We are united by the Holy Spirit speaking through and in line with Scripture

We are united by the Holy Spirit speaking through and in line with Scripture

A Pentecost message from Secretary General of the WEA, Thomas Schirrmacher

During the handover ceremony inaugurating my term as Secretary General, I referred to Holy Scripture as the constitution of Evangelicals. Here is a slightly edited excerpt from my remarks:

We are deeply convinced that the Bible is the confession of the Church. But the idea of a paper document that would rule the people comes from the Old Testament. For the ancient Hebrews, the Torah was above the king and everyone else. Some people mock us and say the Bible is our ‘paper Pope’. We are proud to have a paper Pope, because it assures us that none of us, including me, are above the Word of God.

The Westminster Confession of 1647 states, ‘The supreme judge by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined and all decrees of councils or opinions of ancient writers and doctrines of man and private opinions are to be examined and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other…’—and now you would expect it to say ‘than the Scriptures’. But no! In 1647, they said the supreme judge ‘can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture. We believe the Holy Spirit is ruling His Church, but this is not in opposition to Holy Scripture. Rather, the Spirit is the author of the Holy Scriptures and is using His constitution, the Scriptures, to rule the Church. That for us is the DNA of Christianity and it is what evangelicals are all about.

The World Evangelical Alliance is complete only if the World Reformed Fellowship sits alongside the Pentecostal World Fellowship under our umbrella—just to mention two close friends of the WEA. It is complete only if Bible-believing Anglican bishops sit with the modern apostles of the independent churches. It is complete only if the enormous emphasis on Bible and the church inherited from Reformation times 500 years ago, which preserved the faith of the early church, kisses the ever-new revival movements inspired by the author of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost changed the world thanks to a sermon by Peter on a text from Holy Scripture, which the Holy Spirit powerfully used to initiate world mission. In the same way, let us seek our unity in Christ with the Bible in hand and with our eyes and ears open to the move of the Holy Spirit.

Co-Workers and Co-Leaders: Women and Men Partnering for God’s Work

Co-Workers and Co-Leaders: Women and Men Partnering for God’s Work

Imagine if men and women could contribute equally to serving and leading the Church. How much stronger and healthier the kingdom of God might be? This book explores what healthy partnerships can look like through Biblical exploration and practical insights from different contexts and how we can overcome barriers of tradition or misunderstanding that hinder us.

Published as the latest volume in the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) Global Issues Series, the book features theologians and missions experts who challenge readers to think beyond the usual debate about the role of women in the Church. With topics ranging from women in the Bible, Jesus’ encounters with women, to women and men in ministry in first-century churches and contemporary stories of women and men partnering for God’s Kingdom, the book draws on insights from evangelical Bible teachers and thinkers in mission from 13 different nations and cultures.

Bp Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, who recently assumed the role of WEA Secretary General after serving in WEA’s Theological Commission for many years, has written in the foreword, “I hope that this book helps to inspire all Christians to work together for equal opportunity, equality in ministry, according to gifting and for recognition of the very real contribution women make as we pray ‘your kingdom come’.”

The book’s editors, Amanda Jackson and Dr Peirong Lin, have written that they want readers to explore what positive partnerships can look like in the Christian world today and how we can overcome distrust. “We want the Church to be more effective, more healthy, for families and church leaders”, said Peirong Lin, who is the first woman appointed as Deputy Secretary General of the WEA.

The book is aimed at leaders of Christian networks and churches, local church leaders and young people. It includes eight stories from across the world that deal honestly with the opportunities and issues facing woman and men. Every chapter has reflection questions to ground the ideas in personal experience.
Amanda Jackson, who leads the Women’s Commission, explained the project, “We wanted to explore how women and men can serve and lead together in healthy ways which are ‘biblical’ and avoid the acrimony over women preaching and leading that we all know about, and which seems to have increased in recent years rather than subsiding.”

The book has a number of actions individuals and churches can take, at a pace that suits their context. It is a follow-on to the Call to All Christians, written by 60 women leaders in 2019 and endorsed by the WEA and the Lausanne Movement. The book will be accompanied by webinars in June.
The book is available FREE to download as PDF.

