According to one of the on line dictionaries an alliance is “a merging of efforts or interests by persons, families, states, or organizations” Any organisation that wants to join an existing alliance must understand who they will be co-workers with and if they can subscribe to the shared objectives that the alliance has agreed to. By the same token once organisations are in an alliance, one would assume that they need to agree amongst themselves if some of them are pulling in a different direction to the others and ideally any parting of the ways should be agreed mutually. This would the be mark of a mature and robust set of relationships. It is stating the obvious to point out that Alliances are nearly always made up of organisations that are not agreed on everything together. Whilst there are some biblical sources for knowing how to respond when things go wrong within a Church, there are no Biblical sources for how to run an Alliance, even though the Bible contains many principles as to how we should treat each other. When things do go wrong within an Alliance, it is not unreasonable to expect that all of the members would be consulted to see how the group as a whole should respond.
This weeks decision by the Evangelical Alliance to go their separate ways from Oasis is one that is bound to create a great deal of heat beyond the Alliance itself. It may also generate some light. The discussions that the members were not invited to participate in before the decision will certainly take place subsequently and indeed this situation does raise a number of questions about who the Council and Board are accountable to. Any prospect of these discussions leading to a change in outcome would now be hard to achieve. In the unlikely event that large numbers of members were to ask the Council and Board to reconsider their decisions, there would almost certainly be a loss of face and indeed probably some resignations. In the more likely event that some of the more progressive members of the Evangelical Alliance, possibly after arguing for change, follow Oasis and then look for a new place to work together, this will inevitably weaken the breadth of the Alliance itself. It is hard to believe that this weeks announcement will strengthen the work of the Church in the UK.
I am currently a member of the Alliance through my local church and have historically been a personal member. I am fortunate enough to count a number of the EA staff as personal friends and also some of the folk at Oasis (past and present). I find it disturbing that there has been no attempt that I am aware of to involve the wider membership of the Alliance in this decision. Because of my personal friendships, I am certain that those involved have worked tirelessly behind closed doors to avoid making a bad decision. However there also needs to be a public dimension to the decision making, recognising we are affected by the decision. I accept that to achieve “a merging of efforts or interests by persons, families, states, or organizations” that occasionally difficult decisions must be taken. However the repercussions of this decision will go far further than the closed rooms in which the discussions took place. Even if the Alliance and Oasis could not agree to journey together any longer, they might have agreed between them a statement that would have helped the rest of us to shape the debate that is now beginning!