commitment to the poor by challenging world governments to cut poverty in half
Joel Edwards, who recently was named international director of Micah
Challenge, said that although poverty may never be eradicated, Christians have a
responsibility “to bring not only optimism but hope into fairly difficult
“There is no doubt about it. There is the capacity and ability to do
something positive and definitive about the issue of human poverty,” Edwards
said. “If the Christian community globally could begin to reach into its soul
and respond to the challenge of the poor then we can actually do something which
makes a difference.”
Before his appointment to Micah Challenge, a global movement of Christians
lobbying their governments to cut extreme poverty in half in the next seven
years, Edwards spent nearly a decade as chief of the Evangelical Alliance (EA).
He was the first black general director of the organization, which unites
evangelical Christians across the United Kingdom.
Since he stepped down from that post in September, Edwards has been urging
Christians to return to Scripture and boldly proclaim Christ to affect change in
an increasingly pluralistic culture. It is a message he puts into practice.
In 2008, he joined former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Faith
Foundation, which promotes respect and understanding about the world's major
religions. Previously, he was appointed to the U.K.'s recently launched Equality
and Human Rights Commission.
The assignment made him the focus of criticism from gay activists and
secularists who said Edwards' belief in traditional Christian values—along with
his biblical stance on homosexuality—would undermine the commission's goal to
promote “a society built on fairness and respect.”
He admits that he was surprised at the appointment to the “one-stop shop for
human rights,” as he calls it. But he said it is important for the commission to
include evangelicals' viewpoints in its discussions.
“If this is truly a democracy, then the perspectives of Christian people need
to be heard, and our values cannot be dismissed out of hand,” Edwards said. “If
we are to be dismissed simply because we have a values system that [goes against
the tide of the culture], that is not democracy.”
Edwards, who details his views in a recent book, An Agenda for Change,
said his own personal journey has been one of crossing cultural borders, dealing
with diversity and coping with “daily culture shock” since he arrived in the
U.K. from Kingston, Jamaica, at the tender age of 8.
He was an officer with the Inner London Probation Service for 14 years before
serving as a pastor in the New Testament Church of God for 10 years. In 1988 he
became general secretary of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance and
four years later was named U.K. director of the EA. He became general director
of the organization in 1997.
Through the course of his 20 years with the EA, Edwards has been involved in
the Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group and an advisory group to Her
Majesty's Prison Service. In addition, Edwards is an honorary Canon of St.
Paul's Cathedral—one of the greatest landmarks in the British capital—and has an
honorary doctorate from the University of St. Andrews, a historic institution in
“Joel is an evangelical statesman who's made a significant contribution to
the witness of the church in this land,” said Mike Talbot, chairman of the EA's
board. “He is respected across the Christian community—and beyond.”
Katei Kirby of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance said Edwards
“has played a significant part in uniting and engaging the diversity of
evangelicals in the U.K.”
Edwards said he has seen “a more thought-through and intelligent evangelism
emerging across the U.K.” in the last 20 years. He noted that the “charismatic
wing of the church has underpinned evangelical growth worldwide.”
Charismatic Christianity has extended beyond evangelicalism, too, Edwards
noted, and influenced every tradition including Catholicism. “It has lowered the
drawbridge,” he said. “Walls have come down.”
Edwards included a section on charismatic spirituality in An Agenda for
Change, writing that miracles are still a key component of the credibility
of Christ. “What made Christ credible in the upper room explosion had as much to
do with miracles as it had to do with Peter's clear explanation about them,” he
wrote.—Clive Price in London