Authors: Andrew Bartlett, Andy and Emma Dipper, Alison Guinness, Mary Evans, Rosalee Velloso Ewell, Amanda Jackson, Peirong Lin, Jay Matenga, Margaret Mowczko, Florence Muindi, Samuel O. Okanlawon, Evi Rodemann, Gabriel & Jeanette Salguero, Madleine Sara, Leslie and Chad Neal Segraves, Amy Summerfield, Menchit Wong

NZCN is the New Zealand member of the World Evangelical Alliance. This article appears on the WEA Women’s Commission site here

A New Global Leader for Evangelicals

A New Global Leader for Evangelicals

Someone in the line of the Huguenots—the French Protestants who had to flee from persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries—has shown up to remind us what today’s priorities for Christian witness should be.

I refer to Thomas Schirrmacher, who became Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) on March 1. His family lineage dates back to the Huguenots.

Symbolically, Schirrmacher’s inauguration ceremony took place just down the road from Wittenberg, where five centuries ago Martin Luther pried open the controls exerted by the Catholic Church and triggered the Protestant Reformation, from which today’s evangelicals are descendants. Now Schirrmacher, a German like Luther and a theologian, is leading this worldwide community of Evangelicals.

Raised in a home of university professors, Thomas grew up meeting Evangelical leaders who visited his home. He went on to study theology and cultural anthropology, accumulating multiple earned Ph.D. degrees and honorary doctorates and publishing prolifically.

Schirrmacher is not just a theologian and author; he is also experienced as a diplomat. He knows politics as well as he knows theology. He has met with many prominent Muslim leaders in the world and has built respectful relationships with the full range of Christian denominations and movements.

Introductory video of Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, played during the WEA Handover Ceremony in Bonn, February 27, 2021 (6:25 min)

I came to appreciate Schirrmacher’s style 16 months ago, when I joined him to spend a day with leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesian-based Islamic movement that seeks to foster respect and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. As intense and articulate as he is, his framing of our conversation that day was first built around friendship and understanding. His grasp of cultural differences, even slight variations and nuances, started the day’s meetings off in a warm and gracious fashion even as we pressed each other on some difficult issues.

Why Global Leadership Matters to Evangelicals

This is the first time in its history that the World Evangelical Alliance has been led by a theologian. Many other esteemed theologians, such as John Stott and J. I. Packer, have made important contributions to the WEA, but none have felt called to devote so much of their lives to the organization as Schirrmacher has.

Schirrmacher has become Secretary General at a strategic time. The WEA’s governing body, the International Council, has adopted a plan called “Roadmap 2030” with four priorities for the coming decade: developing vibrant and effective national Evangelical Alliances; advocating strongly for those who are suffering; coordinating and affirming the many networks, denominations and missions that make up the global Evangelical landscape; and nurturing strong and effective ministries in governance and leadership.

Today, the WEA has become a natural center for Evangelicals—globally, regionally and nationally. It needs a great Christian mind at this crucial time to lead the largest network of Evangelicals worldwide in fostering unity, preserving core Evangelical theology, speaking on behalf of its many communities, and strengthening the Evangelical community in discipleship and witnessing for Christ.

He is uniquely qualified to guide the WEA as the Evangelical community faces these challenges brought about by a changing religious landscape and an acceleration of this global movement.

First, the center of the global church is moving from established Catholic and Protestant structures to a Spirit-led horizon of Bible-centered movements. Historically, no religious community has experienced such amazing growth as Evangelicals in the past six decades, from 90 million in 1960 to over 600 million today and still growing. In many places, including the global south, Evangelical movements are experiencing growth that is not happening in the West. But they are also young and lacking guidance from a long theological or organizational tradition. The WEA has years of experience to assist church leaders in their ministry.

Second, this growth has opened up enormous opportunities for Evangelicals to influence the world. But because of our decentralized nature, Evangelicals have no center like the Vatican. We need a Spirit-guided way to come together in unity, communicate our identity, encourage fellowship, champion biblical theology, and catalyze effective, collaborative action. The WEA is the organization best positioned to help us find common ground.

Third, this past year was one of the bloodiest yet for Christian believers. On an average day, 8 Christians are killed, 23 are raped or sexually harassed, and 10 are unjustly arrested or imprisoned because of their faith. During 2020, there were more than 9,000 attacks on Christian churches in 51 countries, according to Open Doors. And Christians are not the only victims of persecution. In western China, hundreds of thousands of Muslims are held in gulag camps, and we have no idea how many have died. The WEA has built a strong presence at the United Nations in Geneva, the primary place in the world where human rights issues are addressed head-on.

