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Press Release: Response from UCCF to the SPRING HARVEST decision to end the Word Alive Bible teaching week after 14 years

Issued today by my employer, UCCF.

FOR the past 14 years, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and Keswick Ministries have been delighted to partner Spring Harvest in organising Word Alive, one of Europe's top Bible Study weeks with a vibrant student track aimed at young people. Widely recognised, orthodox Bible teaching has been the hallmark of the event.

In 2003, the Revd Steve Chalke, one of the Spring Harvest Event Leadership Team, and a member of their Council of Management (trustees), wrote The Lost Message of Jesus. In it, he promoted unorthodox views over the nature of the Atonement, and hit national media headlines over his controversial and graphic description of Penal Substitution.

The Word Alive committee, of which UCCF is a part, believed such views to be contrary to orthodox Biblical teaching and as such, decided that the Revd Steve Chalke could not teach from a Word Alive platform.

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) held a Theological Forum at which various theologians debated with the Revd Steve Chalke. As a result, that organisation decided to change its constitution to clarify where the EA Council of Management stood on the issue. In May 2006 Spring Harvest advised the leadership of Word Alive that the Revd Steve Chalke was able to sign up to the new and revised EA constitution and therefore requested he be allowed to preach from the Word Alive platform in 2007. This request was refused as Mr Chalke had publicly confirmed he had not changed his personal theological views.

In September 2006 the Word Alive Committee were called to a meeting by Spring Harvest and told that as they would not include the Revd Steve Chalke, the 14-year partnership was at an end. Spring Harvest said they regretted they were putting a personality ahead of partnership. Spring Harvest announced it would be promoting its own student-based week at Minehead in 'week one', resourced by Fusion, of which the Revd Steve Chalke is on the Council of Reference.

Our decision to allow only orthodox Christian teaching from Word Alive platforms, and Spring Harvest's subsequent decision has caused enormous pain and regret. However, UCCF believes it can no longer work with those whose understanding of the nature of the gospel and the distinctive of the atonement is so different to theirs, and mainstream evangelicals in the UK and across the world.

There comes a point when loyalty to the gospel, as we believe it to be clearly set out in Scripture, and the drive for unity with others can come into conflict, and we have reached that point.

Meanwhile, a new 'Word Alive' event, organised jointly by Keswick Ministries and UCCF has been planned for 7-11 April 2008 at Pwllheli, where speakers already confirmed include John Piper, Terry Virgo and Don Carson. There will be an increased capacity and further details will be released shortly.

Rumours circulating that the break-up of the partnership was down to Word Alive's refusal to accept women speakers is totally refuted. UCCF regularly has women speakers on its platforms, and it is a matter of public fact that Keswick does too. The key issue is Spring Harvest's corporate support for one of its own trustees, the Revd Steve Chalke, over Biblical orthodoxy on such a central issue as Atonement.


Quotes can be attributed to: The Revd Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF: The Christian Unions.

For further information: Revd Richard Cunningham (UCCF) 01608 659134, 0783 426 9780 (m); Paul Eddy (PR to UCCF): 01202 522177, 07851 007 187 (m);

Related Links:
The word is out
Adrian Warnock on the Word Alive - Spring Harvest split
New Word Alive Website


  1. It's a helpful clarification, which gives us the bottom line: when faced with a choice between orthodoxy and the preservation of a relationship, Spring Harvest chose the relationship. On any other issue you might be able to empathise with that position. But not on this issue!

  2. I dont understand. Is UCCF at odds with the EA in its decision?

    I thought the EA had essentially told Steve to go away and have a good rethink, engage with real penal substitution, realise the real social implications it, and meantime stop preaching that this is what evangelicals should believe.

    I know the newwordalive has already got Virgo, Piper & Carson, which will help hold things together, but if SH are giving their student stuff to Fusion, wont that confuse matters even more? You can bet your bottom dollar that you'll get people saying "Fusion are ok with chalke's gospel, they've lost the message of Jesus (excuse the pun)"...I've already heard tons of misrepresentation of Chalke & Mann, saying "they dont believe in sin, wrath or condemnation". They do. The misunderstanding is what happens at atonement. I'm dreading the first conversation that I'll have to talk about this, cos I bet many conservatives will basically increase the division by similar misrepresentation.

    sorry for a muddy post, but as I come from a church background of "unity-over-clarity", I am trying to figure out what I will be able to say to my church friends, without making it seem a Fusion/conservative extremists split.

  3. Chris,

    The EA haven't commented yet on the situation and so it's hard to know what they think.

