Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers

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The Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers
Founded1947 (1947) (bible school)
1998 (1998) (charitable company)
FounderMajor W. Ian Thomas
TypeRegistered as a British charity and a private company, limited by guarantee with no share capital
Registration no.Company number 03573958
Charity number 1073139
Coordinates54°08′37″N 2°41′47″W / 54.1436°N 2.6963°W / 54.1436; -2.6963Coordinates: 54°08′37″N 2°41′47″W / 54.1436°N 2.6963°W / 54.1436; -2.6963
Area served
UK / World
MethodShort-term Bible schools
Residential holidays and conferences
Key people
Mark Thomas (Managing Director)
Phil Burt (Company Secretary)
Rob Whittaker (Bible School Principal)
Dougie Roy (Holiday Prog Director)
SubsidiariesCapernwray Parkland Farm Ltd (responsible for the running of the farm and estate of Capernwray Hall)
Increase £1.957m (2012) [1]
20 to 50
The Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers is an autonomous body but is part of a broader fellowship known as Torchbearers International.

The Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers (CMFOT), is an evangelical Christian educational organisation based at Capernwray Hall in north Lancashire, England. In 1998 the organisation was incorporated as a UK charitable company.

CMFOT was founded by Major W. Ian Thomas in 1947. Other centres have since been established around the world and together form a worldwide fellowship known as Torchbearers International, with headquarters at Ravencrest Chalet, Estes Park, Colorado, USA.

Torchbearers International's goal is to provide practical Christian education to develop personal spiritual growth, prepare people for an effective Church life, and teach a working knowledge of the Bible. The organization works by providing a number of Bible schools and Christian conference centres on the world.

CMFOT's founder, Major W. Ian Thomas (1914–2007), was an evangelical teacher and has often been identified with the Keswick Convention ministry. The main thrust of his theology is that of the exchanged life or 'Christ in You'.[2] Major Thomas' sons are continuing from their father in the wider organisation. Mark Thomas is the current managing director at Capernwray Hall, Chris Thomas is director at Ravencrest, Colorado, United States and Peter Thomas is director at Moss Vale, Australia.

Capernwray Bible School[edit]

Capernwray Hall was first used as a Bible School in Autumn 1947, to meet a demand for sound Bible teaching for the many new converts from holiday conferences held at the hall. The school has matured and grown over the years so that in the first decade of the 21st century, each Winter and Spring, the Hall fills to its capacity of 190 students, from sometimes as many as 30 different nations. During the Summer, Easter and Christmas breaks the facilities are used for Christian conferences and holidays.


Central to Torchbearers' theology is the belief that the way in which one lives the Christian life is by quieting or extinguishing the self, and allowing Christ to live his life through you in a very literal way. This is the essential teaching of the Keswick Convention, for which Thomas had been a featured speaker. His advocacy of Keswick theology earned him the label of a "strict Keswick" by M. James Sawyer Th.M., Ph.D in his article concerning the Keswick movement.[2] While there is no end to the verbiage and metaphor used to describe this process of Christ living through you (Thomas himself never used the term "extinguish oneself"), Major W. Ian Thomas states it in the following manner in the foreword he wrote for well-known Higher Life proponent Bob George in his Higher-Life opus "Classic Christianity".

There are those who have a life they never live. They have come to Christ and thanked Him only for what He did, but do not live in the power of who He is. Between the Jesus who "was" and the Jesus who "will be" they live in a spiritual vacuum, trying with no little zeal to live for Christ a life that only He can live in and through them, perpetually begging for what in Him they already have![3]

It is also seen in the above quote that it is part and parcel of Thomas' theology to reject the theology of Lordship salvation. In Thomas' view, one may be a believer saved from eternal hell, but not truly living as a full Christian. In this view those who are saved, but live as if they were unsaved are referred to as "carnal" Christians.


Thomas' doctrine of non-lordship salvation has been heavily criticized by some, including Evangelical teachers such as Brian Schwertly:[who?]

In such a scheme, professing Christians who refuse to submit to Christ as Lord and who refuse to lead lives characterized by obedience and holiness are called 'carnal Christians.' This heretical teaching has been called 'easy believism' and 'the carnal Christian heresy.' Sadly, such teaching has led countless thousands of poor souls down the broad path that leads to destruction.[4]

Some allege that this doctrine creates a division in the church of first-class "spiritual" Christians and second-class "carnal" Christians. As those who have found the principals of the "Higher Life" and put them into practice are those who are "Spiritual", and those who disagree with the "Higher Life" are carnal, they have come under the charge of having a certain spiritual smugness,[5] and an unwillingness to entertain debate and discussion.

Man in normality is to be distinguished from the animal kingdom by a quality of life and behavior, that can have no possible explanation apart from God Himself in the man. This fact is truth! It is not subject to debate nor dialogue [2]

It is further observed that it is man's consent that is the efficacious will that moves God to accomplish sanctification in the life of the believer:

The One who calls you to a life of righteousness is the One who by our consent lives that life of righteousness through you! [6]


  1. ^ The Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers, Annual Report and Financial Statements. 31 March 2012
  2. ^ a b "Ravencrest Chalet: The Main Thrust". Archived from the original on 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  3. ^ From the foreword of Classic Christianity by Bob George, Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1989.
  4. ^ The Necessity of Sanctification: A Brief Refutation of the Carnal Christian Heresy by Brian Schwertley (2001).
  5. ^ "A Critique Of The Higher Live Movement". Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
  6. ^ W. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961.

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