Gavin Calver shares his vision for new EA role
Gavin Calver has recently been announced as the incoming Chief Executive of the Evangelical Alliance, following Steve Clifford’s decision to step down as General Director at the end of 2019.
Gavin is passionate about unity and the importance of building relationships. An evangelist ordained by the Baptist Union, he trained at the interdenominational Bible college London School of Theology. Gavin has been director of mission at the Evangelical Alliance since 2015 and also chairs the Spring Harvest Planning Group. He was previously national director of Youth for Christ for six years, and has two children with his wife Anne, a Baptist minister.
We recently caught up with Gavin to hear more about his heart for unity…
Describing the Evangelical Alliance, Gavin says “we are the oldest and largest unity movement for the two million evangelicals in the UK. With more than 3,500 churches and 700 organisations as members, we seek to be a table around which people can gather, providing the opportunity to serve together and get to know one another”.
“As evangelicals we also recognise that we’re part of a wider church and we want to celebrate that. The Gather network is one example of this wider church unity, connecting local unity groups across the country, including many Churches Together groups.”
Founded in 1846, the EA seeks to build confidence in the gospel, encourage unity among the vibrant diversity of the evangelical churches in the UK, and be a trusted voice to media and government.
When asked what excites him about taking on this new role, Gavin says “It is an honour to be able to work alongside so many others for the sake of the gospel.
“We are seeing a new level of unity, with friendships formed across previous divides. We’re also seeing a pragmatism in local churches that hasn’t always been there, as we realise that we need each other.
“I’m really excited about unity for a purpose – seeing new things emerge as we work together to reach people with the good news.”
Speaking of the many examples of church unity he sees across the country, he says “I was recently honoured to be part of an event run by churches in Watford, which saw the good news preached to the community in a local park. Seeing the church community at its best, working together in unity – there’s nothing I love more.”
At Spring Harvest’s 2019 events, Gavin and the team were very intentional about modelling unity across ethnic diversity, with a third of speakers coming from a black or minority ethnic background. “The Head of Butlins commented that this year’s Spring Harvest was the most multi-ethnic gathering they’d ever had. As the church came together in unity, the world noticed.”
EA’s One People Commission, established during Steve Clifford’s time as General Director, exists to celebrate diversity while promoting unity, and hosts regular gatherings of senior church leaders from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.
Speaking about the importance of building unity across the ethnic diversity of the church, Gavin says “from my local church gatherings in a curry house (where the restaurant owner knew we must be Christians because of the sheer range of ages and ethnicities we represented), to the work of the One People Commission, it really is so exciting to see us working together in unity – all equally loved by God and made in his image.
“It comes down to relationships and understanding that we really do need one another.”
When asked his advice to others seeking to build Christian unity at the local level, Gavin simply says “make friends. If you drink coffee and pray with people, it soon breaks down barriers.
“We can’t force unity – it is a gift from God, and something Jesus himself prayed for.
“Once you know and love people, it is much easier to work in unity, and not end up competing for the same people in the same town.”
“It’s relationships that really matter – a unity rooted in relationship and prayer.”
Commenting further on Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17, Gavin says “Jesus prayed that the church would be united – and he wants this unity to be tangible – that the world would notice, and that the world might come to know Jesus.”