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The Keele Congress of 1967: A Paradigm Shift in Anglican Evangelical Attitudes1

  • Andrew Atherstone
Abstract

The National Evangelical Anglican Congress which took place at Keele University in April 1967 is widely acknowledged as a major watershed for the evangelical movement in the Church of England. This paper offers a fresh analysis of the event, based on detailed archival research. It argues that there was a decisive attitudinal shift at the congress, driven especially by the younger generation – from piety to policy, conservatism to radicalism, homogeneity to diversity, and exclusivism to ecumenism. It shows how in these four areas the Keele Congress established a new agenda for Anglican evangelicalism, a legacy which still continues today.

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andrew.atherstone@wycliffe.ox.ac.uk
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1.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at Stirling University in April 2009 as part of the Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in Britain Project. I am grateful to Professor David Bebbington for the invitation to speak on that occasion, and to participants for their helpful interactions. I am also grateful to Peter Webster for his comments.

2.

Dr Andrew Atherstone is a tutor in history and doctrine, and Latimer research fellow, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, UK.

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References
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3. Stott, John, ‘Attempt to Face Today's Crucial Questions’, Church Times, 31 March 1967, p. 11.

4. David Paton in Crowe, Philip (ed.), Keele '67: The National Evangelical Anglican Congress Statement (London: Falcon, 1967), p. 16.

5. Warner, Rob, Reinventing English Evangelicalism, 1966–2001: A Theological and Sociological Study (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007), p. 180.

6. Bebbington, David, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), p. 249.

7. Manwaring, Randle, From Controversy to Co-Existence: Evangelicals in the Church of England 1914–1980 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 177.

8. McGrath, A.E., ‘Evangelical Anglicanism: A Contradiction in Terms?’, in R.T. France and A.E. McGrath (eds.), Evangelical Anglicans: Their Role and Influence in the Church Today (London: SPCK, 1993), pp. 1021. (16–17).

9. France, R.T., ‘Evangelicalism and Biblical Scholarship’, in France and McGrath, Evangelical Anglicans, pp. 47–56 (54–55).

10. Yeats, Charles (ed.), Has Keele Failed? Reform in the Church of England (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995), p. 7.

11. Stott, John, ‘The Significance of NEAC’, statement to the Islington Clerical Conference, 10 January 1967, Saward MSS (in the possession of Andrew Atherstone).

12. Church of England Newspaper (hereafter CEN), 3 February 1967, p. 1.

13. Stott, John, ‘National Evangelical Anglican Congress’, press statement, 14 March 1967, Saward MSS.

14. Brown, Callum, Religion and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain (Harlow: Pearson, 2006), pp. 224–77; Hugh McLeod, The Religious Crisis of the 1960s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Michael Walsh, ‘The Religious Ferment of the Sixties’, in Hugh McLeod (ed.), The Cambridge History of Christianity. IX. World Christianities c. 1914–c. 2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 304–22.

15. Stott, , ‘Attempt to Face Today's Crucial Questions’.

16. Packer, J.I., ‘Following Up Keele’, memorandum to NEAC committee, 9 June 1967, Saward MSS.

17. Packer, J.I., ‘Taking Stock in Theology’, in John King (ed.), Evangelicals Today (London: Lutterworth, 1973), pp. 1530. (15).

18. De-la-Noy, Michael, The Church of England: A Portrait (London: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 159.

19. Carson, D.A., ‘Observations of a Friend’, in Melvin Tinker (ed.), The Anglican Evangelical Crisis (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 1995), pp. 203222. (216).

20. France, R.T., ‘Evangelicalism and Biblical Scholarship’, pp. 54–56; France, R.T., ‘James Barr and Evangelical Scholarship’, Anvil 8 (1991), pp. 5164 (53, 61). See further, Andrew Atherstone, An Anglican Evangelical Identity Crisis: The Churchman-Anvil Affair of 1981–1984 (London: Latimer Trust, 2008).

21. Holloway, David, Reform: Discussion Paper No. 1 (Sheffield: Reform, revised edn 1995), p. 5.

22. Review in Churchman 107 (1993), p. 279.

23. John Stott to NEAC speakers, 5 December 1966, Saward MSS.

24. Christ Over All (NEAC Introductory Brochure, Spring 1966), Saward MSS.

25. John Stott to NEAC speakers, 5 December 1966, Saward MSS.

26. ‘Talk of the Week’, CEN, 2 December 1966, p. 5.

27. ‘Countdown to Keele’, CEN, 10 February 1967, pp. 1, 16.

