World Evangelical Alliance
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is a global evangelical ministry working with local churches around the world to join in common concern to live and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities. WEA is a network of churches in 129 nations that each have an Evangelical Alliance, and over 100 international organizations that have joined together to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform to more than 600 million evangelical Christians.
The WEA was formed when Christians from ten countries met in London in 1846 for the purpose of launching, in their own words, "a new thing in church history, a definite organization for the expression of unity amongst Christian individuals belonging to different churches." This was the beginning of a vision that was fulfilled in 1951 when believers from 21 countries officially formed the World Evangelical Fellowship.
Today, WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national Alliances, support and coordinate grassroots leadership, and seek practical ways of fostering Christian unity.
The Evangelical Alliance, 1846-1951 WEA's roots began in 1846 with the establishment of the Evangelical Alliance in England, incorporated in 1912 as the World's Evangelical Alliance (British Organization).
The Second Great Awakening (1791-1842) created a desire for Christian fellowship across the boundaries of church and geography, especially in the British Isles and the United States. British meetings starting in 1843 led to the watershed London gathering held on August 19 to September 2, 1846 at Freemason Hall. Representatives came from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the US and Canada. Some 800-1000 Christian leaders, representing 53 "bodies of Christians", met for 13 days in worship, preaching and business. Controversy emerged when British participants moved to exclude slave-holders from membership. The atmosphere was charged by the delayed arrival of Mollison M. Clark, an American Negro minister from the African Methodist Episcopal denomination in New York. Given "the right hand of fellowship," he affirmed "…his sense of the value of the newly-formed Alliance and of his privilege in being admitted to its membership…." (Ewing, 19). After six days of heated debate, the final constitution did not address slavery due to American pressures. Howard's judgment: "It is sobering and saddening to realize that disagreement on a social issue such as slavery, which today would not occupy five minutes of debate in a worldwide evangelical forum, should scuttle the attempt to build a truly representative body of evangelicals on a global basis." (Howard, 13) A "confederation" was formed—not a new "ecclesiastical structure"—to express existing spiritual unity, with a doctrinal statement of evangelical convictions. (Howard, 11). For 100 years the Evangelical Alliance operated as an informal structure and platform for evangelical unity under the four "Practical Resolutions". (Ewing, 20) During 1846-1955, "branches" were established in France, Germany, Canada, USA, Sweden, India, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. General Conferences, focusing on Christian fellowship and unity were held in London (1851), Paris (1855), Berlin (1857), Geneva (1861), Amsterdam (1867), New York (1873), Basle (1879), Copenhagen (1884), and Florence (1891).
World Evangelical Fellowship: 1951-2001
Up to 1951 the Alliance was primarily a British venture, with varied support in Europe and the USA. Two world wars had decimated hopes for greater unity. Evangelicals lived a new historical context: Americans founded the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942; 51 nations in 1945 signed the UN charter and in 1951 the UN headquarters opened in New York.
The Netherlands, 1951 Some 91 men and women from 21 nations met in the Netherlands as the International Convention of Evangelicals to re-envision the old EA into a global fellowship. Leaders included J. Elwin Wright, Harold J. Ockenga, and Clyde W. Taylor from the USA and John R. W. Stott and A. Jack Dain from England. Dain and Stott drafted its threefold purpose: The furtherance of the gospel; the defense and confirmation of the gospel; and the fellowship in the gospel. (Howard, 28-34).
WEF from 1951-1982 Word spread of this new, global body, with its Executive Committee, co-international leaders, and four commissions—evangelism, missionary, literature, Christian action. WEF's leaders traveled indefatigably, establishing and expanding the new global evangelical body, always with scarce funding. Howard traveled the world with the dream of evangelicals in common cause. Scores of alliances were visited and some 40 founded. Regional alliances grew and the International Council's role matured. Howard's title became General Director, and later International Director. Travel was grueling, and the organizational and financial crisis hit hard in 1985, in spite of new vision casting with a fresh mission statement. Howard's ten year legacy is strong: he established integrity, fiscal responsibility, pastoral vision while growing his team of commission and alliance leaders, and the IC. He will be remembered for moving headquarters from the USA to Singapore in 1987, for WEF was now finally to the global church epicenter.
