Posted On February 25, 2020

Uncommon Partnerships a Theology of Partnerships

by | Feb 25, 2020 | The Gospel and the Church, Featured

Why Partnerships[1]

There is a discernible theology of partnership in the Word of God. The purpose of this article is not to list and evaluate every instance of “partnership,” “partner,” or “partaker” in the Holy Bible (a worthy undertaking that), but rather to communicate the value of partnerships for Christian churches and other ministries, like seminaries.[2] However, we are obliged to cite one of the most famous passages on partnership: Philippians 1:7.[3] Indeed, Paul uses the word  (κοινωνία, koinonia) or its derivative in 1:5, 1:7, 4:15.[4] The Homan Christian Standard Bible chose to translate the Greek to the word partner, while others, like the Geneva Bible (1599) used the word “fellowship.” The New Testament team for the New American Standard Version of the Holy Bible chose “partakers.” Thus, we read:

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:7 HCSB).

I thank my God, having you in perfect memory, (Always in all my prayers for all you, praying with gladness) Because of the fellowship which ye have in the Gospel, from the [b]first day unto now” (1599 Geneva Bible).

“For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me” (New American Standard Bible).

The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible (ESV) chose “partnership” for 1:5: “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”[5]

St. Paul dispatches the Greek word συγκοινωνός (Sugkoinonos) to communicate his understanding of the alliance between himself and the church at Philippi. This masculine noun— συγκοινωνός—is a compound of σύν (soon) and κοινωνός (koy-no-nos). And, yes, κοινωνός (koy-no-nos) is a branch of its famous root, κοινός (koy-nos’).

There is a powerful relationship between the vertical κοινωνός with God, through Christ Jesus, our Lord, and any prospective partnership on earth.

Partnerships in Christianity exist in order to advance the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and apply the Gospel of Christ to all of and in every area of His creation. These partnerships exist because “we do more together” to fulfill the mission of God in the world. Partnerships are, thus, means of seeking to realize Biblical mandates by merging and managing physical resources— whether human resources, matériel, logistics, time, or other variables —or demonstrating metaphysical realities—Christian unity, God’s love—for the sake of God’s glory. Partnerships may not only achieve primary stated missions but realize or demonstrate subsidiary goals that could be equally important. The by-products of Christian partnerships can include, but are not limited to:

Efficiency: Partnerships may demonstrate godly stewardship. Many goals for the Church are beyond the available resources of any one individual believer or Christian community. The concept of working together in partnerships is akin to the Electoral College of the United States in which even the smallest state has a vote in electing the President. Partnerships create a way for small churches, seminaries, and other agencies to have the same impact as large churches.

Equity: Partnerships may overcome relationship inequities (e.g., “Paternalism,” misunderstood needs) by supplying other needed perspectives.

Enlargement: Partnerships have the potential for expanding the reach of the Church.

The Association of Theological Schools in North America has identified “partnerships” as a key value to be cultivated by member institutions (in a January 2020 communication with this author). We have identified key partnership areas that will advance the mission adopted by the Faculty (in the February 14, 2020 meeting): through seminary-church alliances (e.g., the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the International Ministry Fellowship, NAPARC churches, the Anglican Church in North America [ACNA], and, in the Erskine Seminary Greenville extension: a consortium, including First Presbyterian Church, and Greenville ARP, and Mitchell Road PCA).

Our mission adopted and recommended to the Board by the Faculty of Erskine Theological Seminary is this:

Erskine Theological Seminary prepares men and women to fulfill the Gospel of Jesus Christ through theological higher education that is ecclesial, missional, and confessional.

It remains, then, to articulate our understanding of partnerships, their possibilities, limits, and modus operandi.

Scriptural Warrant for Gospel Partnerships

The very concept of the Church—qahal (קהל); ekklesia (έκκλησία)— from Moses and “the congregation” in the wilderness (Exodus 16:2) to the Redeemed People of God throughout all ages (Ephesians 3:21) assumes community and, therefore, cooperative corporate mission. Jesus speaks to the plurality of disciples. This does not preclude the necessity of individual believers sharing their Christian faith in everyday life (e.g., Acts 8: 1, 27-39). However, the Church is literally “the assembled ones,“ so, too, our Lord prayed, “Our Father which art in Heaven . . .” (Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2). The history of the expansion of the Kingdom of God is replete with this ideal.

