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26 August 2016

Three general directors. 33 years of leadership. 60 seconds each. Ready… Go!

Three general directors. 33 years of leadership. 60 seconds each. Ready… Go!

Clive Calver, general director: 1983 – 1997

What did you do before joining the Alliance?
I was programme director for Billy Graham's Mission England, drawing the churches to collaborate in re-evangelising our nations. 

What was the biggest lesson you learnt during your time as general director?
Things took longer than I thought they would to achieve, but the greater the investment of patience, the more likely the promise that God would work us through to successful conclusions. What we achieve together is likely to be more valuable than what we would do in our own more privatised world. It's harder to do but worth more in the end.

What achievement are you most proud of during your time at the Alliance?
The emergence of cross-cultural partnerships, the opening up of greater opportunities for ministry for women, and the recognition that what was achieved in the public arena was more the heartbeat of the Alliance than what was done in our own evangelical ghetto.

Many people don't use the word "evangelical" to describe themselves anymore. Why do you call yourself an evangelical?
The problem with the word "evangelical" lies in its reinterpretation — often across the Atlantic — in the past 100 years. When looked at historically, it simply denotes people who have found Jesus in an intimately personal relationship and want to move his Church to reach his world with his love and grace. That is what I still want to be part of and, until someone gives me a better word to adopt, I'll stick with Augustine, Wycliffe, Whitfield and the rest. For to neglect our history without having something to put in its place is cavalier at worst and superficial at best.

Our recent survey shows only 59 per cent of evangelicals think evangelicalism has a bright future in the UK. What do you think?
That rather depends on the evangelicals. We have always had a propensity for self-destructiveness, and that must be avoided if we are truly to make a contribution to our world, for that is what evangelicals have always been about. We need to look more to the welfare of others than the purification of ourselves.

Why do we still need an Evangelical Alliance?
Because we can achieve more together than we can ever do apart, and because we will always need a table on which to put together
the jigsaw of the various things God is doing in His world within the UK.

What's your prayer for the Alliance's next 170 years?
That God's grace will always conquer personal ambition. In other words, that people will always look to the benefit and blessings of
their brothers and sisters, rather than to their own. If we do that, then I pray there will always be an EA to help us fulfil one area of that
dream tomorrow.

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to go into politics and change the world. Later, I found I needed to be changed first.
What age did you become a church leader?
24.
What's on your bucket list?
I want to see new generations go further with God than mine has achieved. I'm never readily satisfied with the status quo.


Joel Edwards, general director: 1997 – 2009

What did you do before joining the Alliance?
Before the Alliance I combined working as a probation officer with responsibilities as a local pastor. I also served as general secretary of the African & Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, which meant I also served as part of the Alliance's leadership team.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt during your time as general director?
It's very hard to identify any one, but the greatest guiding principle emerged after some 10 years in the Alliance was that unity had to be missional and not an end in itself. It's what I regarded as "unity with intent."

What achievement are you most proud of during your time at the Alliance?
I was very proud to have been a part of a movement of evangelicals that worked to make faith in Christ a viable proposition in the public square and help renew confidence in the gospel in society.

Many people don't use the word 'evangelical' to describe themselves anymore. Why do you call yourself an evangelical?
I call myself evangelical for a number of reasons. It has a great pedigree: its good news. I still believe that the idea of being good news people is worth fighting for, because of its commitment to marry social engagement and spiritual renewal in society with commitment to the gospel. The fact that 'evangelical' has become a term of derision should make us think twice about the label, but rather than abandoning the label my conviction is that we should call Christians to inhabit the spiritual and societal meaning of evangelical faith.

My concern is that in the long-run our willingness to drop the label will mean stepping aside from the distinctive values it represents. I wrote "An Agenda for Change" as a manifesto for our work 

Our recent survey shows only 59 per cent of evangelicals think evangelicalism has a bright future in the UK. What do you think?
I agree! Evangelicals have found ways of remaining true to our biblical commitment while leading in social engagement. This has been a hard fought for 30-year journey, which is bearing fruit here in the UK.

