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01 November 2013

Wish you were there

Wish you were there

After three years of planning, this was the official opening of our new resource centre in King's Cross, London. I really wish you could have all been there! It was a great opportunity to say thank you to those who through their hard work, skills and generosity had made it possible. (I am pleased to report we sold Whitefield House at a really good price, used some reserves and received about £500,000 of donations from our friends, covered all our costs and are loan-free). The opening was therefore an opportunity for thankfulness at God's faithful provision and to dedicate the space to His work; serving His Church and the advancement of His kingdom. 

The programme for the opening included a quotation from minutes taken on 31March 1845 at a preparatory meeting for the great 1846 assembly which established the Evangelical Alliance. The hand-written notes, recently discovered in our archives, embody the calling of the Alliance decades later at the beginning of the 21st century. Rev A Cox proposed the motion to the planning group: "That the great object of the Evangelical Alliance be to aid in manifesting as far as practicable, the unity which exists amongst the true disciples of Christ, to promote their union by fraternal and devotional intercourse, to discourage all envyings, strifes and divisions, to impress on Christians a deeper sense of the great duty of obeying our Lord's command to 'love one another' and to seek the full accomplishment of His prayer – That they may all be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." The notes concluded 'the motion was carried'.

Since then the Evangelical Alliance has been acting on Rev Cox's motion. We cannot always live up to such a high calling, however the prayer of Jesus remains a provocative challenge to the evangelical community. Are we an answer or an obstruction? Do we recognise our brothers and sisters in Christ and celebrate our unity in the midst of the diversity of our ethnicity, cultural and ecclesiastical preferences? The prayer contains a great missional focus; the unity of God's people is a key to the world believing.

Hopefully you have uncovered the stories where this kind of unity is emerging. Talk about 'unity movements' in villages, towns and cities across the UK is becoming the norm, regardless of denomination or network, to build relationships and commit to seeing the physical, social and spiritual transformation of communities. This is an undeniable God initiative.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke wonderfully and prayed a powerful blessing at the official opening. I was a little taken aback when he informed me, as we stood ready for the historic picture beside the opening plaque, that we had spelt his name wrong! It took me a few seconds to recognise the joke, during which time various serious contingency plans were being thought up. I am now considering how to get my own back… if that's allowed as a Christian leader. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury brought wonderful words of endorsement for the Alliance, specifically making reference to our work bringing Christians together from all denominations, networks, cultures and traditions, particularly those of diverse ethnic backgrounds, recognising that we are family together. He referred to our important work as a voice in Westminster, the national and local assemblies and councils. He picked up on our Confidence in the Gospel initiative and made specific reference to the amazing fostering and adoption challenge we have set ourselves as part of Home for Good. "Sadly the Church is so often known for what we are 'against', we must be known for what we are 'for'" – he exhorted us – "what is so impressive about what is going on here [at the Evangelical Alliance] is that this is what the Church is for".

Beginning the process of planning our move three years ago I brought a London map to a small staff team meeting having identified possible areas for our relocation. And we prayed. Later I received an email from one of the team who nervously told me she sensed God was guiding us to King's Cross. I have learnt over the years to take note of these things and although we continued to look widely, when 176 Copenhagen Street in King's Cross was presented to us we remembered her words. I thank God that we did and I thank God for our new home. But let's also be clear that it's only a building and the building isn't the goal. It is simply a means to an end that God will be glorified, His Church will be served and His kingdom will advance.

Steve Clifford, Evangelical Alliance general director.

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