World Evangelical Alliance Sets Priorities, Reaffirms Hope

The world’s largest fellowship of evangelical church bodies is developing new strategies, vision and direction, under the leadership of a strengthened international council, according to the group’s head coordinator.

The key stakeholders of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of churches in 121 nations representing 335 million Christians, gathered in Orlando, Florida on Sunday evening to discuss the future of the Alliance in light of abrupt leadership changes that had decentralized it in recent months.

“We are really asking ourselves what we can do together that we can’t do alone,” said Geoff Tunnicliffe, the overseer of the event and the interim international coordinator of the Alliance.

Tunnicliffe, a member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, began his role as the temporary overseer of the WEA earlier in the year, weeks after the Alliance’s General Secretary resigned without naming a successor.

Tunnicliffe has since then been charged with fulfilling the General Secretary’s role - coordinating and facilitating communications among the vast international network - and is likely to be elected for a more permanent term at the Florida meeting, which concludes today.

The meeting is the first vision-planting gathering organized by the WEA in months and is the most prominent international gathering in years. Nearly all the Alliance’s International Council members and regional directors spanning five continents convened for the critical closed-door executive gathering.

Priorities for 2005

According to Tunnicliffe, the executive members agreed that the priorities for the Alliance will be “strengthening the voice for evangelicals and developing communications tools.”

“We want to become a voice for the world’s evangelicals and provide a platform for evangelical Christian organizations to connect,” Tunnicliffe explained on Monday.

“One of the concerns we have is how we can develop our voice so we could speak for evangelicals around the world,” he added. “We want to bring greater voice to the concerns of evangelicals in relation to religious persecution, poverty, AIDS and other issues.”

A general sketch for the next year will be drawn at the meeting today.

Developing communications

In that light, the WEA is developing a three-tiered system of communication that would help amplify the evangelical voice.

The first is an internal system where the Alliance’s constituents can connect and communicate with one another on a regular basis. The second is an intra-church system where the Alliance would converse with the Christian media and non-member churches. The third is a communication system between the Alliance and the secular media and governments.

“It is communications internally, to the Christian community, and to the secular media and governments,” explained Tunnicliffe.

Move the Stones

In developing the first and second communication levels, the WEA is holding an international conference that will be open to all North American evangelical leaders – including those who are not officially a part of the Alliance.

The international conference, entitled “Move the Stones – the Power of Alliance,” will begin tonight, immediately after the International Council concludes its executive meeting.

The Move the Stones Conference, slated for May 3-6 in Orlando, strives to “unleash the vast potential of the WEA network by planning ways to distribute the resources available in the ‘North’ to the churches in the ‘South.’

According to the event’s program director Jonathan Lewis, such “strategic initiatives” is the only way to accelerate church growth around the world.

“WEA is a huge, global network of evangelical churches that are loosely linked through national and regional association. The only way to unleash the vast potential inherent in this network is to unite the Church in the ‘Global South’ together with the Church in the ‘North’ in strategic initiatives,” Lewis said.

Reaffirming Hope

Tunnicliffe meanwhile said he is hopeful of what the International Council meeting and the Move the Stones Conference will bring to the Alliance.

“I think there will be a growing potential partnership between North American Christians and churches from various parts of the world. We are trying to bring opportunities of understanding,” Tunnicliffe said.

“All of our constituent leaders have a shared vision as we move into the future of the globalized world Tunnicliffe added. "We are reaffirming the role of the WEA.

“We are each part of national churches and alliances, but together we are builders of a larger movement: the World Evangelical Alliance.”