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July 3, 1999
Column #931

Kevin Mannoia: New President of National Association of Evangelicals

     Next week, the National Association of Evangelicals will be led by a new president, Dr. Kevin Mannoia, 42, a former church planter, pastor, superintendent and Bishop of the Free Methodist Church of North America, a small denomination of 60,000 members.

     He sees his mission as "calling the church back to being a movement, an apostolic movement whose goal is to transform the culture."  That is a big task.  The NAE is an umbrella for 49 denominations, with 43,000 congregations and 250 parachurch ministries that touch the lives of 27 million people.

     While NAE denominations are small, the largest of which is the 2.5 million member Assemblies of God, they have generally been growing in sharp contrast to the mainline Protestant denominations in the more liberal National Council of Churches, which have shrunk by a third in the last generation, such as the decline of the United Methodist Church from 11 to 8.5 million members, the Episcopal Church from 3.5 million to 2.5 million.

     Indeed, NAE has grown from conservative splinters who peeled off from mainline denominations such as the 267,000 member Presbyterian Church of America which split off from the Presbyterian Church, USA. In recent years, however,  NAE denominations have become stagnant or seen modest declines.

     The NAE's Washington office sparked a major drive in 1996 to focus upon the persecution of Christians around the world which led to the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. It pushed the State Department to make its first country-by-country report giving details of the imprisonment, torture and killing of people for their faith.  More recently, NAE has launched an interfaith effort to stop the selling of two million women into sexual slavery.

     But NAE lacks what Mannoia hopes to give it   a "group that unites the church with a compelling vision and mission that takes us into our culture for transformational purposes. I don't want the NAE to be expert at anything.   I want, rather it to be an umbrella, a platform on which ministries can be validated and empowered to do what they are called to do."

     For example, last week he left his own church's national convention for a few hours to fly to Washington to speak to only 75 people at the first national meeting of Marriage Savers, an organization working to help congregations do a better job preparing couples for a life-long marriage, strengthening existing ones and restoring troubled marriages.

     He talked of "kingdom principles which describe God's ideals for his creation," such as interdependence that can be seen in Ephesians 5:21, that husbands and wives are to be "submit  to one another out of reverence for Christ." He saw this principle as "counter-cultural" in America which "is a secular society whose emphasis is on independence."

     He cited a number of similar references in the New Testament that we are to `encourage one another...love one another..confess your sins to one another.' In an independent, secular society, the idea of confessing one's sins to one another is anathema.  That is too vulnerable, too transparent.

     "Speak the truth in love to one another.  That begins hopefully with my spouse. She speaks the truth in love to me because she loves me. She wants the best for me. She speaks it to me and I appreciate that. God's kingdom principles reject the idea of independence and isolation. The church is healthy when it embraces the `one anothers.' It builds interdependence and relationship," Mannoia said.

     "The model of the church in Scripture is built on the pattern of marriage. We are the bride and He is the bridegroom.

     "God understands we have an endemic need for relationship and interdependence. He understands us. He created us, knows what our needs are. Marriage is the primary manifestation of those kingdom principles especially that principle of interdependence that so saturates the Scripture, of being mutually submitted to one another as to the Lord."

     The new NAE President denounced cohabitation as "an attitude of arrogance that we have a better way," that God did not know what he was doing when he created marriage. "It is a self-centered rewriting of Gods rules, in which man puts himself at the center.  We want the convenience but are not willing to pay the consequence. Divorce laws are written where nobody is at fault."

     The National Association of Evangelicals has a promising new era ahead of it with this articulate new voice.

Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.

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