Between Heaven and Kings Cross

Graham Hedges reports on a recent CLIS visit to the London headquarters of the Evangelical Alliance:

On Thursday 22 May 2014 seven CLIS members spent an afternoon at the Alliance’s attractive headquarters at, not far from King’s Cross station. Our host for the afternoon was CLIS member Kim Walker who works full-time as the EA’s Senior Information and Research Officer.

The role of the Senior Information and Research Officer

Kim joined the Alliance at a time when there was a pressing need for a Chartered Librarian to take responsibility for the archive collection.  Much valuable material telling the story of evangelicalism from before and after 1846 was inaccessible – stored in cardboard boxes in a loft. Kim now works as part of the Media team alongside colleagues who have responsibility for the EA’s printed and on-line publications.

Kim’s duties include answering enquiries (forty or fifty a month) from the Alliance’s personal members, churches, and members of the public.  These include straightforward queries which can be answered via a simple Internet search as well as more complicated enquireies which need to be passed on to specialist members of staff.  Kim also handles requests for statistical information, permission to reprint EA material, and requests for information about the Alliance’s views on particular issues. Kim also compiles information sheets on topics such as Christmas, Easter, Family Life and Church Statistics for the EA website.  A recent addition is a resource page on the centenary of the First World War.

Media work

In addition to her librarianship qualification Kim has a degree in media studies and enjoys carrying out wider responsibilities within the media team.  These include proofreading Idea magazine and research reports, reading press releases from member organisations, and working with writers to produce news stories, for example on church growth, for Idea or the web site. Other members of the media team include the Head of Media, full-time and part-time writers, a volunteer writer, and staff responsible for on-line publications.

The archives

Steve Clifford, the Alliance’s current General Director, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the archive cataloguing project and has often made use of archive material in talks and articles. Information about the  archive and book collections, and index entries for past issues of Idea magazine, are available on the library management system Liberty, produced by Softlink.

Launch in 1846

Kim also talked about the history of the Evangelical Alliance which started in 1846 at a time when there was little contact and co-operation across denominations.  There was a growing interest in Christian unity, however, and influential writers such as Thomas Chalmers had written books on this subject.  A speculative announcement about a conference on unity had resulted in enquiries from 11,000 potential applicants! Following a preparatory conference in Liverpool in 1845, the Alliance was formally launched in 1846 in the unlikely setting of the Freemasons’  Hall in London, at a conference attended by nine hundred delegates.   Although there had been some negative aspects to this first conference, such as a desire to provide a counterweight to the growth of Anglo-Catholicism, there had also been a positive emphasis on fostering love between Christians of different traditions and providing an antidote to sectarianism.

The Alliance was originally conceived as an international movement but a disagreement at the first conference about whether slave-owners should be allowed to become members led to the establishment of national organisations with their own criteria for membership.

The inaugural conference was followed by national and international conferences and the beginnings of a Universal Week of Prayer (now administered by the European Evangelical Alliance).  There was considerable emphasis on religious liberty issues in the 1850s and 1860s and delegations were sent to Persia and Turkey. During the First World War there were large scale prayer meetings which attracted two and a half thousand people to London venues.

British Empire Exhibition

In 1924 the Alliance sponsored a display at the British Empire Exhibition.  During the Second World War there were further prayer meetings, high profile advertisements on the London Underground, and work was carried out with refugees.

The 1950s

In 1946 there was an early visit to the UK by Dr. Billy Graham for a mission to young people and this led to the famous evangelistic crusades of 1954 and 1955 at London’s Harringay Arena.  These were sponsored by the Alliance but the high costs and over-spending on the budgets nearly bankrupted the organisation. Despite this, other initiatives during the nineteen fifties included the Filey holiday week, the launch of Crusade magazine, and the start of the Evangelical Missionary Alliance in 1958 (now Global Connections).

The 1960s

Division reared its head in 1966 when Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott disagreed at an Alliance assembly on whether evangelicals should withdraw from the doctrinally mixed denominations.  This led to a loss of members. Features of evangelical life during the later 1960s included the effects of the charismatic renewal movement, a high profile for the Alliance in the media, and the beginnings of Tearfund (The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund), now a separate organisation, in 1967.

Growth and new initiatives in the 1980s

The 1983 appointment of the Rev. Clive Calver, a regular speaker at such events as Spring Harvest, as General Director led to an upsurge in personal membership. New initiatives during the General Directorship of the Rev. Joel Edwards included the Micah Challenge which campaigns for governments to implement  the Millennium Development Goals.

The 21st century

Following the appointment of Steve Clifford  as General Director in 2009 initiatives have included the Biblefresh campaign in 2011, the 21st Century Evangelicals series of research reports, the Confidence in the Gospel training programme, and a Public Leadership project intended to nurture voices for God in our communities.

A tour of the building

After the conclusion of Kim’s presentation there was an opportunity to view items from the archives, including the minutes books from the 1950s Billy Graham campaigns and to tour the building.   We paused to look at the book library (consisting mainly of donations from publishers), the archive room, and to admire the unique wall mural consisting of the complete text of the NIV Bible in a miniature type face.  CLIS members were also introduced to members of the EA staff.

Further information is available from the Evangelical Alliance  website.

Graham Hedges, Hon. FCLIP, MCLIP, is CLIS Secretary.

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