REFORMED BAPTISTS IN WALES

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ when living in Mississippi, US. The church spiritually nurtured me in the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist ethos of experiential Christianity. I moved to Cardiff, Wales in 2010. Convinced of the wisdom of confessional Christianity while continuing to maintain an experiential ethos, I found in the Second London Baptist Confession a faithful and concrete expression of biblical Christianity.


I first made contact with Parresia Books at the end of October 2020. Almost immediately we discovered our common union in Christ. Since then, I have been helping Daniel and John-William with the new publishing house project, having experience in business start-ups, Development and Account Management. A lot of exciting things have happened with this publisher in the past few weeks and I have been working alongside these brothers to help in a number of areas as this work expands. This has included writing about the history of Reformed Baptists in my homeland of Wales.


Since the emergence of Calvinistic Baptist life during the 17th Century, Welsh Particular Baptists have been relatively small yet sustained. Benefiting greatly from the Evangelical Revival of the 18th Century they were nevertheless largely overshadowed by the rise of Calvinistic Methodism which resulted in the formation of a new welsh presbyterian denomination. Welsh Particular Baptists merged with the General Baptists in the 19th Century, a merger that led to their inevitable decline after the Downgrade Controversy that loomed so large among Baptists in Britain. This downward trend continued into the 20th century among those historic Welsh Baptist churches of a Calvinistic persuasion though some did attempt to fight it. However, growing liberalism within the Baptist Union would eventually lead to a secession of several Welsh Particular Baptists from the denomination.

Evangelicalism in Wales during the 20th Century is complicated. However, there are two main places one can look to observe its general character. While the Evangelical Movement of Wales represents a movement of evangelical people, the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales represents a movement of evangelical churches. Welsh Particular Baptists became amalgamated into both of these evangelical movements of people and churches. This amalgamation occurred mainly in response to denominational liberalism and was greatly influenced by the life and ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones.


Therefore, while several churches still possess the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (some even in their legal trust deeds!), they now identify more with a larger “coalition movement of evangelicalism.”[1] Particular Baptists now find their identity in a more doctrinally-minimalistic evangelicalism. Distinctive doctrines that were once strongly shared between churches are no longer “worthy of dividing over.”[2] The result is a less robust theological foundation. Broad alliances have been formed at the expense of doctrinal depth. In fact, more separatist streams have emerged as an overreaction to this situation, indicated by the Salisbury school of thought. However, the more charitable yet unambiguous New Testament associations that characterised the 18th Century Particular Baptists struggles to take root.


These developments leave Welsh Particular Baptist churches and ministers in a unique situation. A re-examination of uniting upon the basis of a more theological and historically reformed orthodoxy that is viewed through a Christocentric lens may yet prove to yield encouraging relationships. A more comprehensive confessional unity of like-minded churches without vacating an experiential faith is undoubtedly worthy of consideration for the kind of theological foundation needed to make inroads for the gospel and New Testament churches in the ever-increasing secular culture of Wales.


Darrin Gilchrist


[1]See The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Carl Trueman for a penetrating analysis of modern evangelicalism and its effects. [2]Ibid.

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