Where countries are violating religious liberties, the WEA team carefully builds credibility by getting their facts straight and constructing persuasive arguments. The WEA is leveraging the critical mass of our global Evangelical community to stand up effectively for Christians and others who face persecution because of their faith.

Although COVID-19 has seized much of our attention in the past year, other pressing issues also defy our ability to manage them alone: religious nationalism rearing its head in parts of the Western world and in Asia, religious persecution that violates our accepted norms of human rights, horrible instances of racial exclusion, and much more. Jesus’ call for unity wasn’t just a biblical idea about being nice to each other; it also called for practical outworkings that transform our ways of thinking and living. The WEA is doing many of these things in ways that no other entity can do.

Thomas Schirrmacher in becoming the WEA Secretary General is not only strategic in his planning and enthusiastic in executing those plans, but he has surrounded himself with able and experienced people who believe deeply in fostering unity and working towards spiritual well-being in the church globally.

Brian C. Stiller
Global Ambassador, World Evangelical Alliance
April 2021

This article is re-posted with permission. View the original here

The DNA of an evangelical

A worldwide fellowship of the Gospel

Around the world, in countless cultures, there are approximately 2.4 billion people who identify as Christian. Many of those are “evangelical” in faith, i.e. they are biblical, Gospel-hearted believers. The World Evangelical Alliance, the global fellowship of Gospel-minded Christians that was first established in 1846, and now has 134 (independent) national alliances in its membership, includes the New Zealand Christian Network.

On 28 February 2021, the WEA officially handed over leadership roles. Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, of Germany, began his tenure as the Secretary General of the WEA. Thomas visited New Zealand in 2019 and took a shine to NZCN’s Te Rongopai DVD.

In his inaugural speech, he talks about the DNA of being evangelical.

Rev Dr Brian Winslade, new Deputy Secretary of the WEA

Introducing Rev Dr Brian Winslade

A worldwide fellowship of the Gospel

Around the world, in countless cultures, there are approximately 2.4 billion people who identify as Christian. Many of those are “evangelical” in faith, i.e. they are biblical, Gospel-hearted believers. The World Evangelical Alliance, the global fellowship of Gospel-minded Christians that was first established in 1846, and now has 134 (independent) national alliances in its membership, includes the New Zealand Christian Network.

Earlier this week, the WEA officially handed over leadership roles. Among them, Rev Dr Brian Winslade, of Hamilton, was introduced as the new Deputy Secretary of the WEA. Watch his introduction video above. Brian is also a member of the NZCN Working Board.

If you would like to know more about the DNA of being evangelical, you might want to watch Dr Thomas Schirrmacher’s inaugural speech as the incoming Secretary General of the WEA. (Thomas visited New Zealand in 2019, and took a shine to NZCN’s Te Rongopai DVD). 

How Do Non-American Evangelicals Respond to the U.S.?

How Do Non-American Evangelicals Respond to the U.S.?

Now that Donald Trump has left the White House, how should Evangelicals outside the United States of America view this experience, and what counsel might they be able to offer their American brothers and sisters? Many non-Americans ask for my view on what has been transpiring recently in the US. Here are some thoughts. 

In my role as global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, as I attempt to explain the United States to others, a number of factors help in my understanding of Americans and, more importantly, American Evangelicals.

For the last four years, too many American Evangelicals have been caught up in passionate contests about the use of raw political power. This has embarrassed many of us and confused others. Never before have I heard so many people say that they either avoid or despise Evangelicals. There have been bizarre debates, sometimes pitting evangelical leaders against each other. Some self-proclaimed prophets even declared that God’s anointing was on President Trump; they predicted that he would win a second term as if this was a word from the Lord.

To understand where American Evangelicals are today, it is helpful to look at their heritage. The United States of America was founded amidst historic aspirations towards freedom, a founding myth that twentieth-century leaders traced to John Winthrop’s famous statement that they were “a city set upon a hill for all to observe.” This powerful religious vision, filtered through the dynamism imparted by mass migration and vast resources, implanted in American rhetoric and ethos a sense that their land had special divine promise and design. 

