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19 July 2013

Q&A regarding Evangelical Alliance and Avanti Ministries

Q&A regarding Evangelical Alliance and Avanti Ministries

On 11 July, the Evangelical Alliance released a joint statement with Avanti Ministries on the findings of an independent panel on the veracity of Taming the Tiger. Avanti Ministries and Tony himself have since made statements on the matter. We have been asked numerous questions about the situation, some of which we attempt to address below. 

Question 1 – How did the Evangelical Alliance get involved?

In October last year the Evangelical Alliance was approached by a credible group of Christian leaders who were making a serious complaint as to the integrity of Avanti Ministries – in particular about its founder and evangelist Tony Anthony. The complaint focused on the truthfulness of the story told in Tony's best-selling book Taming the Tiger. It was alleged that Tony had never lived in China as a child, had never been involved in Kung Fu as a world champion and had never worked in close protection. Having considered the extensive evidence presented to us, much of which is now in the public domain, we were convinced that this information could not be ignored. 

Question 2 – How did the Evangelical Alliance respond?

One of the most important roles we fulfil is supporting and encouraging our members, particularly churches and organisations. As Avanti Ministries were a member organisation we felt it was important to make contact with them and although we do not ourselves conduct inquiries, we came to the conclusion with them that an independent inquiry should be put in place. Many of the allegations against Tony were not new. It was hoped that an independent investigation would bring closure to this issue, by clearing Tony. Alternatively, if the allegations were proven, it would enable Avanti Ministries to respond accordingly. 

Question 3 – Was this an Evangelical Alliance or Avanti inquiry?

The panel was appointed by Avanti Ministries with the members being recommended by the Evangelical Alliance. The Alliance recommended three extremely qualified people, with decades of experience across law, business and Christian leadership, to ensure the findings of the report would be widely accepted.

John Langlois OBE, who chaired the panel, has a distinguished legal and political career. He served in Guernsey's island parliament for 24 years, the majority of these in senior ministerial positions, and is the senior practising member of the Guernsey Bar. He is also a chartered arbitrator, serving on the UK national panel of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, is a council member of the Evangelical Alliance UK and served on the World Evangelical Alliance international council.

Keith Civval had a career as an investment manager in the City of London and is currently a trustee director at JP Morgan. He was chief executive of Scripture Union from 2001 to 2010 and is now chair of trustees there, as well as a trustee of the SU generation trust and of Wycliffe UK. He is a member of the Evangelical Alliance council.

Robert Amess has been an Evangelical Alliance council member since 1985, including serving an extended period as council chair. A Baptist minister who has been seconded to Methodist ministry, his pastorates include senior minister of Duke Street Baptist Church, Richmond and he is minister of St Peter's Street Methodist Church, St Ives. He was previously chair of governors at Spurgeon's College and chair of Moorlands Bible College.

Question 4 – What was the thinking behind the joint statement?

Once the inquiry panel had taken evidence and submitted their report within the three month timeframe, some time was allowed for the Avanti board to reflect on the conclusions. At the end of this time, a joint statement was released. The hope was that this statement would reflect the seriousness of the issues which the panel had been grappling with and the need for the Christian community to be made aware of its conclusions. The joint statement made clear that the panel found that "based on the evidence submitted to it, that large sections of the book Taming the Tiger, and associated materials, which claim to tell the true story of Tony Anthony's life, do not do so". I am sure you will appreciate that such a statement is made with both seriousness and real sadness. A number of Christian leaders and organisations were waiting for this statement and it has already resulted in a decision by Authentic Media, the publishers of Taming the Tiger, to withdraw the book and other related products from sale.

Question 5 – Some people have asked for more information – will this be made available?

As an Alliance we are aware that some people would like to have more information, but for legal reasons the Evangelical Alliance are currently unable to release the report (without the consent of Avanti Ministries, which they have not given). Already most of the issues raised in the complaint are available via a web search however we have advised Avanti board that at the very least an executive summary should be made available

 Question 6 – What about the future?

On Tuesday, 16 July, the Avanti board went public with their decision to close down Avanti Ministries. The implications of this will need to be worked out in the weeks and months ahead. We are also aware of individuals, churches and organisations who are having to work through the implications of this news in a multitude of different ways. So let's pray for all those who have been affected, that God will give clarity, wisdom and strength. 

Steve Clifford, General Director

On behalf of the Evangelical Alliance

Read the Evangelical Alliance and Avanti Ministries' joint statement.