26 August 2016
A multi-ethnic Alliance
At the inaugural conference of the Alliance in 1846, one of the speakers caused quite a sensation after he delivered his speech. Rev Molliston Madison Clark's speech was greeted with excited cheers and clapping. Molliston was an African- American who spoke on behalf of three million African- Americans, many of whom were slaves. We told his story in a previous edition of idea – you can catch up on that here.
That original desire for the Alliance to serve all peoples irrespective of ethnicity has continued to be part of the Evangelical Alliance's work throughout the last 170 years.
In the mid-19th century, the Alliance started an annual Universal Week of Prayer and material was distributed around the world. It was translated into many languages, including Greek, Yoruba, Sethsoso, German and Igbo. This work continued for more than 100 years before being handed over to the European Evangelical Alliance.
The Alliance International conferences, held every seven years, attracted participants from around the world.
Many religious liberty deputations and appeal letters were sent to heads of state around the world, particularly in the 19th century. In the 1920s the Evangelical Alliance invited Sadhu Sundar Singh, the Indian Christian missionary, to give his unique perspective at one its annual conferences in London. During his speech he said: "People who are one in Him will have that Christian love that the Evangelical Alliance represents."
In the mid-20th century, after the Evangelical Alliance had, along with the National Association of Evangelicals in USA, founded the World Evangelical Fellowship – later World Evangelical Alliance – to work for international evangelical unity, the Evangelical Alliance in the UK was looking closer to home to ensure it was properly representative of all evangelicals. In the 1980s, when Clive Calver was general secretary, he was challenged by black church leader Philip Mohabir to make the Alliance more ethnically diverse. Philip went on to help the Alliance form the West Indian Evangelical Alliance (WIEA) and he became the first chair of the new organisation.
WIEA was later renamed African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (ACEA) to better reflect the black church scene in the UK. ACEA closed in 2009.
The One People Commission (OPC) was established in 2012. This is a body within the Alliance made up of key national church leaders committed to celebrating ethnicity, while promoting unity within the UK evangelical Church. Part of the role of the OPC is to ensure the Alliance is representative of the diversity of the UK Church.
One of the members of OPC is the South Asian Forum (SAF). SAF was formed in 2010 by the Evangelical Alliance to unite and support the 75,000 South Asian Christians, originally from the eight South Asian countries, who are now living in Britain.