This week I attended the inaugural one-day conference of the Gospel Coalition. This consortium of more than 50 evangelical pastors have united around a common confessional statement and theological vision of ministry. Organizers hope this short conference, hosted by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and attended by 500+ pastors and other ministry leaders, will propel a long-term effort to renew and reform evangelical thought and practice. D.A. Carson, a New Testament scholar at TEDS, and Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, organized the group, which has met privately for three years now. Other speakers and workshop presenters included Crawford Loritts, Phil Ryken, Mark Driscoll, and John Piper.
I thought a couple statements stood out in the Gospel Coalition's founding document:
From the preamble: "On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of personal consumerism and the politicization of the faith; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral relativism."
From the theological vision of ministry: "If we seek service rather than power, we may have significant cultural impact. But if we seek direct power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change."
The Gospel Coalition's core group of pastors plans to meet yearly. Leaders have tentatively planned a national conference for April 2009. A website, www.thegospelcoalition.org, will be forthcoming in June with video of all the conference sessions and loads of links to resources that promote the Gospel Coalition vision.
As Carson told me today, this group could not have come together five years ago. Make of that what you will, but something's stirring in the evangelical movement. The Gospel Coalition seeks nothing less than a return to the theological consensus enjoyed in the days of neo-evangelicalism, led by Billy Graham, Carl Henry, Harold John Ockenga, and many others. That might be a goal more difficult to achieve than pioneering evangelicalism in the post-war Protestant scene, split as it was between fundamentalism and liberalism.