Partnerships are not only conceptual expressions but also practical necessities. Only Gospel partnerships—no single member but the whole Body—can approach the sheer size of the missional undertaking. To evangelize the earth, to declare the Lordship in Christ over all creation, and in every human endeavor necessarily require a cooperative global enterprise.

Here are some scriptures that speak to partnerships as both divine concepts and revealed necessity:

“Bless the LORD, all His works in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul” (Psalm 103:22 ESV).

“My mouth will declare the praise of the LORD; let every creature bless His holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:21 ESV).

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21 NKJV).

Types of Partnerships

The Lord Jesus Christ taught us that we who are born again to eternal life through His name, baptized into the one, holy, and Apostolic Church catholic, in the name of the Triune God, should be as one (e.g., John 17:21). He also taught us that there is an expectation for us to be engaged in acts of mercy for the common good (e.g., to be Good Samaritans, i.e., Luke 10:25-37). Jesus compares the general to the specific with “how much more” statements:

  • In Luke 11:13: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
  • In Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
  • In Luke 12:28: If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

This method of teaching moves from the broadest possible expression of, e.g., God’s care for Creation, to His special covenantal love of a believer. Yet, it would by good and necessary inference include others in-between the extreme ends of dead sparrows and faithful followers of Christ (Luke 12:6, 7). So, too, there is a spectrum of Christian cooperation via partnerships with others to express God’s mission in the world. We could divide the spectrum into, at least, three types of Christian partnerships that have Biblical warrant, historical precedent, and continuing relevance.

  1. Denominational Partnerships are Christian covenantal communities of confessional-practical-organizational unity. Such partnerships exist by confessing Christians bound by a common doctrine, polity, and mission to bear witness to the gospel in nations, geographic regions, or even unto ethnicities (e.g., the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church of Mexico, or the Anglican Church of Uganda). This primary partnership is characterized by mutual submission in the Lord in matters of doctrine, praxis, polity, and mission. Christian denominations such as the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) or the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) are readily accepted and easily recognized expressions of denominational partnerships. Denominational partnerships, by the very definition, are highly homogeneous in terms of doctrine and polity, worship, and other classifications. Denominational partnerships, ordinarily, create the easiest and most efficient route to cooperation for the sake of the gospel (e.g., World Mission, the North American Mission Board, The [Anglican] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel).
  2. Evangelical Partnerships are expressed agreements between two or more “like-minded” believers, organizations, or Christian communities of conviction (i.e., denominations) for the purpose of fulfilling (whether comprehensively or compartmentally) the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Such partnerships are based upon primary doctrinal essentials and Gospel imperatives. In evangelical partnerships, there is a necessary recognition of respective theological and praxis convictions. Each esteems the other by cooperating where possible without asking each other to compromise on respective differences.
  3. Common-Grace Partnerships are agreements between Christians, whether individuals or corporate expressions of the Faith, and other human beings of any or no religion, for the purpose of expressing the nurture, protection, or advancement of human beings.[6], [7] The motivations for such partnerships are quite different between the two parties. For example, Christians may be engaged in feeding the hungry because we believe that God loves his own creation and commands that we love our neighbor. Recently, scholars have weighed in on how to express faith in concert with a post-Christian culture. James Davidson Hunter advocated “faithful presence,” in his To Change the World, while Miroslav Volf encouraged Christian to consider serving wisdom for “the common good” at the inter-religious table in A Public Faith.[8] Vincent Bacote of Wheaton College addresses the evangelistic method of these contemporary scholars by recovering the Kuyperian legacy of the “cultural mandate.” Bacote advocates an updating of the culture mandate as “transformational without triumphalism.”[9] Bacote’s model is refreshingly similar to the call by Mark Laing for “Recovering Missional Ecclesiology in Theological Education.”[10] There are striking similarities between Kuyper and Leslie Newbigin as it relates to common grace as a means to engage unbelievers for the mission of God in the world.[11]

The “cultural mandate,” likewise, is a powerful force that drives common grace alliances for believers.[12] While secular organization are not designed for the purpose of accomplishing all the goals consistent with the gospel and God’s kingdom, nevertheless, some do function in a way and pursue goals that can help individual Christians and the Church pursue and accomplish God-glorifying goals.[13] While such partnerships are most often associated with the intervention of humanitarian relief, Common Grace Partnerships may be established for realizing other desired outcomes (e.g., scientific, military). An example of the Common Grace Partnership is the carefully crafted agreement between Christian denominations and the Department of Defense of the United States of America or, e.g., the British Ministry of Defense, to provide military chaplains for the Armed Forces and their respective missions.


