THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have paid tribute to the Revd Joel Edwards, a former general director of the Evangelical Alliance (EA), who has died of cancer, aged 70.
A letter from Mr Edwards to friends was posted on social media on Wednesday morning, in which he said “a final goodbye”. It continued: “My earnest prayer is that your faith and tenacity on my behalf will not be considered a pointless religious exercise, but that it will have strengthened your faith in a God who is marvellous, mysterious and majestic in all that He does: The Faithful One.”
A joint statement from the Archbishops, posted on social media on Wednesday afternoon, said: “We are deeply saddened at the death of our dear friend and brother Joel. He worked tirelessly for many years with churches of all denominations to find common purpose, seek unity and encourage us all to try and learn to disagree well.
“We benefited hugely from his advice in planning the forthcoming Racial Justice Commission [News, 23 April], and we will miss his warmth, humour, energy and wisdom.
“We pray for his family and loved ones, and rejoice that our Heavenly Father welcomes this good and faithful servant into his presence. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Mr Edwards was appointed general director of the EA in 1997 — the first black Pentecostal to hold the post — having previously been general secretary of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance. He stood down in 2008, and became international director of Micah Challenge, a coalition of Christian organisations campaigning against poverty.
An article on the website of the EA said that Mr Edwards “leaves behind an inspiring legacy of unity in diversity, social engagement and Christ-centred service. A unifier across evangelical constituencies, he confidently promoted his evangelical faith and values in the public square, as general director of the Evangelical Alliance and in other prominent public leadership positions, social engagement initiatives and media appearances.”
The chief executive of the Evangelical Alliance, Gavin Calver, said: “He served the Evangelical Alliance wonderfully over many years, culminating in his time leading the ministry as general director. I’ve known Joel since I was a boy, and I’m incredibly grateful to him for his friendship, wisdom, and support. In my time as CEO he has been one of a few very significant voices of encouragement and challenge that have helped me immeasurably. We will all miss him dearly, and his contribution to the Evangelical Alliance will never be forgotten.”
The former Archbishop of York Lord Sentamu wrote on Twitter: “A very dear brother in Christ, & a friend, Joel Edwards has died and underneath him are the Everlasting Arms. A great lover of Jesus Christ whom he served with exceeding joy and faithfulness. A great expositor of Holy Scripture. He loved the Body of Christ & the people He died for.”
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes wrote on Twitter that he was “very sorry indeed” to learn of Mr Edwards’s death. “Joel was a leader of world status. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
The Archbishops’ Adviser on Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, Dr Sanjee Perera, posted on Twitter: “A safe harbour for our work on the [Racial Justice] commission, Joel was kind, considerate and a faithful servant of the Kingdom. He engaged in racial justice work in the church with extraordinary compassion for the fallen brokenness of humanity, cognisant of the perfect redemption of HIS mercy.”