In Manila 1992, Filipino Agustin "Jun" Vencer became ID until 2001. A Majority World leader! Commissions and self-supported staff grew under his tenure. The Religious Liberty commission and the leadership training department began. The historic funding challenges re-emerged with three offices: Singapore, Manila, USA. Vencer's tenure concluded at the Kuala Lumpur 2001 General Assembly, without a successor, but with a new name—World Evangelical Alliance. An interim operating team was capably led by IC Chair, David Detert, (France-based American executive), for a year. The Asia offices were closed and headquarters returned to the USA. Early in 2001 WEA asked Interdev for a comprehensive evaluation of the movement; the report was presented by Interdev's Gary Edmonds. At a 2002 WEA gathering in England, the International Council invited Edmonds himself to become WEA's new Secretary General. Edmonds reduced debts by closing the Wheaton office and moving it to Seattle. He negotiated the decision to sell the Singapore property. Edmonds worked to revamp WEA, a move that didn't garner the desired support. Ironically the Interdev report recommendations were not implemented. Edmonds resigned early in 2004 and WEA found itself again in leadership and funding uncertainty. A new era began in 2005 when Canadian Geoff Tunnicliffe became International Director. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada invited WEA to move its administration and financial functions to Toronto and provides vital support. WEA now grows with new human and financial resources from alliances and affiliates. Tunnicliffe brings a singular gift mix and collegiality to WEA. Offices opened near Vancouver, Canada (Leadership), San Francisco (Information Technology), Washington, D.C. (Global Press), and Geneva (United Nations). WEA Affiliate member, the Christian Media Corporation, offered its services in media, communications and technology.
Executive leadership and office headquarters for WEF/WEA
- Roy Cattell (England) and J. Elwin Wright (USA), co-secretaries, (1951-1953)
- A.J. Dain (England) and J. Elwin Wright (USA), co-secretaries, (1953-1958)
- Fred Ferris (USA), International Secretary, USA, (1958-1962)
- Gilbert Kirby (England), International Secretary, (1962-1966)
- Dennis Clark (Canada), International Secretary, (1966-1970)
- Gordon Landreth (England), interim International Secretary, (1970-1971)
- Clyde Taylor (USA), International Secretary, (1971-1975)
- Waldron Scott, (USA) General Secretary, (1975-1980)
- Wade Coggins, (USA) Interim General Secretary, (1981)
- David Howard, International Director (1982-1992)
- Agustin Vencer, International Director (1992-2001)
- Gary Edmonds, Secretary General (2002-2004)
- Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General (2005–2014)
Commissions, Initiatives and Taskforces
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Theological Commission The vision of the Theological Commission is to be a prophetic Evangelical voice that is globally representative, faithful to Scripture, theologically informed and which speaks with clarity and relevance to both the church and the world. In faithfulness to Christ and in order to serve the Church, the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance exists to provide international theological reflection on issues of importance affecting the church and society everywhere.
Missions Commission The Mission Commission aims to inspire, advocate and strengthen God’s mission agenda among the global Christian community. The Mission Commission Associates (MCA's) serve, catalyze and facilitate global missional affinity clusters for greater effectiveness, developing strategic relationships and resources. The Mission Commission values Evangelical, Trinitarian missiology, grace-characterized relationships and mutual accountability, grass roots needs-analysis and strategic vision, churches, mission agencies and training programs, collegiality and servant hood, reflective practitioners and forward thinking, with a balance in generation and gender. The WEA Mission Commission envisions the proactive, synergetic, enabling of the global mission community to fully live, proclaim and extend to all peoples the transforming message of the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus through the power of the Spirit.
Religious Liberty Commission The Religious Liberty Commission is monitoring the religious liberty situation in more than 100 nations, defending persecuted Christians, informing the global church, challenging the Church to pray (www.idop.org ) and giving all possible assistance to those who are suffering. The Commission also makes fact finding trips and meets with governments and ambassadors speaking up for the suffering brothers and sisters. At the United Nations the Commission reports about the situation and arranges special hearings with Christians from countries under pressure.