28. Crowe, Philip, ‘Jamboree at Keele’, CEN, 17 February 1967, p. 7.

29. Letter from Crowe, Philip, CEN, 24 February 1967, p. 6.

30. ‘Islington and Keele’, CEN, 6 January 1967, p. 1.

31. ‘One Clear Duty’, CEN, 10 February 1967, p. 1.

32. Stott, John, ‘World-Wide Evangelical Anglicanism’, in King, Evangelicals Today, pp. 176–99 (180); Dudley-Smith, Timothy, John Stott: The Making of a Leader (Leicester: IVP, 1999), pp. 304308.

33. Saward, Michael, Evangelicals on the Move (Oxford: Mowbray, 1987), p. 38. See also Saward, Michael, ‘Behind the Plenaries’, in Yeats, Has Keele Failed?, pp. 17–41 (21) and Saward, Michael, A Faint Streak of Humility: An Autobiography (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), p. 250.

34. Resolutions from the Eclectic Society National Conference, 17 November 1966; NEAC Committee Minutes, 1 December 1966, Saward MSS.

35. ‘How the Keele Congress Came About’, CEN, 17 February 1967, p. 16.

36. Stott, John, ‘National Evangelical Anglican Congress’, press statement, 14 March 1967, Saward MSS.

37. John Stott to NEAC speakers, 5 December 1966, Saward MSS.

38. NEAC Committee Minutes, 1 December 1966, Saward MSS.

39. Stott, John, ‘That Word “Radical” ’, CEN, 24 February 1967, p. 7.

40. Stott, , ‘The Significance of NEAC’.

41. NEAC Committee Minutes, 10 January and 2 March 1967, Saward MSS.

42. ‘Congress Round-Up’, Keele Supplement, p. iv, in CEN, 31 March 1967.

43. Letter from Stride, John, CEN, 7 April 1967, p. 6.

44. ‘Today, at Keele’, CEN, 7 April 1967, p. 8.

45. Contra Smith, David, Transforming the World? The Social Impact of British Evangelicalism (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998), p. 90; Guest, Mathew, Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007), p. 51; Warner, , Reinventing English Evangelicalism, p. 180.

46. Osborn, R.R., ‘Keele and the Liberal Evangelicals’, CEN, 7 July 1967, p. 7.

47. Motyer, J.A., ‘New Men in Christ’, in J.I. Packer (ed.), Guidelines: Anglican Evangelicals Face the Future (London: Falcon, 1967), pp. 121146. (141).

48. Leathem, William, ‘Renewing the Local Church’, in Packer, Guidelines, pp. 183–209 (198–99).

49. Anderson, J.N.D., ‘Christian Worldliness’, in Packer, Guidelines, pp. 213–32 (214–15).

50. Crowe, , Keele '67: The NEAC Statement, para 20. See further, Bebbington, David, ‘The Decline and Resurgence of Evangelical Social Concern 1918–1980’, in John Wolffe (ed.), Evangelical Faith and Public Zeal: Evangelicals and Society in Britain 1780–1980 (London: SPCK, 1995), pp. 175197.

51. ‘Countdown to Keele’, CEN, 10 February 1967, p. 1.

52. ‘Drafting Committee Has Tricky Job’, CEN, 24 February 1967, p. 14.

53. King, , The Evangelicals, p. 120.

54. Letter from May, Charles, CEN, 17 February 1967, p. 6.

55. Letter from Cragg, H.W., CEN, 17 February 1967, p. 6.

56. Letter from Gough, Basil, CEN, 17 March 1967, p. 7.

57. ‘ “Radical” Plus “Biblical” Equals What?’, CEN, 3 February 1967, p. 1.

58. Stott, , ‘That Word “Radical” ’.

59. Stott, , ‘That Word “Radical” ’.

60. ‘Keele Aftermath’, CEN, 13 October 1967, p. 2.

61. National Evangelical Anglican Congress: Official List of Delegates, Observers and Other Participants (1967), Saward MSS. In the official Keele history, George Hoffman claims there were 519 clergy and 481 laity, making exactly 1000 delegates, but this is an overestimate; see Hoffman, George, ‘The Story of the Congress’, in Crowe, Keele '67: The NEAC Statement, pp. 7–14 (10).

62. ‘Who Will Go to Keele?’, CEN, 3 March 1967, p. 16.

63. For details of the organizing committee, see Christ Over All (NEAC programme, April 1967), p. 17, Saward MSS.

64. Stott, , ‘Attempt to Face Today's Crucial Questions’.

65. Crowe, , ‘Jamboree at Keele’.

66. Hoffman, , ‘Story of the Congress’, pp. 13–14.

67. Turner, Dennis F., ‘A Cog in the Keele Machine’, CEN, 14 April 1967, p. 12.

68. ‘Talk of the Week’, CEN, 7 April 1967, p. 5.