The fact that the USA been predominantly Christian from its beginning has powerfully reinforced this belief. Even in an age of increased secularization, it still enjoys strong denominations and has many megachurches. After World War II, the influence of the American South spread throughout the nation as many Evangelicals moved away from that region. White Evangelicals moved mostly to the West and Southwest, Black Evangelicals mostly to the North as well as the West. And here is another major point of confusion. Pundits often speak of “Evangelical” as if it simply equalled “white Evangelicals.” But there are many African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans who share Evangelical beliefs and practices, but not the political loyalties of white Evangelicals.

This sort of background information assists my non-American friends to understand the power and innovative skill of the American national persona, the unmatched creativity and productivity of Americans, and their unvarnished generosity and desire to be a force of good in the world.

In the wake of a discredited president to whom a remarkable number of (though far from all) white Evangelicals gave support, what are we Evangelicals in the rest of the world to do?

American politics divides into two primary sides—the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. In recent decades adherence to these parties has become much more important for defining social, cultural, and religious convictions. (A generation ago, maybe 15% in each party “hated” or gravely distrusted members of the other party. Now it is way over 50%.), From the start of Trump’s rise to power, while a determined and loyal rank-and-file of white Evangelicals latched on to Trump’s populism, other Evangelical leaders were profoundly concerned and attempted to warn America.  A number (seemingly too few) of highly visible pastors, educators and agency leaders were vocal in protesting that people were putting too much stock in one man. They critiqued those who attributed prophetic greatness to the president or the belief that he was under a divine call. They also warned against giving loyalty to any political party, political platform, or political leader a higher priority than loyalty to Christ.

Today, America is a wounded country. Many Evangelicals express embarrassment for their unguarded support others continue to be angry that their candidate didn’t win. A large minority of Americans in general (including Evangelicals) now have a profound distrust in their governmental institutions.

Second, because America is such a global cultural force and its role in evangelical expansion has been so influential, it is easy to overlook the fact that the real growth among Evangelicals recently has been in the Global South. Although the current malaise among American Evangelicals will inevitably influence us all, there is a strong tendency for the media to assume that a trend in the US is the same elsewhere.

But the United States is not the world. In a Christian community of 600 million Evangelicals, Americans don’t define who we are or should be for the rest of the world. As the term “Evangelical” has become mixed up with all sorts of political groups, views, political pressure and personalities, Evangelicals elsewhere in the world should insist that Christian belief and Christian practice deserve first place. Evangelicals elsewhere should not be looking to recent American history for what it means to “be in the world, but not of the world.”

A nagging question coming out of the Trumpian mobilization, however, relates to the “brand” value of the name. Should we replace the name “Evangelical”? Arguments in the affirmative say that the term lacks definition, that it has been coopted by political debate, and that it is now a term driving some away from the Gospel. Others, given this American debacle, feel that the name has been simply emptied of its usefulness.

I disagree. First, it’s a biblical name. The word euangelion, or “Evangel”, meaning “the good news”, has been used for centuries, particularly for the followers of Martin Luther and then more broadly at the time of William Wilberforce. Today, in many parts of the world, it remains an important means of identity. For example, if you are in a Muslim or Hindu majority country, and you are not Roman Catholic or liberal Protestant, what name do you use? As a threatened minority, the ability to identify with over 600 million fellow Evangelical Christians provides shelter in identity and bonding in fellowship. As a friend noted, every time a priest takes a misstep, do Roman Catholics wonder about a name change?

Finally, to my Evangelical friends in the rest of the world, let’s not be naïve about the temptation that we too might get caught using our church base and witness to gain political power. We have seen this happen in other countries: Kenya, South Korea, and Brazil, to name a few. As the number of Evangelicals continues to grow, there is a natural inclination to turn size and presence into political power. We may think that the Gospel inhibits us from being seduced by power, but we must recognize our own vulnerability as we seek to parlay our global growth into greater political influence.

Americans need space and time to make sense of the choices they confront. Let us pray that they will make choices based on the Christ they serve and the Bible they read. My prayer is that this hurtful and damaging American moment will be followed by a time of national confession, spiritual healing and a resolute will to make the first priority biblical in faith and Christ-honoring in words and actions.

Brian C. Stiller
Global Ambassador, World Evangelical Alliance

This article has been posted with the author’s permission