    SH giving their student stuff to Fusion will (if it happens) be ultra confusing for everyone, but that's not really something UCCF had any control over. Furthermore, if Fusion doesn't have a problem working within the unorthodox framework that SH are now adopting (and I think that is an if, as I haven't heard any official confirmation that they actually are involved) then the assumptions that follow aren't altogether unfair.

    I think there is at least some debate (rather more than that) about whether Chalke and Mann believe in wrath the way the Bible teaches it.

    I guess for your church friends, the question is "how important do we think the truth is that Jesus took the punishment for our sins?" UCCF think it's really important, and that is a convictional and historical stance. I think you could have a great conversation about why it is so important - it's great news that it's true!

    Big up my brother.

  4. Pete Broadbent, Spring Harvest Leadership Team, writes:

    The UCCF statement is, I am afraid, factually incorrect in a number of areas. But rather than make this into a major civil war, let me at least post the Spring Harvest statement:

    Spring Harvest, Keswick and UCCF (the three partners in Word Alive) agreed to go their separate ways. The statement we produced at the time reads as follows:

    “2007 will be the last year of Spring Harvest Word Alive. The constituent organisations – Keswick Ministries, UCCF and Spring Harvest – will be ending a partnership that has lasted 14 years, and have agreed to go their separate ways.

    Word Alive was originally conceived as a distinctive event within Spring Harvest, drawing Christians from a more theologically conservative church background to Butlins for a week with a strong emphasis on expository bible teaching and a major input for students. The partnership has been a fruitful one and we thank God for the way he has worked through this event over the years.

    Of late, it has been difficult to accommodate Word Alive as a separate week within the total mix, and after much discussion, the Spring Harvest Council of Management gave notice that Spring Harvest Word Alive could not continue beyond this year.

    Spring Harvest wish the Word Alive partners well and we separate thanking God for the part the other plays in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the UK today.”

    Various people have since attempted to "spin" the reasons why we decided to go our separate ways for their own purposes. That's their decision. It's not where Spring Harvest are. Wallace Benn and Pete Broadbent stood on a public platform at Spring Harvest Word Alive, wished our respective events well, prayed for each other, and departed on the best of terms. The statement made jointly by the two of us on behalf of Spring Harvest Word Alive criticising Jeffrey John's inflammatory broadcast indicates that there is no way that anyone can represent Spring Harvest as being anywhere other than the orthodox biblical stance on the atonement.

    It’s terribly sad that UCCF have now come out with an official statement that simply isn’t true to what actually took place. I don’t want to get into a public row with UCCF, whose ministry among students I support. But I dispute most of what is contained in the statement as being either misunderstanding (wilful or otherwise) or total fabrication. I could hope that they would withdraw their statement and hold their peace. They seem to want to define themselves over against Spring Harvest, which I regret. We stand for the same faith and the same gospel.

  5. Pete
    (or someone writing on your behalf? you have a double introduction of yourself...)

    Anyways, thanks for posting your side of the issue. It would seem that UCCF are giving some clarity about the reasons why, from their angle, they felt like they couldn't be 'accomodated with the total mix'...

  6. Indeed Bish. There's nothing incompatible between the events described if the UCCF statement is just giving more details about why Word Alive didn't belong in the mix.

    I'd love to know what it is in the UCCF statement that isn't true.

  7. Judge for yourself. I can tell you that:

    1. Steve Chalke has never been proposed by the Spring Harvest Leadership Team as a speaker at Word Alive

    2. Spring Harvest are not in partnership with Fusion.

    3. UCCF have never allowed women speakers to speak on their own on the main stage at the Student Celebration, despite SH requiring it as policy

    4. We never said we were putting "personality ahead of partnership"

    5. We did not end the partnership over Steve Chalke, though it suits UCCF's myth-making to pretend that we did

    I have no idea why UCCF have released this press release. It looks very much like a piece of machismo propaganda to puff their new event.

  8. "2. Spring Harvest are not in partnership with Fusion."

    Has Student.Evolution stopped running?

    Do you mean that there are no specific plans for 2008 for an event with Fusion input, or that Spring Harvest have stopped working with Fusion?

    "3. UCCF have never allowed women speakers to speak on their own on the main stage at the Student Celebration, despite SH requiring it as policy"

    I am sad to hear that Spring Harvest have a policy that seems to require disobedience of 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

  9. It’s a very strange sounding situation. SO much so that I got in touch with Pete Broadbent and then UCCF and asked them both a few questions I had about it all. That didn’t completely clear everything up for me, so I just talked to someone at UCCF. He told me that there going to be a big Pow-Wow meeting about it all on Monday night (30th April), then there will be a press release. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting!!


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