The original idea for the ‘Gospel Coalition’ came about during a meeting at a New York cafe in 2001 between the co-founders, Don Carson and Tim Keller. In 2005 the pair started a Pastors' Colloquium, which formed the basis of TGC. This colloquium produced foundational documents—doctrinal confessions and a theological vision for ministry—which remains the banner over all TGC does. The organization was officially created in 2007. Their vision is simple: ‘A biblically grounded and united mission is the only enduring future for the church. We desire to champion the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with clarity, compassion, courage and joy – gladly linking hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic and class lines. We invite all Christians to join us in an effort to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel of Christ so that we truly speak and live for him in a way which clearly communicates to our age.’ Also in 2007, the TGC website was set up to provide resources on gospel-centered ministry. Since 2009, 35 million people have visited the TGC website 92 million times and have viewed more than 168 million pages. The site currently contains over 80,000 audio, video, and text resources.
During 2014, a series of conversations began on the advantages of starting a similar movement here in Australia. Many, many Christians across Australia have found (and will continue to find) real benefit and encouragement from the TGC website – however, there are significantly different cultural and theological challenges to life and ministry in Australia. In addition, a growing consensus was emerging that we urgently need to form and foster vibrant gospel partnerships on the ground across our cities, States and Territories. And so last August, a group of 13 pastors and leaders from across our Nation met in Sydney for the first time. In February, a follow-up meeting took place in Melbourne, and the Council of TGC Australia was formed, with Gary Millar appointed as the first Chair, and CS Tang and Peter Adam appointed to the Executive. A Constitution for the new organization was also agreed.
The most ‘Frequently Asked Question’ about TGC Australia so far has been ‘Are you just a branch of the US version?’ The short answer to that is ‘no’. TGC Australia is a completely separate entity from TGC, although one which very happily shares the same ‘theological DNA’ as expressed in the Foundation Documents. The need for an authentically Australian TGC was recognized from the beginning on both sides of the Pacific. As Don Carson has explained, when it comes to TGC's international vision, “We've been clear from the beginning that we don't want [overseas groups] to be American-controlled.” Tim Keller adds that it's vital for such TGC-inspired partnerships to be and remain indigenous. Both Carson and Keller have been hugely helpful as we have sought to establish TGC Australia, and Ben Peays, the Executive Director of TGC and the website editorial staff, have been unsparingly generous with their time and energy. However, TGC Australia is and will remain an entirely Australian entity.
Whilst there will be several ways in which the role of TGC Australia will parallel that of the original TGC, there will also be key differences. As in the US, we see our website as a key part of our ministry. Thanks to the generosity of the TGC website team, the TGC Australia site will be live from mid-April.
However, given the very different cultural and theological context here, we are also completely committed to a ‘ground up approach’ to encouraging gospel ministry - we do not want to set up yet another Christian organization to compete with existing churches, ministries, or organizations. We are not a church or a denomination and (apart from the Council-members) we will not be asking individuals or congregations to enter into any relationship of formal membership with us. We do want to enable and support an increase in mutual recognition, mutual information-sharing, mutual prayer, and mutual support among our many churches, colleges, ministries, and organizations. We are sure this will enrich all our ministries, enable gospel fellowship across Australia, and allow each of us to contribute our special gifts to a common goal. This is why we are holding a National Leaders’ Consultation in Brisbane in July. We have invited leaders from a wide range of ministries, and we are committed to listening to them as we seek to build and encourage gospel partnerships in Australia. There will be input from Don Carson, Peter Jensen, and TGC Australia Council members. During this Consultation we will celebrate the national launch of TGC Australia at the iconic Brisbane City Hall.
This ethos is reflected in the following affirmations, adopted by the TGC Australia Council earlier this year: