A New International Chief for Evangelicals The Change

A New International Chief for Evangelicals The Change

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Someone in the Huguenot lineage – the French Protestants who fled persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries – came out to remind us of the priorities Christian witness should have today.

I am referring to Thomas Schirrmacher, who became General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) on March 1st. His family line goes back to the Huguenots.

Symbolically, the inauguration ceremony of Schirrmacher took place right next to Wittenberg, where Martin Luther opened the controls exercised by the Catholic Church five centuries ago and triggered the Protestant Reformation from which today's evangelicals descended. Now Schirrmacher, a German like Luther and a theologian, is leading this worldwide community of evangelicals.

Raised in a university professorial home, Thomas grew up with evangelical leaders who visited his home. He then studied theology and cultural anthropology and collected several doctoral theses. Degrees and honorary degrees and publications on a large scale.

Schirrmacher is not just a theologian and author; He is also experienced as a diplomat. He knows politics as well as theology. He has met many prominent Muslim leaders around the world and established respectful relationships with all Christian denominations and movements.

I came to appreciate Schirrmacher's style 16 months ago when I joined him to spend a day with leaders from Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesia-based Islamic movement that seeks to promote respect and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. As intense and articulate as he is, his framework for our conversation that day was initially geared towards friendship and understanding. His understanding of cultural differences, even the slightest variances and nuances, started the day's session in a warm and gracious way, even as we pressured each other on some difficult issues.

Why Global Leadership Is Important to Evangelicals

This is the first time in its history that the World Evangelical Alliance has been led by a theologian. Many other respected 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.

Schirrmacher became Secretary General at a strategic time. The WEA governing body, the International Council, has adopted a plan called Roadmap 2030 with four priorities for the next decade: developing vibrant and effective national evangelical alliances; stand up for those who are suffering; Coordinate and validate the many networks, denominations, and missions that make up the global evangelical landscape; and promoting strong and effective ministries in governance and leadership.

Today the WEA has become a natural center for evangelicals – globally, regionally and nationally. At this crucial time, it takes a great Christian spirit to lead the world's largest network of evangelicals to promote unity, preserve core evangelical theology, speak on behalf of its many communities, and disciple and testify to Christ to strengthen.

He is uniquely qualified to lead WEA as the evangelical community faces these challenges posed 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 biblically centered movements. Historically, no religious group has seen as amazing growth as Evangelicals in the past six decades, from 90 million in 1960 to over 600 million today and is still growing. In many places, including the Global South, evangelical movements are experiencing a growth that is not occurring in the West. But they are also young and have no instructions from a long theological or organizational tradition. WEA has years of experience in supporting church leaders in their ministry.

Second, this growth has opened up tremendous opportunities for evangelicals to influence the world. But because of our decentralized nature, evangelicals don't have a center like the Vatican. We need a Spirit-led way to come together in unity, communicate our identities, nurture fellowship, promote biblical theology, and catalyze effective, collaborative action. The WEA is the organization best positioned to find common ground.

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

When countries violate religious freedoms, the WEA team carefully builds credibility by clarifying their facts and constructing compelling arguments. WEA uses the critical mass of our global evangelical community to work effectively on behalf of Christians and others who are persecuted because of their beliefs.

Although COVID-19 has drawn a lot of attention over the past year, other pressing issues also oppose our ability to tackle them alone: ​​religious nationalism rising its head in parts of the Western world and Asia, religious persecution against ours recognized norms violating human rights, horrific cases of racial exclusion and much more. Jesus' call for unity was not just a biblical idea to be nice to one another. It also called for practical measures that change the way we think and live. WEA does many of these things in ways that no other company can do.

Thomas Schirrmacher, who will become WEA General Secretary, is not only strategic in his planning and enthusiastic in the implementation of these plans, but has also surrounded himself with capable and experienced people who firmly believe in promoting unity and on global spiritual well-being to work towards this in the church.

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