69. Summary of Recommendations made by Buchanan, Crowe and Reid (Drafting Committee) with Dudley-Smith and Stott (Organizing Committee), 7 February 1967, Saward MSS.

70. Stott, , ‘Attempt to Face Today's Crucial Questions’.

71. ‘Drafting Committee Has Tricky Job’, CEN, 24 February 1967, p. 14.

72. King, , The Evangelicals, pp. 122–23.

73. Stott, John, ‘Introduction to the Statement’, in Crowe, Keele '67: The NEAC Statement, p. 18; John Stott to Michael Ramsey, 8 April 1967, Lambeth Palace Library, Ramsey Papers, vol. 118, fo. 241.

74. Beeson, Trevor, ‘Evangelical Marathon’, New Christian, 20 April 1967, p. 9.

75. Frontier 10 (Summer 1967), p. 82.

76. See, for example, letter from Birch, Harry A., CEN, 28 April 1967, p. 4.

77. Stott, , ‘That Word “Radical” ’.

78. King, , The Evangelicals, p. 122.

79. King, , The Evangelicals, pp. 120–21.

80. Dudley-Smith, Timothy, John Stott: A Global Ministry (Leicester: IVP, 2001), p. 100.

81. Letter from Hollins, John E., CEN, 20 January 1967, p. 6.

82. National Evangelical Anglican Congress: Official List of Delegates, Observers and Other Participants (1967), Saward MSS.

83. Cheetham, Ann, ‘Evangelicals in an Age of Revolution’, British Weekly, 13 April 1967, p. 4.

84. Ramsey, Michael, ‘Jesus is Lord’, Churchman 81 (Summer 1967), pp. 89–94 (94).

85. Ramsey, , ‘Jesus is Lord’, p. 93.

86. Stott to Ramsey, 8 April 1967, Lambeth Palace Library, Ramsey Papers, vol. 118, fo. 241.

87. ‘What Sort of History Is This?’, Evangelical Times, May 1967, p. 2.

88. Sermon by Lloyd-Jones, 1 November 1974, quoted in Brencher, John, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) and Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002), p. 168.

89. NEAC Committee Minutes, 2 February 1967, Saward MSS, has ‘relate rationally’.

90. Colin Buchanan to Andrew Atherstone, 27 March 2009.

91. Packer, J.I., ‘The Good Confession’, in Packer, Guidelines, pp. 13–38 (15–16).

92. Hughes, P.E., ‘The Credibility of the Church’, in Packer, Guidelines, pp. 149–79 (170–71).

93. Hughes, , ‘Credibility of the Church’, p. 178.

94. Crowe, , Keele '67: The NEAC Statement, paras. 81–82.

95. Crowe, , Keele '67: The NEAC Statement, para. 84.

96. Frontier, 10 (Summer 1967), p. 82.

97. Hastings, Adrian, A History of English Christianity 1920–2000 (London: SCM, 4th edn, 2001), p. 554.

98. Harper, Michael, ‘Keele and the Holy Spirit’, CEN, 12 May 1967, p. 9.

99. ‘Keele and Unity’, CEN, 30 June 1967, p. 1.

100. ‘Do Not Withdraw’, CEN, 5 May 1967, p. 2.

101. ‘Countdown to Keele’, CEN, 10 February 1967, p. 16.

102. Derham, Morgan, ‘Evangelical Fellowship Keele-Halled’, CEN, 28 April 1967, p. 12.

103. See further, Atherstone, Andrew, ‘Lloyd-Jones and Secession’, in Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones (eds.), Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Leicester: Apollos, forthcoming).

104. Atherstone, Andrew, ‘A Mad Hatter's Tea Party in the Old Mitre Tavern? Ecumenical Reactions to Growing into Union, Ecclesiology 6.1 (January 2010), pp. 3967.

105. Gough, Anthony W., ‘Co-operation with Other Ministries’, in Clive Porthouse (ed.), Ministry in the Seventies (London: Falcon, 1970), pp. 120135.

1. An earlier version of this paper was presented at Stirling University in April 2009 as part of the Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in Britain Project. I am grateful to Professor David Bebbington for the invitation to speak on that occasion, and to participants for their helpful interactions. I am also grateful to Peter Webster for his comments.

2. Dr Andrew Atherstone is a tutor in history and doctrine, and Latimer research fellow, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, UK.

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