WEA gathered its members for the first North American “World Issues Summit” on May 1-6, 2005 in Orlando, Florida. WEA's leadership traveled from every continent to be a part of this strategic event intended to help inform North American Evangelicals of what God is doing around the world. With the intent of connecting them with opportunities to engage in various mission based interventions that address needs around the world.
The Summit commenced with a three-day consultation which included leadership meetings that convened the heads of the WEA's global Affiliates, commissions, Regional Secretaries and the Internal Council. The forty five participants in these sessions focused on the way forward. Geoff Tunnicliffe posed the key question, “Where do we see God leading us?” Sessions also surfaced critical issues and addressed how each of the WEA's diverse parts can function in ways that create real synergy. These extremely helpful sessions led conclusively to the need to increase effective communication between the parts of the WEA. “Better communication is the key to increase our Voice and unite our actions to effectively influence and transform the global society”, comments Tunnicliffe.
The second part of the Summit saw over 100 Evangelical leaders participate in the “Move the Stones” Conference the following three days. Regional Secretaries presented updates in their regions. Godfrey Yogarajah led off with a report on Asia. “Asia has seen remarkable church growth in the face of persecution and repression” says Yogarajah. He explains that countries like Cambodia, China and Korea are also experiencing phenomenal growth with about 100 million estimated Chinese Christians. Yet in many countries the treat of HIV/AIDS, religious persecution and extreme poverty persist. “We are committed to the centrality of the church in each nation to carry out the task of addressing the whole needs of our nations” exhorts Yogarajah. Later that evening, Yogarajah presented a special update report on post-tsunami India and Sri Lanka (his native homeland).
Samuel Olson, the Regional Secretary of the Latin America Region reported that “the main issue in Latin America revolves around religious liberties”. Evangelicals have experienced explosive growth with an estimated 100 million Evangelical believers. The jaws of religious persecution are never far behind. He and others are working hard to help catalyze a national missions movement in Latin America to encourage Evangelicals there to take a place of influence in society. WEA's Women's, Youth and Religious Liberty Commissions are working in collaboration with Olson to shape a new alliance, the FIDE Ibero – American forum for Evangelical Dialogue. “We need to bring together Evangelicals, so that we can show our inherent unity. Only this way can we have a real “voice” in the country and bring change to the social and political realms” says Olson.
The report on Europe was presented by Gordon Showell-Rogers, General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA). “We need the church in the majority of the world to pray that the church of Jesus Christ will wake up and impact our continent for God” said Showell-Rogers. Europe is spiritually destitute but there is an astonishing openness to things “spiritual”. For instance, Ukraine has experienced growth from 2000 churches to 12000 churches in the past 15 years. Europe is leading the world in many policy areas which makes it critical for Evangelicals to unite as one “voice” at the European Union in Brussels.
Gerry Seale of the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean (EAC) spoke on the mission of “Empowering the church to transform society”. The 40 million people in the region are scattered over 800 islands. With a church for every 1000 people or less, the EAC is faced with the challenges of developing communication between congregations and building effective alliances. “We are actively engaged in helping churches send out missionaries, train leaders, work with the youth and provide support for strategic initiatives in the region” says Seale.
The Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) was represented by co-jointly by Ndaba Mazabane and Stephen Mugabi. The AEA has established 34 National Evangelical Alliance with new ones formed in the countries of Sudan, Sierra Leon and Eritrea. “Churches in Africa are seeking genuine partnership of shared ownership with North American churches” say Mugabi. Building capacity in church leadership, sustainable life skills, and community care are some basic yet key needs in the African church. HIV/AIDS continue to be on the forefront of everyone's minds. AEA in collaboration with Churches Together are working to connect North American churches with lead African churches to address the tragedies left by this pandemic that is devastating the continent.
The meetings concluded with a panel interview of the Regional Secretaries and leaders of several WEA Commissions. When asked, “Were there things that changed your strategy or vision because of the interaction at this conference?” these were some thoughts that were shared:
Stephen Mugabi (AEA): “Listening to the regional reports gave hope that things can happen. We are one body that can connect.”
Gerry Seal (EAC): “The concept (Summit Conference) was great. The world came to North America, but did North America come to hear? It was good to get the opportunity to talk about the Caribbean.”
Gordon Showell-Rogers: “At this stage in history in our globalize world, we need to continue to find ways of connecting in formal and informal ways. This has deepened our understanding of each other and of our partnerships.”
Margaret Jacobs (Women's Commission): “This week has captured the heart of wanting to connect with the WEA. This week has helped us connect with the regional bodies, the other commissions, and others. We have gone beyond what we expected.”
Greg Fritz: This event was brilliant. I wish we had more people here. I loved the spirit. I was riveted. I liked the humility of trying to learn as we go forward. Keep it up!
The breakout sessions were helpful to further clarify the trends and frustrations of each region.
Aileen Van Gingkel who moderated the panel interview summarized the themes that were captured:
Connect with the Holy Spirit life, recognizing that this is often where women and youth are active
Be a service oriented organization (WEA) that serves – not just generating programs.
Have a God's eye view of the mission field
Emphasis on the importance of speaking with one voice – what does it take to do that?
Develop equality between those with resources and those without – address tensions around resourcing partnerships
Build broader connections
Utilize integral approaches to missions
Identify church as effective transforming agents of communities/societies
Clarify how grassroots movements relate to the WEA networking structures
For a complete copy of the papers and reports presented at the World Issues Summit please email Sylvia Soon at [email protected]
Sylvia Soon, Communications Coordinator
E-mail: [email protected]
Direct Line: 604.838-392
Ndaba Mazabane , Chair, International Council
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