed how Cranmer fought for the High Priesthood of Christ against the whole system of the medieval church. Cranmer, a complex figure, remarkably survived the reign of Henry VIII. His final stand for the truth of Scripture after a temporary recantation, reminds us how much we owe, under God, to him.
At the Friday evening gospel rally, Malcolm Watts preached with earnestness on three ‘whosoevers’ in Scripture: the whosoever of guilt (James 2:10), remission (Acts 10:43) and everlasting life (John 3:16).
He led the congregation through mankind in guilt and under the judgment of God, God’s provision of his Son to bear the punishment deserved by sinners, and the blessedness of all who believe the gospel.
A discussion session was led by Pastor Dewi Higham (Cardiff). Our reflections on God’s past blessing led us to pray for his reviving work in our day.
A separate discussion session for the wives of those in church leadership was led by Mrs Deirdre Armstrong (Borehamwood), focusing on four women of the Reformation period. From reports, this was a most profitable time.
There was a well-stocked bookstall, provided by Purple Tulip. The conference would not be possible without the kindness of the pastor and members at Ebenezer, in preparing the building and providing superb meals for the delegates. May God bless them abundantly!