The ordinary means of fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ is through the “means of grace”—Word, Sacrament, and Prayer—delivered through Gospel partnerships. These partnerships range from the most homogeneous—believers in a local church, local churches connected to each other in denominations (or, if you prefer: “associations,” provinces,” or “conventions”). There are Biblical mandates for such cooperative undertakings. There are benefits to partnerships that allow us “to do more together.” Partnerships may be classified by at least three different kinds: denominational, Evangelical, and Common Grace.

A Final Key to Success in Partnerships

It is not enough to define, justify, and classify partners for the sake of God’s mission in the world. Each partnership requires a working principle to preserve the essential convictions of respective parties. One might not think that the work of preserving the vital convictions is as challenging in Denominational Partnerships as it is in Common-Grace Partnerships. However, those of us who have served as churchmen for some time have long ago recognized that this is not necessarily so. There are not only nuances of essential convictions that are present within one denomination, but there are also regional issues, financial issues, and other variables to be considered. So, how does it work? How can a Baptist church and an Anglican parish form a monthly prayer meeting to lift up other churches in their city? The answer is a method that is quite ancient and quite familiar to many: “cooperation without compromise.” Those of us who have served in the Armed Forces as Chaplains have done so with the clergy of the same faith, similar faiths, radically different faiths, and no faith. “Cooperation without compromise” means precisely what it says: We seek to cooperate with respect as far as possible in the common mission without ever compromising one’s own convictions or supposing the other party would compromise his convictions.

One who practiced cooperation without compromise in forming partnerships to bless his community was the Reverend Dr. Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818-1902), esteemed pastor of First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, Louisiana.[14] Dr. Palmer served before the Civil War, was exiled during the Civil War, and returned to serve during the trying decades of Reconstruction. Dr. Palmer was struck by a streetcar on 05 May 1902 and died on  25 May 1902. No Presbyterian minister in our nation’s history surpassed Palmer’s vocal conviction to the standards of the Calvinistic and Reformed faith.[15] But here is the thing: Benjamin Morgan Palmer had a Calvinistic heart that beat within a catholic spirit. On numerous memorable occasions, during those hard years of Reconstruction, when some sought a scapegoat to blame for shortages, unfair restrictions, and punitive Federal measures, they blamed the Hebrew community in the Crescent City. So, when they blamed the Jews, Benjamin Morgan Palmer stood up with the Jews. He was well known in the leading synagogues of New Orleans as he would accept an invitation to preach on Shabbat, to literally stand with and support the Jewish population of the city. Temple Sinai wrote in their jubilee publication the following:

“There have been many New Orleans ministers whose moral and spiritual leadership extended far beyond the pale of their denomination, who even wielded considerable civic influence. The commanding figure in this gallery of spiritual and civic guides was, by universal admission, Dr. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, a pulpit orator of the highest distinction, a theologian of clear-cut convictions, an eager student of history and literature. His dealings with the Jewish community deserve to stand . . . [with others] as shining examples of inter-religious respect and sympathy.”[16]

Whenever some blamed Roman Catholics, he stood with the Catholic priests of the parishes there. When Dr. Palmer passed away after being hit by a streetcar in the spring of 1902, the governor, as well as the mayor of New Orleans, declared a day of mourning. Yet, even more, telling about the man’s character was the sight of certain notable figures in the long processional of mourners, which followed the casketed remains of Benjamin Morgan Palmer. Bearded rabbis and Roman-collared priests wept for the devout Presbyterian who protected their communities during days of affliction.

Truly, Dr. Palmer’s theology became his biography. And a Calvinistic heart moved this remarkable minister to forge “uncommon partnerships” that others found uncomfortable.

