It's wonderful stuff—God is breaking down the walls of division between different groups of people and making one new humanity in Christ.
But personally I'm challenged. The talk was given at a conference of the FIEC: the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. Now, I self-identify (as one does these days) as an FIEC kind of person. And, like many FIEC-type people, I am prepared to travel a fair distance each week in order to be in a Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming church with other like-minded people. In other words, in order to get to a church where the message is clearly proclaimed that, because of God's grace, all the barriers have been brought down and we are all one in Christ, I am prepared to make my way past plenty of churches made up predominantly of people who are different from me—and those differences, by and large, are most noticeably differences in social background (the middle-aged and younger people in my church are mostly university graduates and their families, who have moved to York from elsewhere, with very few proper local people).
So how can I express my commitment to this gospel of God's new humanity, both in wanting to be part of a church that proclaims that gospel clearly, and in wanting to identify with those members of God's new humanity who live in my local area?
One solution, obviously, is to make sure I live very close to a church that proclaims the gospel clearly. But when that's not the case, I'm genuinely not sure what the "right" approach is. Should I support the verbal proclamation of this gospel by travelling a long distance to a church (a "commuter church") made up of people just like me, or should I support the visible proclamation of this gospel by identifying myself with a community of God's people in my local area (a "community church"), even if that church doesn't (verbally) proclaim the gospel so clearly?
Of course, I'm not the first person to feel this tension. I think the recent spurt of "church planting" initiatives aims to deal with this issue. A thriving "commuter church" in the centre of a town or city establishes a congregation in one of the suburbs or surrounding villages, either by starting something new, or by a bulk transfer of people from the central church to an existing church, typically one that is small and struggling. In that way, the "commuter church" becomes something of a "hub" for the surrounding "community churches", providing support, training, resources and teaching in a way that a smaller church is unable to do on its own. There's a lot to be said for this approach, and there are various ways it could work out in practice, either within existing denominational structures or apart from them.