We're passionate about serving the Church, and
particularly its Evangelical expression. The great John-17 prayer
of Jesus gives a profound insight to the heartbeat of the Trinity,
while calling us to a unity which carries with it a missional
imperative: "that they might be one . . . that the world might
believe". So we exist to see the Church more united in mission,
confident and effective in voice.
The Evangelical Alliance has members from all the
mainstream denominations and networks. Around 30 per cent
are Anglican. The incoming chair of our council is General
Superintendent of the Elim Pentecostal denomination; the outgoing
chair is a Baptist, while the chair of our board is an Anglican
If a neighbour were to ask "what is an
Evangelical?" I'd tell them about the fastest-growing wing
of the Christian community around the world. Passionate followers
of Jesus - people who want to see others come to a personal
relationship with him, but also active in social engagement and
fighting injustice. We see the events of Jesus's death and
resurrection as the pivotal moment of human history, and regard the
Bible as trustworthy and authoritative in understanding God's
purposes for his creation.
I dislike labels. I come from a Charismatic,
new-church tradition, but my experience over the years has given me
a deep appreciation of the Church in all her diversity. I thank God
for these riches. It's so important that we learn from and respect
each other, even in our disagreements.
The watershed moment for me was during the summer of
1971. I got a summer job working on a farm attached to
Capernwray Hall. One evening, I sat in their chapel and heard, not
for the first time, the account of Jesus's death and resurrection.
As I listened to the preacher, I just knew deep down it was true,
and it had profound implications for my life.
Over the past 30 years - is it really so long?
- I've been involved in churches of all kinds of shapes and sizes,
and stumbled into other areas of ministry: chairing March for
Jesus, Soul Survivor, and Hope. I really didn't see the
general-director role coming in my direction, but God has a
One of the things I've really appreciated in this
diversity is the exposure to the wider body of Christ, so
I bring that into my role. Although we primarily work to be a voice
for the Evangelical community, it's with a real respect for the
other expressions. The commitment to unity has to be outworked at a
national level, but some of the exciting stuff happens at the local
level. "Unity movements" is the language we use.
We've initiated something called "Gather", to
be a catalyst for these movements. Some happen through Churches
Together, others are local Evangelical fellowships, and some happen
spontaneously, but the common values are Christian leaders,
meeting, praying, eating together, with a deep commitment to their
city or town: asking what is God's agenda there, spiritually,
physically, socially, then working together to see it happens.
There are really exciting things happening across the country,
something far broader than ourselves.
We have two main kinds of members: individuals
who affirm an Evangelical faith and support our work, and
organisations and churches who affirm the statement of faith, but
also agree to some relational commitments.
The vast majority of Evangelical Christians in the
UK, and indeed across the world, share similar views of
human sexuality; but the fact that a debate is taking place
indicates some variations of understanding and biblical
Our theological commission reported on this in September
2012 in Biblical and Pastoral Responses to
Homosexuality. It's clear, well-argued, pastorally
sensitive, sound (from our perspective), and continues to outline a
biblical, historically orthodox view, which is the position of the
vast majority of Christians in the UK and round the world.
The withdrawal of Oasis Trust's membership [News, 9 May]
was based upon our council's request, that the content of
their website, resources, and social-media output should reflect
their stated position of having "no corporate view" on the issue of
human sexuality. They sadly declined; so it was recognised that we
were facing relational difficulties.
Passion held alongside a good dose of humility is a good
combination. There's always a danger that passion can lead
one into an obnoxious rigidity in relationships, but, at the same
time, a humility which hasn't got passion can lead one into having
no convictions at all. Obviously, human sexuality is a big issue
within northern-hemisphere Christianity. Our position is wanting to
be faithful to the biblical truth while sensitive to very real
I see the Lausanne Congress in 1974 as a key moment for
the Evangelical churches. I thank God for Billy Graham and
John Stott, who insisted that the mission of God required us to be
committed to both words and actions. We'd been in danger of losing
the actions through our commitment to the words of the gospel.
Forty years on, I hardly find an Evangelical church that is not
involved in their community: foodbanks, debt counselling, street
pastors . . . - you name it, we're involved in it. If anything, I
fear we're now in danger of losing the "words".
We must be agents for change in our
communities, but at the same time we have responsibility
to engage, challenge, and influence those in power.
There's an election coming up in less than a
year, and I'm hoping and praying the Church's voice will
be heard clearly. We're instigating a major initiative to
encourage, resource, and support Christians as public leaders.
The migrant Church is a wonderful gift to the
UK. I've come to know some brilliant leaders who are doing
some amazing work inside and outside the Church. I'm challenged by
their passion, their faith, and some extraordinary churches that
they are helping to grow. If the John-17 prayer of Jesus is to be
answered, the Church must rise to the challenge of crossing all
I'm remembering a "holy moment" at a council
meeting, when two leaders from Caribbean and African
Churches shared their experiences, and the whole council knelt in
repentance for failing to express our unity across these divides,
and asked how we as an organisation need to change.
The One People Commission that emerged is
seeing African, Caribbean, Chinese, Korean, and South Asian leaders
meet regularly together to pray, to plan and influence the work of
the Evangelical Alliance and the Church across the UK. I've been so
enriched by these relationships.
My pipe-dream? To save a penalty at Wembley
that enables Bradford City to win the FA Cup.
My father was an Anglican vicar, who was
tragically killed by a drunk driver when I was five. I'm married to
Ann, and we have two grown-up children, Jake and Jordan.
We've always lived in what we call an extended
household, with perhaps 60 people living with us over the
years. The first was a young Asian guy having difficulties over an
arranged marriage who came to live with us for a couple of years,
and that became a pattern. All kinds of people came, and we
realised we enjoyed it. We bought a far bigger house when the
children arrived; so there were always two or three people
alongside our nuclear family, and a wider circle of people who
shared our lives. Our children didn't know anything else, but I
think they were enriched by it. When they were teenagers, there
were others around to be a listening ear and a support, and they
now relate to people very well.
I love Greece: the people, their hospitality,
the light, the sea, the climate - it's just great.
It depends on my mood, but I love jazz.
I'm reading Tim Keller's Walking with God through
Pain and Suffering, and Tom Wright's Paul for
Everyone The Prison Epistles.
I pray for my family, my church, and the areas
of responsibility that I sense God has given me.
I'd choose to be locked in a church with Nelson
Mandela. I'd love to ask how he kept his heart soft while
facing so much injustice.
Steve Clifford was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.