But there is One who said, “Love God. Love your neighbor.” And shall we do any less? For the Second Person of the Trinity left his own community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to partner with those he created. As creature mocked, cursed, and crucified Creator on timber he made, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV). And the uncommon partnership of God the Son with his own rebellious creation remains the greatest demonstration of grace and mercy the world has ever known. Let grateful men and women unite to become living answers to Christ’s high priestly prayer that we become “one” (John 17: 21).[17] This Presbyterian minister is not ashamed to quote the great Methodist, John Wesley, to say, “Friend, if your heart is with my heart, give me your hand.”[18]

We do not sacrifice our convictions to labor for Christ with other Christians; or, even other human beings no matter their spiritual condition. Yet, according to Jesus, some in the world will take notice that God’s love transcends all divisions. And those who curse Christ today May be preaching Christ tomorrow.


Quotes on Uncommon Partnerships

Evangelical Partnerships

  • “I am happy to have fellowship with the Capitol Hill Baptist crowd, and happy that we can do so without feeling the need to engage in mortal combat. Separate denominational affiliations facilitate that.” — Carl Trueman, Professor of Bible and Religion, Grove City College, in 9Marks, “Are Denominations Important?” “
  • “While being loyal to our own denominations, Christians and churches should regularly, joyfully, and zealously work together across denominational boundaries. Within a shared commitment to the gospel, our churches must be seen working together, and our vision for mission and ministry must be shaped not by our denominational affiliation but rather by the Great Commission of the reigning king Jesus Christ.”— Rev. Richard Phillips, Second Presbyterian Church (PCA), Greenville, SC in 9Marks, “Are Denominations Important?” “
  • “If we have a common understanding of the gospel, there are some things we can do together, but there are also some things we cannot do together.”
  • “I am glad that we evangelicals are agreeing more and more on issues like life, advocating for justice, and protecting victims. This is good and helpful to our witness and the growth of the kingdom! Let’s do this more and more.
  • We can train for evangelism and cooperate in such endeavors as well. And, there are some places (like church planting) where we learn together, but plant separately.
  • That’s ecumenism that takes seriously that the gospel makes us one family, but also takes doctrine seriously enough that we know that we can’t just pretend differences don’t exist.”— I’m an Evangelical Ecumenist? What Does That Even Mean? Working with other believers on common issues by Dr. Ed Stetzer (Christianity Today, December 15, 2017;

Common Grace Partnerships

  • Sixteen years later [after Palmer preached the sermon on an esteemed rabbi in New Orleans], on May 28, 1902, Palmer died in New Orleans. Rabbi Max Heller . . . at Temple Sinai, extolled Palmer as one who represented the staunchest orthodoxy in his denomination and yet one who “swept away every barrier,” and, therefore, “was the minister of all of us.” The Reform rabbi made an interesting choice of words by juxtaposing “orthodoxy” with the elimination of all barriers, a characteristic usually not as- associated with religious orthodoxy unless the barriers are swept away so as to produce uniform beliefs. —Scott Langston, Interaction and Identity: Jews and Christians in Nineteenth Century New Orleans, Southern Jewish History, Journal of the Southern Jewish Historical Society, Mark K. Bauman, Editor Rachel B. Heimovics, Managing Editor, 2000 Volume 3.
  • “The word ‘ecumenical’, or the original Greek ‘oikoumene’, is derived from a root word meaning to ‘inhabit’. It literally means the ‘inhabited earth’ or ‘the whole world’. ‘Oikoumene’ is a relational dynamic concept which extends beyond the fellowship of Christians and churches to the human community within the whole of creation.” — Relationships with other denominations, What is Ecumenism, The British Methodist Church,
  • Statement of Faith of Samaritan’s Purse Ministries on working with others for the cause of relieving suffering of human beings:

“We believe that human life is sacred from conception to its natural end; and that we must have concern for the physical and spiritual needs of our fellowmen. Psalm 139:13; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Matthew 22:37-39; Romans 12:20-21; Galatians 6:10.”


Scripture to Guide Partnerships

“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:22-23 (NKJV)

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;  that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:11-16 NKJV).

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalms 133:1 NKJV)!

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV).

“Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:16 NKJV).

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:1-4 NKJV).

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:9-12 NKJV).