Evangelicalism is also learning to be more discursive with the culture it is keen to serve.

Why do we still need an Evangelical Alliance?
The Alliance remains an important kite-mark and forum for diversity. It sustains as well as reviews its own identity in relation to its mission in the world. The absence of such a forum would lead to fragmentation of an essential Christian presence in Britain and across the world.

What's your prayer for the Alliance's next 170 years?
For growing courage and an ability to make calculated risks rather than playing it safe. That it will become stronger in its witness for Christ. That the Alliance will increase in its ability to balance its internal unity with its external mission to the world.

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A journalist at one stage, followed by social worker/probation officer, but I always had a sneaky feeling it might be something in relation to church leadership.
What age did you become a church leader?
About 25.
What's on your bucket list?
To finish my current doctoral programme with Durham and remain useful to Church and society.

 

Steve Clifford, general director: 2009 – present

What did you do before joining the Alliance?
Since the 1980s I've been involved in church leadership within the Pioneer network of churches; planting and overseeing churches, supporting leaders and training leaders. Alongside this, I've brought leadership to a number of national and international initiatives: March for Jesus in the 1990s, more recently Soul in the City London and the national Hope 08 initiative – which I continue to chair. 

What was the biggest lesson you have learnt during your time as general director?
The amazing diversity of the evangelical community. We are enriched as we celebrate the different contributions made by the various expressions of evangelicalism. It has been a privilege to visit so many different churches and develop friendships with so many leaders from right across the spectrum of the Christian community. 

What achievement are you most proud of during your time at the Alliance?
For me, the relationships I have developed with leaders from the migrant church have been a particular blessing and encouragement and indeed we as an Alliance have significantly changed because of their influence.

Many people don't use the word 'evangelical' to describe themselves anymore. Why do you call yourself an evangelical?
As evangelicals, we carry a rich heritage, those that have gone before us and have profoundly influenced, not only the shape of the Church, but society as a whole. I'm an evangelical because I have a passion for scripture, I'm convinced about the significance of the saving work of Jesus on the cross. I want to see people come to Christ and I want to see society changed for good. So that's what an evangelical is and I'm one of them. I also love the fact that increasingly within society, the word evangelical is being used to describe those who are passionate, committed, believe in what they're saying and want to influence others to believe in it as well. That's using the word evangelical as an adjective rather than a noun – and so I'm evangelical because I am passionate about my faith.

Our recent survey shows only 59 per cent of evangelicals think evangelicalism has a bright future in the UK. What do you think?
I wouldn't be in the role that I'm in if I was not absolutely convinced that we as evangelicals have a vital contribution to make, not only in the UK, but across the world in seeing God's mission for the world expressed; His purposes done, the kingdom of God extended. I think all the research of recent years has pointed to the fact that nominalism in the UK is dead. It is no longer socially advantageous to occupy a pew or a seat on a Sunday morning. Increasingly, we are seeing churches populated with people who gather together on a regular basis out of the deep conviction of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives and the desire to see others come to know him.

Why do we still need an Evangelical Alliance?
Because we exist to serve the Church across the United Kingdom, a Church that we're convinced is far more effective when united in our mission. The great John 17 prayer of Jesus calls to a unity which carries a missional imperative "That they might be one that the world might believe". This means our goal is simple; to see a Church more united in mission and more confident and effective in voice. So, we're about unity, we're about advocacy and we're about mission. Put those together and it sees the Church working to see spiritual, social and physical transformation across our country.

What's your prayer for the Evangelical Alliance's next 170 years?
That as we pray, unite and give ourselves in mission together, we will see that transformation. That churches all over the country will be full of passionate followers of Jesus and the spiritual climate of our nation will be profoundly changed.

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS
As a child, want did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional footballer playing with Bradford City in the very top division and saving a penalty in the FA Cup final enabling us to win the cup.
At what age did you become a church leader?
I was carrying leadership responsibilities in the church from the age of 22, but was employed full time when I was 31.
What's on your bucket list?
I have to confess, I'm ashamed to admit, it's a source of some embarrassment, but 'I don't have a bucket list'.

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