Commission on Women’s Concerns The WEA Commission on Women's Concerns (CWC) is a global network of compassionate and visionary women seeking to identify and address the unique needs of women around the world. CWC provides, through WEA, an internationally respected voice and platform for women of the church globally. CWC endeavors to partner with other international women's organizations for the benefit of women world-wide. Examples of organizations include ENTRUST (Europe), Women of Global Action (Africa), KNOW YOUR BIBLE (South Pacific), European Freedom Network (EFN) and others.
Youth Commission Reaching the world for Christ has long been the cry of the church. But, often we have lost sight of Jesus' command to “let the children come to Me” (Matt 19:14 ). Now, with over one-half the world under the age of 25, it is clear that, if we are to reach the world, we must reach youth. Yet, youth materials and programs are sparse in most countries. Experience has shown that building youth ministry networks is the most effective way to leverage our resources. The need is for each nation to find leaders with a passion to reach every young person for Christ and then to equip them to network their ministries to become a movement of God's Spirit that multiplies worldwide.
IT Commission The World Evangelical Alliance Information Technology Commission has been established to apply technology for dissemination of information and sharing of resource within the WEA constituency and throughout the greater evangelical Church. In a vision to serve and empower the dispersed global Church, the IT Commission aspires to create a global digital infrastructure to build modern-day networks and systems effective in providing a digital forum to help increase effectiveness in communication, exchange of information and promotion of partnership and collaboration among Christians and ministries on the web. The WEA IT Commission leverages on the vast international network, partnership and collaboration of the constituency' and affiliates of the World Evangelical Alliance.
Global Human Trafficking Task Force The World Evangelical Alliance has chosen to name a spokesperson on the issue of Human Trafficking. This has resulted in the instigation of an anti-human trafficking global task force where 600 million WEA members can become informed spokespersons in their own sphere of influence.
International Institution for Religious Freedom The “International Institute for Religious Freedom” (IIRF) is a network of professors, researchers, academics, specialists and university institutions from all continents which work on reliable data on the violation of religious freedom worldwide and want to implement this topic to college and university programs and curricula, especially in the areas of law, sociology, religious studies and theological programs.
Leadership Institution The Leadership Institute was officially launched as a WEA initiative during the General Assembly in Pattaya, Thailand (Oct. 2008). The mandate of the Leadership Institute is to strengthen National Evangelical Alliances by developing effective leaders.
Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons The Task Force has the following three-fold mandate:
- Formulate and proclaim on behalf of the WEA a biblically grounded, theologically sound position regarding nuclear weapons in the second nuclear age (post-Cold War).
- Inform the global body of Christ about this position, and equip the church to act on it, with special emphasis on the 600 million Evangelicals worldwide.
- Open and engage church-based channels for Track II diplomacy to address and reduce the nuclear threat.
Global Generosity Network The Global Generosity Network (GGN) is a joint initiative between the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance to encourage evangelical Christians to better stewards of their resources, live more generously and give more of their income to Kingdom causes where it is most needed. The GGN challenges the global Church towards whole-life discipleship that includes radical generosity and wise stewardship. The GGN believes that such generosity will result in a dramatic increase in giving to Christian causes and especially to global mission where it is most needed.
Creation Care Task Force With a global backdrop of serious ecological challenges, growing awareness of the Christian call to care for creation, and an increasing need to provide leadership in this arena at a global level, the WEA has decided to create the Creation Care Taskforce. The purpose of the taskforce is to implement WEA’s mission of “equipping, connecting, and being a global voice for the evangelical community” in the area of creation care. Specifically this means the taskforce will work to equip evangelicals, and especially evangelical leaders, to care for creation; help connect and leverage the capacities of evangelical creation care organizations for greater impact at national and global levels; continue raising awareness of creation care within the global evangelical community; and through partner relationships become a body that is ready and able to engage governments and other relevant entities in targeted prescient environmental work.