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (NKJV)

“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all Acts 4:32-33 NKJV).

“John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward’” (Mark 9:38-41).


Bacote, Vincent. “Beyond ‘faithful Presence’: Abraham Kuyper’s Legacy for Common Grace and Cultural Development.” Journal of Markets and Morality 16, no. 1 (2013).

Benne, Robert. The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-First Century: Fortress Press, 1995.

Bibles, Crossway. “The Esv Study Bible.” Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles  (2008).

Carson, Donald A. Christ and Culture Revisited: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2012.

Carter, Craig A. Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective: Brazos Press, 2006.

Duncan, Christopher. “Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Southern Presbyterian Divine.” 2008.

Hauerwas, Stanley, and William H Willimon. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition): Abingdon Press, 2014.

Heller, Max. Jubilee Souvenir of Temple Sinai, 1872-1922, 1922.

Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Kuyper, Abraham. “Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Wm. B.” B. Eerdmans Pub  (1931).

Laing, Mark. “Recovering Missional Ecclesiology in Theological Education.” International review of mission 98, no. 1 (2009): 11-24.

Laing, Mark TB, and Paul Weston. Theology in Missionary Perspective: Lesslie Newbigin’s Legacy: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012.

Little, Christopher R. “Partnerships in Pauline Perspective.”  (2004).

Milton, Michael Anthony. Cooperation without Compromise: Faithful Gospel Witness in a Pluralistic Setting: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006.

Murray, John. Collected Writings of John Murray: Vol 2 Selected Lectures in Systematic Theology: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977.

Newbigin, L. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Nongbri, Brent. “Two Neglected Textual Variants in Philippians 1.” Journal of Biblical Literature 128, no. 4 (2009): 803-08.

Oden, T.C. John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine, vol. v. 1: Zondervan, 1994.

Richard Niebuhr, H. Christ and Culture: Harper and Row New York, 1951.

Schaeffer, Francis, and C Everett Koop. “Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”.” Flemming H. Revell  (1980): 68.

Strange, Daniel. “Co-Belligerence and Common Grace.” Cambridge Papers 14, no. 3 (2005).

Volf, Miroslav. A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good: Brazos Press, 2011.

[1] I am indebted to Professor Kyle Nel for the phrase, “uncommon partnerships.” See Furr, Nathan, Kyle Nel, and Thomas Zoega Ramsoy. Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future: Harvard Business Press, 2018.

[2] See Appendix 1 for Scriptures addressing partnerships.

[3] For a study on a theology of partnerships in the Pauline corpus see Christopher R Little, “Partnerships in Pauline Perspective,”  (2004). The earliest collection of Pauline manuscripts with Philippians (eight of the thirteen epistles, all but Philippians and Colossians being incomplete, because of damage) is P46. Brent Nongbri has made a significant contribution to the study of partnerships by identifying a textual variant in Philippians 1:7 [in P46]. The force of Nongbri’s reading “highlights Paul’s . . . divine benefaction . . .” (p. 808). Such a reading reenforces the power of partnerships as imitations of covenantal relationships. See Brent Nongbri, “Two Neglected Textual Variants in Philippians 1,” Journal of Biblical Literature 128, no. 4 (2009).

[4] St. Paul employs κοινωνία  in 1:5; συγκοινωνός  in 1:7; and κοινωνέω in Philippians 4:15.

[5] Crossway Bibles, “The Esv Study Bible,” Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles  (2008).

[6] The late Francis Schaeffer used the phrase “co belligerence” to describe ‘common grace” partnerships. Timothy George has used “ecumenism of the trenches.” I agree with Daniel Strange. “Common grace” is a more suitable term for a Christian alliance with non-Christian parties. See Daniel Strange, “Co-Belligerence and Common Grace,” Cambridge Papers 14, no. 3 (2005). Francis Schaeffer, and C Everett Koop, “Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”,” Flemming H. Revell  (1980): 64. Timothy George quote Quotation attributed to Timothy George in Chuck Colsen’s, ‘Modernist Impasse, Christian Opportunity’, First Things, 104, June/July 2000, p.19. See, also, John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray: Vol 2 Selected Lectures in Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), 93-122.

