Theological News Jul 2006 Vol 35 No 3




Theological Commission Focus on Africa in 2006

The WEA Theological Commission’s planning for its 2006 annual meeting at Nairobi, Kenya, continues to develop. The program will include a mini-consultation on the topic, ‘Theological Reflection on Religious Fundamentalism as a Global Issue’ for which ideas and contributions are welcome. There will also be networking sessions with local theologians and church leaders on matters of local interest, as well as the TC’s planning and strategy meeting.

The event will be held Sept 19–24 at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology. Participants will include TC Commissioners drawn from around the world and for the first time, those who are participating in the new expanded membership scheme announced in January 2006. They include Affiliates (TCs affiliated with national Evangelical Fellowships/Alliances), Affiliates (seminaries and other institutions) and Associates (personal membership). Applications are continuously open for these categories and enquiries are welcomed. Local theologians are also invited to participate.

Another part of the program will be a workshop on ‘Poverty and HIV/AIDS’. A small group of local church leaders and theological educators will participate in the workshop to be held at the start of the TC session and in parallel with part of it. It will attempt to understand the complex socio-economic processes at work in African societies, together with a conceptualization of poverty and development.. The TC will contribute to this process with biblical theological thinking and spell out some practical guidelines for action.

Organizer, Vice-Chair of the TC, Dr Ken Gnanakan, who is in conversation with World Vision to jointly conduct the workshop, said, ‘It is recognized that one of the major issues facing people in Africa is HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS estimates in Sub- Saharan Africa for 2005 were 5.8 million (out of 40 million worldwide) living with HIV, 3.2 million (out of 4.9 million worldwide) new HIV infections, 2.4 million (out of 3.1 million worlwide) AIDS deaths.’ Dr Ken Gnanakan said, ‘It is critical for the church to explore the relationship between poverty and HIV/AIDS, through an understanding of the processes by which the experience of HIV and AIDS in households and communities leads to an intensification of poverty. Findings from the workshop will be of great value to the Christian community.’

TC member, Dr David Hilborn, who is Head of Theology for the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, has announced that he has been appointed Director of Studies on the North Thames Ministerial Training Course. He will be leaving EA UK in August after nine years in the post to commence his new full time appointment. Dr Hilborn directs the TC’s Rapid Response Unit which provides advice on topical theological issues to the World Evangelical Alliance International Director.

Death of Former TC Executive Secretary

Dr Sunand Sumithra, a former secretary of the Theological Commission, passed away in his home in Bangalore, India on 12 May, 2006. Dr Sumithra assisted Dr BJ Nicholls as Executive Secretary of the WEA Theological Commission, in 1985 and then succeeded him in 1986, serving until 1989. He was 67 years old and had been weakened by several strokes over the past ten years. Sunand leaves behind his wife Beulah and four daughters. Dr Sumithra, a former engineer with a D.Theol. from the University of Tuebingen, Germany, had previously taught at Union Biblical Seminary, and was a minister of the Methodist Church in India. After his service with the TC, Dr Sumithra worked with the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, and later engaged in significant research and writing ministries. He was a respected theologian and a sharp thinker within the evangelical movement in India. He wrote Holy Father, a text book on Systematic Theology, and edited Doing Theology in Context: a Festschrift in honour of Dr Bruce J. Nicholls, (both published by Theological Book Trust, Bangalore.

Evangelical Theology Working Group in Ireland

By Dr Patrick Mitchel, Chairman, Theology Working Group Evangelical Alliance Ireland

An Evangelical Alliance had never been established in Ireland (the Republic that is) until as recently as May 2004 when Evangelical Alliance Ireland (EAI) was launched, amid much celebration and thanksgiving by the 800 people present, to be a movement to engage Irish society with the good news of the Gospel. The formation of EAI may well be a seminal moment in the long history of evangelicalism in Ireland. It is a small, but encouraging sign (one of many), not only of growing numbers of a previously unnoticed and marginal minority, but of the increasing awareness within the Irish evangelical community of the need to work together to impact their nation for Christ.

EAI has several different ‘strands’ of which ‘Theology’ is one. In 2003, prior to the launch, EAI formed a Theology Working Group (TWG), composed of theologically informed men and women drawn from various streams within Irish evangelicalism. The brief of the group was to revolve around three main areas.

The first, essential matters, focused on the aim to speak or write on those matters on which evangelicals are agreed and which define both the centre and boundaries of the evangelical movement as it is represented in EAI. As part of this brief, the TWG was given the task of forming a Basis of Faith for the new Alliance, which would summarise essential beliefs that are shared by all evangelicals. We decided that it would be a positive affirmation and celebration of the Christian faith rather than a negative statement of what we do not believe. As the Basis of Faith of an Alliance that contains a wide variety of people, we wanted to focus on what is central, that which unites and defines what it means to be an evangelical Christian.

Taking the EA UK’s 1970 Basis of Faith (which has since been revised) as a starting point the group met regularly over the next few months. Churchmanship included Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, charismatic, Methodist, Anglican and independent many of whom did not know each other that well beforehand. As chairman, it was truly a joy to see how the group developed over the year. The group’s meetings were marked by a high commitment to Scripture, a common sense of purpose and a gracious willingness to listen to one another. Meetings were marked by plenty of vigorous debate but always in an atmosphere of respect, humour and cooperation. The experience reminded me of two things. First, that as the Spirit unites believers together, the body works at a greatly increased capacity. Second, within evangelicalism, denominational differences are of little significance compared to a shared faith in Christ. In him we are bound together in a common faith and with a common purpose.

With the Basis of Faith agreed and adopted by EAI, the Group decided it would be helpful to produce a companion booklet. We were very aware that no statement can capture adequately all of what is means to be a follower of Jesus. Each sentence within the Basis is brimful with content that needed some unpacking. So we wrote and published a booklet to set out clearly the beliefs that evangelicals consider as crucial to the Christian faith and which provide the foundation for them to work together in the service of God; to note and explain issues of belief and practice on which evangelicals differ and so promote better understanding; to inform readers unfamiliar with the world of evangelical Christianity what it is we believe and why. It was published in 2005 as Together We Believe: A Common Faith, A Common Purpose. (see

The Group’s brief also extends to two other areas—disputed matters, working for understanding on and writing about those matters on which evangelicals disagree and which occasionally threaten unity, and also public issues. Working in co-ordination with other EAI committees (such as Media, Politics and Voice) the TWG seeks to develop theological reflection on and active response to national and social issues and the complexities of contemporary life which call for a united evangelical engagement and voice.

Our primary objective is to produce written resources for the media and voice groups in their public roles. Initial work has begun on producing briefing papers on a variety of issues. It is planned that some of these papers will also be extended and published as articles or a more in-depth theological treatments of issues of contemporary relevance to the Irish evangelical community.