BINGHAMTON, NY – For the first time since its establishment over a century ago, the World Evangelical Alliance now has a center to gather and unite Christian leaders from around the globe with the establishment of a new facility in upstate New York.
On Thursday, leadership and staff from WEA, the world's largest body of evangelicals, and representatives from collaborating organizations held a dedication service and ribbon cutting ceremony for the center which will serve as a conference, research, study and work center for evangelicals worldwide.
The Evangelical Center, located in Binghamton, is a 64,000-square-foot facility with conference halls, offices, classrooms, an R&D center, a library, sports facilities, and a dining hall. It will house the offices of WEA, which represents over 420 million evangelicals around the world through its global network, and its training arm, the WEA Leadership Institute.
The center will also be home to evangelical organizations collaborating with WEA including the World Olivet Assembly, a global gathering of evangelical churches and para-church organizations, and Olivet University, an evangelical Christian university based in San Francisco with extension campuses across North America, which has been an education partner with the Leadership Institute.
WEA representatives, including CEO/Secretary General Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, joined with representatives from Olivet University and World Olivet Assembly in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the center.
During the dedication service, Tunnicliffe described the Evangelical Center as "a study center, research center, conference center, a place to engage in strategic thinking, and a place of personal and corporate renewal."
In his sermon, he pointed to the Lord's Prayer and its core emphasis being on the Kingdom of God. He offered several practical examples of how he thought the Kingdom of God might be expressed in our day, from the economy seeing a zero percent jobless rate to conflicts being nonexistent as Palestinians work side by side with Israelis. But most importantly, according to Tunnicliffe, the Kingdom would be a place where "God's name is hallowed and His will is followed."
He said that more than being "Kingdom builders" he wished for WEA and its partner organizations to be remembered as "Kingdom prayers," noting that God's Kingdom does not just come with human power but only by seeking from above.
Although the Evangelical Center would serve many functions, his hope for the center would be, first and foremost, a place of prayer for God's Kingdom to come.
"In all the activities that we will be engaged in in this place, that will become the most strategic because that's what Jesus asked us to do: pray for his Kingdom to come," said Tunnicliffe.
Several leaders from the global church bodies expressed their gratitude for the center.
Dr. Ray Tallman, chair of World Olivet Assembly, reflected on the significance of the center's location near the birthplace of IBM.
"It was really the beginning of the information age, with technology declaring that the whole world can be reached," said Tallman. "We now represent with one voice the movement of the most importance voice that needs to be heard, the voice of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
WEA Leadership Institute Director Dr. Rob Brynjolfson said he hopes the center would be a place "to encourage and model Christian leadership" and train Kingdom leaders for churches around the world.
In an interview following the dedication service with The Christian Post, Tunnicliffe said he believes it's the "right time" for establishing the Evangelical Center.
Earlier this year, WEA relocated its headquarters from Vancouver, Canada, to New York City, after its leaders and members agreed that it would be the most strategic location for the organization.
"We discovered that the opportunities have been greater than we anticipated," said the WEA leader. "The opportunities to engage with the media and the United Nations have been very much strengthened."
The upstate New York location, added Tunnicliffe, would allow WEA to hold gatherings with Christian leaders while still remaining close to its offices in downtown Manhattan.
"Having some place outside of New York City in which we can hold retreats, conferences and strategic events would help take a little out of the hustle and bustle of the city," he said. "This place gives us a more relaxed context to work in and a large center where we can gather people for training and interaction."
Furthermore, the center comes at a time when the global evangelical body is growing tremendously, according to Tunnicliffe. He said WEA will announce in early 2011 that its constituency has grown from 420 to 600 million evangelicals worldwide.
The center, he said, will serve as an "information hub" where the makeup, growth, and impact of evangelicals can be studied and a place to gather resources and disseminate them to churches worldwide.
"Our goal is to serve the global evangelical family," he said. "We hope the services and what we provide out of here, in terms of ministry, will have a lot more impact."
Although the initial plans for the center have been discussed, Tunnicliffe said he looks forward to seeing how the uses of the center will be expanded upon in the coming months and years.
"We’ve probably only dreamed of a small portion of how it can be used at this point."