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Keswick Convention | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Keswick Convention

Historical Note:

Stephen Barabas described Keswick  as "[a]n annual summer gathering of evangelical Christians, held since 1875 at Keswick in the Lake District of Northern England.  It had its origin in the Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaign in Britain in 1873-74 and in the writings of the American religious leaders Asa Mahan, W. E. Boardman, and especially Mr. and Mrs. Robert P. Smith.  The first Keswick Convention was preceded by a number of similar conferences held by Smith throughout England and by larger ones held at Broadlands and at Oxford in 1874 and at Brighton in 1875.  T. D. Harford Battersby, vicar of the Anglican church in Keswick, held the first Keswick Convention on his own church grounds, and the meetings, lasting one week, have been held there every week since.  The convention has become the mother of similar conventions not only in England but in many other countries throughout the world.

From the beginning the convention has had as its aim the deepening of the spiritual life.  It differs from the average Bible conference in that it aims not merely to impart Bible knowledge and spiritual uplift, but to be a spiritual clinic where defeated and ineffective Christians may be restored to spiritual health.  It stands for no particular brand of denominational theology.  Its motto is "All One in Jesus Christ."

Since the convention has a definite aim and purpose to accomplish in its meetings, the teaching given during the week normally follows a progressive order.  On the first day the addresses focus on sin and its disabling effects in the life of the believer.  On the second day the addresses deal with the provision God has made through the cross to deal with the problem of sin, not only its guilt but its power.  Much is made of Romans 6-8, where Paul states that the believer is identified with Christ in his death to sin and is therefore set free from slavery to sin.  Keswick does not teach the possibility of the eradication of the sin nature or the attainability of sinlessness in this life.  The third day is devoted to teaching on consecration, which is man's response to God's call for complete abandonment to the rule of Christ, involving both a crisis and a process.  The fourth day is occupied with teaching on the Spirit-filled life.  All Christians, it is taught, receive the Holy Spirit at regeneration, but all are not controlled by him.  The fullness of the spirit is made experiential by abandonment to Christ and abiding in that state of abandonment.  On Friday the theme of the convention is Christian service, which is the result of the Spirit-filled life.  Keswick has always stresses the importance of missions and has deeply influenced the missionary movement.

The majority of Keswick speakers have naturally come from England, but many have come from other parts of the world.  Among the better known are Donald G. Barnhouse, F. B. Meyer, H. C. G. Moule, Andrew Murray, John R. W. Stott, Hudson Taylor, and R. A. Torrey.  The addresses given at the convention are published annually in a volume usually called either The Keswick Convention or The Keswick Week.

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