The World Evangelical Alliance: Nurturing Unity in a Diverse World

The World Evangelical Alliance was founded in 1842 on one simple, biblical idea.

In 1960, there were 90 million evangelicals. Today, there are over 600 million. During a span of a few decades, this sector of the Christian world has exploded.

In its growing community, a fellowship and organization has been at work, linking and building a remarkable network of indigenous evangelical alliances and fellowships in 130 countries. Formed in the mid 1800s, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is generally unknown, under the radar, and, more often than not, threadbare in its operation.

The WEA began in 1842 as 800 church leaders, representing 152 “bodies of Christians” from 11 countries, met for 13 days in London, attracted by one simple, biblical idea.

The Second Great Awakening (1791-1842) had flowered a heart for unity. Influenced by the spiritual awakening felt on both sides of the Atlantic, attendees sought fellowship that too often was constrained by denominational barriers. (Three years earlier, a meeting in London was advertised to discuss unity in the church. Although the building accommodated only 400 people, 11,000 tickets were handed out, much to the annoyance of those who couldn’t get in.)

These leaders were inheritors of William Wilberforce and his colleagues, who just years earlier had truncated the British global enterprise of slavery. The felt need for spiritual bonding was fused with a new kind of social consciousness: British members were adamant that the gospel speak to issues of social justice such as working conditions and child labor.

An odd place to meet

In this gathering, they chose to initiate a global network and fellowship, without central organization or funding, creating a global identity for Protestants who had a heart for biblical orthodoxy and desire for fellowship. …

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