As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
“It is when all the ‘pieces’ come together that our response is really relevant and can have an impact on every level - locally, nationally, regionally and globally”, says WEA Communications Director Timothy Goropevsek.
The first Evangelical Alliance was born in 1846 in the United Kingom. The desire of British Christians to work together in the mission of God rapidly echoed in other countries. 170 years later, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) unites and represents 600 million Christians around the world.
We asked Timothy Goropevsek, Director of Communications of the WEA, about the role of this global platform.
He believes the refugee crisis is an example of how Christians need to work on every level to make a difference.
Question. The Alliance started in the UK with a movement of people who had a desire to reflect the unity of Christians. How does the WEA now work in this same direction?
A. While the majority of participants in the founding gathering of the Evangelical Alliance In 1846 were from the UK, there were also international participants and it was for that time a global gathering. Until today, unity is still at the core of what the WEA is all about. But it is also the kind of unity that is important. It is not simply about being together in fellowship, but it is about unity in seeking the Kingdom of God in every sphere of society.
So it is a missional, action-oriented unity that the WEA seeks to embody and strengthen. What is very interesting is that Evangelical Alliances are grassroots movements that are sometimes initiated by nationals in a country without even being aware that there is a global body out there. Only after they begin operating, they realize that there are other national and regional Alliances out there as well as a global Alliance that they can connect to. So it is the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 that stirred believers' heart in 1846 and even today, as churches, Christian organizations and individual believers want to come together beyond denominational boundaries and work together to further God's reign and bless society.
Q. The Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK) is now the oldest Evangelical Alliance: 170 years old. Which ones are the youngest?
A. There were several Alliances established shortly after the 1846 conference, mainly in European countries. As the Gospel spread around the world, Alliances spread as well. Some of the younger ones or some that are in the process of formation can be found in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caribbean. Some groups have formed but cannot meet officially or be named publicly because of the situation in their country, some of which are very hostile to Christians.
Q. Religious freedom, prayer, evangelism, advocacy, promotion of the Bible, social engagement, creation care, justice... There are many fronts in which national Evangelical Alliances work. Does every Alliance choose their priorities based on the needs of their national context? Or are there some key areas every Alliance should be addressing?
A. As WEA, we seek to be sensitive to what the National Alliances see as need or priority and respond to these needs or strengthen the National Alliances in their respond. But sometimes there are issues that are global in nature and might not come up from the grassroots, or even if there are grass root responses, there is a need for a regional or global response that goes beyond the local issues.
An example of these is the refugee crisis that gained more media attention in recent months and years due to the migration into Europe. Many National Alliances have responded locally, the European Alliance has responded regionally, but the refugee crisis is really global in nature. This is why the WEA has created a refugee task force that serves as a platform for many members and partners to come together, but also provides an entry point for engaging with the United Nations in New York and Geneva, work with partners such as the World Bank, and so on.
It is when all the 'pieces' come together that our response is really relevant and can have an impact on every level - locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
Q. How is the EAUK an example to follow for other Evangelical Alliances?
A. The EAUK certainly is one of the strongest Alliances and is an inspiration and example to others. Many Alliance leaders can be inspired when they read about activities and programs of the EAUK and the way how they engage with different issues.
At the same time, the national contexts are so incredibly different around the world that it is simply not possible to 'copy' a successful Alliance and implement it in the exact same way in another country. What works for one Alliance in a majority-evangelical country does not necessarily work in a country where believers are oppressed or even persecuted.
We have therefore worked with regional and national Alliances on some "development indicators" of National Alliances that show areas that indicate whether or not an Alliance has reached its potential in a specific field, or if there are areas that need strengthening. These vary from their spectrum of representation to engagement with government to operational matters such as financial sustainability and succession planning processes.
There are many factors that are important for running a successful Alliance, and some of them are very different from a regular NGO or ministry that do not need to mobilize and represent a vast constituency. We hope that with these development tools, many more Alliances will be established or strengthened, so that they can reach the level of a strong Alliance like the EAUK.
Learn more about the 170 years of history of the Evangelical Alliance on the EAUK's website.