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27 April 2012

Looking back and going forward

Looking back and going forward

As I write this Last Word I find myself in reflective mode. It’s three years since my first day as general director. What a three years it has been! At times I have found myself wondering ‘how on earth did I get myself into this’ but time and again I’ve come back to the tremendous sense of calling into this role.

If you have been able to follow events via our website, emails or other communications, you will know that the last few weeks have been some of the most eventful. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s been going on for your encouragement and ongoing prayerful support.

After months of preparation, February saw the very first Gather conference, drawing together for three days around 150 key leaders from 50 towns and cities across England. I would have loved you all to be there, if only to hear the God stories as Christian leaders (not just church leaders) are connecting, building long-term relationships, praying, planning and committing themselves to see transformation in their communities. God is doing some amazing things in our cities; the Church is ‘alive and kicking’!

At the same time, Waleswide saw 200 leaders from across the evangelical community in Wales come together, sharing stories, praying and planning for the evangelisation of Wales.

February also saw the next step in what I’m convinced is a wonderful ‘God movement’. For some time now conversations and meetings have been taking place among key national leaders, reflecting on the ethnic diversity of the Church across the UK and how the Evangelical Alliance needs to change in order to better reflect, represent and serve this community. A commission has been established which will work towards the unity we aspire to see reflected regardless of our culture or ethnic background (watch this space for more news).

I hope you have also noticed our new look! I am so grateful to our amazing media team who have refreshed all our communications. Our website, idea magazine, emails and logo have all been re-energised, making them  more accessible, easy to read; and a better reflection of a 21st century organisation.

"The unity of God’s people cannot be an optional extra but a faith-filled response"

On 27 February we were crammed into the Jubilee Room at the Palace of Westminster for the launch of the Clearing the Ground report. For the last six months our advocacy team has worked with an all-party parliamentary group of MPs and peers in an inquiry into issues associated with Christian freedom in the UK. This report is a remarkable piece of work, widely picked up by the press and will bring a challenge not just to government and media but also to us as a Christian community. It will shape much of our work in Westminster in the coming years and, I trust, provide a launchpad for further work for those serving God in the corridors of power.

Then of course there’s been marriage. February began with Marriage Week and ended with launch of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M). I can’t remember how many interviews I did during the week, many with Ann. It was great to be able to celebrate commitment and what marriage brings to us as a society, without forgetting all the challenges to see relationships succeed. It was in stark contrast with a sense of disappointment as we embarked upon the Coalition for Marriage. Of course we had seen David Cameron’s desire to see a redefinition of marriage coming and had been working with other key organisations (Christian Institute, Care, and Christian Concern) to provide a united, coherent and gracious voice by way of challenge. At a time of major unemployment among young people, troubles on our streets, economic pressures faced by so many families, not to mention issues such as global poverty and global warming, it is disappointing that we are having to defend marriage as it has been defined for centuries. It is a major building block in growing communities and raising families.

These are days of enormous opportunities and challenges. The unity of God’s people cannot be an optional extra but a faith-filled response both to the ends of the world that surround us, and the heartbeat of Jesus whose prayer continually echoes – “may they be brought to a complete unity so that the world may know that you have sent me and that you love them”.

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