[7] “Common grace” is a phrase used without reference today. Yet, it was Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) in the Princeton Stone Lectures of 1989. See pages 178-79, and 199 in Abraham Kuyper, “Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Wm. B,” B. Eerdmans Pub  (1931).

[8] See James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010), Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Brazos Press, 2011).

[9] Vincent Bacote, “Beyond ‘faithful Presence’: Abraham Kuyper’s Legacy for Common Grace and Cultural Development,” Journal of Markets and Morality 16, no. 1 (2013): 103. Bacote draws from the classic studies on cooperation without compromise for “common grace, including H Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (Harper and Row New York, 1951). He also cites contemporary voices like Robert Benne, The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-First Century (Fortress Press, 1995). Donald A Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2012). Craig A Carter, Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective (Brazos Press, 2006). Stanley Hauerwas, and William H Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition) (Abingdon Press, 2014).

[10] Mark Laing, “Recovering Missional Ecclesiology in Theological Education,” International review of mission 98, no. 1 (2009).

[11] See, e.g., Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989, 1989). For a study of Newbigin’s theology of mission see Mark TB Laing, and Paul Weston, Theology in Missionary Perspective: Lesslie Newbigin’s Legacy (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012).

[12] The evangelical responses of James Davidson Hunter’s “faithful presence,” and Miroslav Volf’s “common wisdom” are critiqued in Bacote.

[13] I am indebted to the Rev. Dr. David Smith, Chairman of the Erskine Theological Seminary committee for the better crafting of this particular statement. This sentence is actually verbatim from Dr. Smith’s edit. I did not feel it needed any change whatsoever as it more clearly articulated my intentions.

[14] See, e.g., Christopher Duncan, “Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Southern Presbyterian Divine” (2008).

[15] The legacy of B.M. Palmer has by all accounts been marked by references to his position on slavery in the antebellum south and the “Lost Cause” movement of Reconstruction. In an era of deconstruction the board of trustees of Rhodes College removed Palmer’s name from one of the halls of that venerable campus. Several Presbyterian ministers advised the committee to reach this decision. Nevertheless, Palmer is called “the father” of Rhodes College in the dedication plaque on campus. I located Dr. Palmer’s oil portrait from a sitting—only one of two, according to PCA Historical Center—when I was senior minister at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. The other painting is at Tulane University, another institution that is present because of the labors of Dr. Palmer. The painting in my office came about while Dr.. Palmer was the Moderator of the Southern Presbyterian Church. He resided in the manse with Dr. Thomas McCallie, pastor of First Church, during the siege of Chattanooga (October-November 1863). His presence among the flock and his ministry in the pulpit remained influential to families down to my own day. The Women in the Church paid to restore the painting. I displayed it in the entrance to my study as an example, not of the partisan stains and mistakes of that time, but of the legacy of “cooperation without compromise.” For more on that phrase, see Michael Anthony Milton, Cooperation without Compromise: Faithful Gospel Witness in a Pluralistic Setting (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006). See This Day in Presbyterian History, January 25 (PCA Historical Society): The article is written by Mr. David Cooper who served as an editor at the Chattanooga Times and as a ruling elder during my tenure at First Presbyterian Church.

[16] Max Heller, Jubilee Souvenir of Temple Sinai, 1872-1922 (1922), 32.

[17] The key passage for Evangelical Partnerships: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” ( John 17:21). The passage moves from Jesus’ petition for Christian unity — not organizational unity, but spiritual unity which has the proleptic seed of hope for a more visible expression, i.e., partnerships— out of the fullness of the triune Godhead and expands by extension to God’s mission in the world.

[18] This quotation is from Wesley’s “Catholic Spirit,” in his works, i.14, 2:88. Thomas Oden explains the meaning of this catholicity in T.C. Oden, John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine, vol. v. 1 (Zondervan, 1994).


Interesting statement. I take it this was one from Ed Stetzer? This is one that I would disagree with from the standpoint of my ecclesiology and perspective on systematic theology. One’s view of baptism does strike at the heart of one’s view of the very nature of salvation and the church, and thus, I could not bring myself to help establish a congregation with someone who I regarded as seriously confused on these matters. It’s not to say that this would lead me to call their salvation into question, but simply that there is not enough “in common” to forge a cooperative work of establishing a church congregation.


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