The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which networks over 200 national evangelical alliances and organizational ministries worldwide, announced the early resignation of its incumbent Secretary General, on Friday, January 14, 2004.
The Rev. Gary Edmonds, who served as the organizations head since July 2002, will be stepping down from his post at the end of February, 2005 one year before his tenure was scheduled to end.
According to Edmonds, there were two main factors leading to his decision to resign: financial unsustainability and weakness of organizational advocacy.
I think one of the reasons for my resignation is the inability of the national alliances and WEA to figure out a sustainable funding base, said Edmonds to the Christian Post on January 19. The second part of it is regarding the strategic planning process for the WEA. The WEA must work to develop a stronger way of presenting the Alliances voice, advocacy and public policy.
Edmonds explained that the aforesaid struggles have been in place long before he took up the position as Secretary General.
Its been a long-term issue and matter of concern, said Edmonds. The WEA has often gone through these kinds of struggles for a while, specifically related to the funding size and sustainability of the organization.
In large bodies, such as the WEA and the NAE (National Association of Evangelical), where there are associative and affiliated bodies, people come representing their own church, organization or denomination. Many times, these people see their first loyalty to those bodies rather than the larger associations, he explained.
In a sense, when youre in a networking and bridgebuilding organization, you dont have a product or service that people attach a lot of value to, since you cant have a large evangelistic event or outreach mission that draws too much attention.
I would say on this regard, almost all the organizations I could think of that have this purpose of peacemaking, bridgebuilding and aligning partnerships, are struggling to figure out the financial side of it, commented Edmonds.
In regards to future leadership, Edmonds said he believes the evangelical church has grown large enough internationally for the WEA to take a confederation approach to governance.
I think its the right time, as the evangelical church has grown internationally and with great strength evidenced in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia, that the WEA can take a confederate approach to leadership, said Edmonds. The confederate leadership council model may be a healthy way to move forward.
While Edmonds said the leaders of regional evangelical alliances were enthusiastic regarding this, there has not yet been a definite decision on shifting the model of governance.
In the meantime, Edmonds said he will be available to help coordinate and council the larger WEA body until a successor is found.
The successor is yet to be decided, and we dont have anyone in mind. But there is obviously a flurry of emails and phone calls about this, and we are still in the process of determining what to do, said Edmonds.
Meanwhile, Ndaba Mazabane, the International Council (IC) chairman for the WEA, thanked Rev. Edmonds for his dedication and tireless efforts to unite the regional alliances throughout his tenure.
Gary has been instrumental in helping WEA reflect and draw on its rich history in order to build a strong and viable global movement that is relevant to the 21st Century. We are all indebted to his tireless efforts of connecting and working closely with regional alliances and also for his contribution in giving financial stability to the WEA, said Mazabane.
Edmonds, who acknowledged that the regional bodies had not come together before he stepped into office, said he hopes the WEA affiliates will vigilantly strive to come to a level of agreement with one another.
I think that first, the members of the WEA must be intentional about bringing together the different regional and recognized leaders who are actively engaged in each of the regions, so they can form partnership alliances and have opportunities to dialogue and relate to each other as they need.
Secondly, they should put together a team or process to identify what the critical needs facing the world today are, so that evangelicals form diverse denominations and nationalities can actually come to a level of agreement on the evangelical voice regarding the issue, said Edmonds.
As for his own future plans, Edmonds said he will continue to work to churches and help churches work together.
God has given me international experience and certain skills and passions to see local churches work together and to rise to their fullest calling to disciple nations and take the gospel to all the spheres of societal life, he said.
But I will still be interacting with the WEA, and I will be available to council and consult as a resource to the vast network of evangelicals.