Leaders of the Anglican mission agency, Church Army, will meet from around the world for a conference in Kenya October 23-30 to consider the possibility of changing its name, among other topics.
Having first been debated in 2002, the call for a name change is certainly not a new issue for the conference, but is one that Church Army in certain parts of the world believes is urgent.
Philip Johanson, Church Army UK's Chief Secretary pointed out that a name change would not be undertaken lightly, for a variety of reasons including profile, branding, and supporter loyalty.
Johanson, who is also the Chair of the International Leaders Forum, has responsibility for steering through discussions on the name of the organization, the development of Church Army work in other parts of the world and the possibility of training and commissioning people who are not Anglican.
When Wilson Carlile founded the organization in 1882 while he was a curate on the staff of St. Mary Abbots Church Kensington London, he gave it the name 'Church Army' as he set up the lay society to "declare war on Sin and Satan". In those days the military language and style was understood and appropriate for Church work, as it was essentially an aggressive warfare against sin and ungodliness.
However, today the organization suggests there are more sensitivities around the use of military titles for Officers, the wearing of uniform and military overtones of the name Church Army.
In 1884 Carlile was prepared to drop the military titles and the name Church Army, but the Bishops of Manchester and Oxford urged that the name of the society should be kept.
"Church Army has a long and honorable tradition and it is important that any discussion that takes place about our name recognizes that,” Johanson said, as reported by Ekklesia news agency. “Over the past few years we have moved away from being an organization that is totally defined by its name, uniform and titles. We are increasingly seen as an organization that is defined by what it does - sharing faith through words and action and making a difference to people's lives in a wide range of contexts."
Church Army, which is within the Anglican Communion, trains, employs and deploys Evangelists who are active in training others in evangelism, planting new Churches, and reaching out to Children and Young People, Homeless People and Older People. Currently Church Army has branches in Denmark, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Jamaica, and Africa, in addition to the UK, where it is headquartered.