WEA's Engagement at the United Nations
Since the relocation of its Headquarters to New York in 2010, the WEA has increased its engagement at the UN promoting peace and reconciliation, advocating for the poor and needy, and also communicating evangelical beliefs and values. The WEA holds Special Consultative Status in the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC) which serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the United Nations system. The WEA UN Team With several of its commissions, initiatives and task forces engaged at the UN, the WEA has formed a ‘WEA UN Team’, a group of experts who oversee the WEA’s contribution within the United Nations. It offers concrete proposals and advice, while also serving as liaison between the UN and the WEA’s service arms, partners, and Regional and National Evangelical Alliances around the world. The WEA UN Team helps prioritize the work of the WEA in order to provide a prophetic evangelical witness and service within the UN and effective advocacy on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
The World Evangelical Alliance embraces member-bodies whose identity and vocation are rooted in historic biblical Christianity. WEA affirms and seeks the biblical unity of Christ's body, the Church, celebrating the diversity of practices and theological emphases consistent with the WEA Statement of Faith, recognizing the existing dynamic tension between unity and diversity.
There are four types of membership, each with its distinct qualifications and responsibilities:
- Regional & National Alliances are regional evangelical fellowships and their national fellowships/alliances.
- Global Partners are independently incorporated organizations which work in harmony with WEA structures and serving the WEA constituency.
- Associate Members are independently incorporated organizations with their own specific ministries and accountability, an international scope of ministry, and the capacity and authority to serve in and beyond the WEA community.
- Church Networks & Denominations are networks of churches (located in one or a number of countries), in agreement with the Statement of Faith and objectives of the World Evangelical Alliance.
- 1951 Woudschoten Netherlands, August 4–11
- 1953 Clarens Switzerland, July 27–31
- 1956 Rhode Island United States, August 27–31
- 1962 Hong Kong, China April 25-May 2
- 1968 Lausanne Switzerland, May 4–10
- 1974 Chateau- d’Oex Switzerland, July 25–29
- 1980 Hoddesdon England, March 24–28
- 1986 Singapore, June 23–27
- 1992 Manila Philippines, June 21–26
- 1997 Abbotsford Canada, May 8–15
- 2001 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, May 4–10
- 2008 Pattaya Thailand, October 25–30
On June 5, 2010, Geoff Tunnicliffe, the International Director of the WEA, appeared alongside the leaders of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in a press conference, entitled “Christian unity today” at the Edinburgh 2010 Conference. The gathering marked the centenary of the 1910 World Mission Conference. On Sunday 17 October 2010, Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of the WCC gave an invited address to the 3rd Lausanne Conference. In the address he said, "we are called to participate in the one mission of God". The World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunnicliffe, the International Director and other WEA leaders were involved at each level in the development of the programme, and helped choose its participants. On 22 January 2015, the WCC and WEA announced plans for closer cooperation, worship and witness.
Neglect of the suffering church in China
The WEA was criticised for its positive assessment of the situation of the churches in China, after meeting with government approved representatives. China Aid and Church in Chains claimed, "There are many Christians in China who are not free to worship, do not have Bibles of their own and are not free to organise their own affairs and this situation is not mentioned in your press release... our concern is that you have turned your back on these brothers and sisters." One exemplary case of abuse that of the imprisoned Uyghur Christian, Alimujiang Yimiti, was raised in the criticism, the WEA did not respond in detail.
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- "Cape Town 2010 FAQS". Lausanne Cape Town Conference 2010. 2011. Archived from the original on 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
- "WEA and WCC representatives explore possibilities of working together". World Council of Churches website. 2015-01-22. Archived from the original on 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
- "WEA and WCC Representatives Explore Possibilities of Working Together". WEA website. 2015-01-22. Archived from the original on 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
- "CHINA: Growing Criticism of WEA "misleading" statement". Church in Chains. 2010-01-08. Archived from the original on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-02-25.
- "ChinaAid Responds to World Evangelical Alliance's Statement on their Visit to China". ChinaAid website. 2009-12-20. Archived from the original on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-02-25.