PATTAYA, Thailand – Leaders at the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly have commissioned Joel Edwards as the new international director of the faith-based Micah Challenge.
Evangelical leaders laid hands on Edwards, former head of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, during his commissioning on the first full day of the General Assembly in Pattaya, Thailand, on Sunday.
Edwards said the new appointment was a "big shift" from his role as General Director of the EA, which he stepped down from in September after 11 years in office.
"I feel very privileged to accept this new role," said Edwards. "As Christians, we have a responsibility to deepen our commitment to the poor, to walk with the poor, to serve the poor. But we also have a responsibility to hold governments to account to the promises they have made," he added.
Micah Challenge is the major international movement of Christians pressing their governments to show greater commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon by world leaders in 2000 with the aim of alleviating extreme global poverty by 2015. The movement is a collaboration between the WEA and Micah Network, which advocates for the poor with NGOs and government bodies.
"The MDGS are a prophetic thing for governments to have agreed to," Edwards said.
The Evangelical leader urged Christians not to give in to cynicism but instead demonstrate hope in the face of remaining challenges.
"Jesus said the poor you will always have with you. The longevity of poverty is always going to confront us. But as Christians we have an amazing responsibility to bring not only optimism but hope into fairly difficult situations," he said.
"There is no doubt about it. There is the capacity and ability to do something positive and definitive about the issue of human poverty," Edwards added.
"If the Christian community globally could begin to reach into its soul and respond to the challenge of the poor then we can actually do something which makes a difference."
Edwards noted, however, that there would be no quick fix to the presence of poverty in the world, but rather that it would require the long-term commitment of Christians.
"We don't do it because we think overnight or even in the next 10 or 20 years we will take every single person from poverty. We are not naïve. But we know that through small steps we make massive differences to individuals. Stories abound and that's not a myth that's a reality," he said.
"Therefore we know that if we double or treble our efforts as governments and citizens we will make a massive difference to many millions of lives. We don't have time to be cynical because the urgency of the situation demands something far more productive than cynicism."
Edwards will take up leadership of Micah Challenge in January 2009.