A Word About the Alliance Covenant
July 2021 / Excerpted from The Journey newsletter
In a season when most Wycliffe Global Alliance organisations have signed our Covenant / Statement of Commitment*, I would like to take a moment to explain more fully what this means and what it does not mean.
Normally with an organisational agreement, your membership would be with an institution and the agreement would be signed with the head office. This type of agreement carries expectations of what the head office will do for you, including making decisions on behalf of all member organisations. Often, there is an expectation of uniformity in ways of doing things, particularly if this is of benefit to the head office.
The Alliance looks very different. We do not even have a head office. Though we are registered in Dallas, Texas, and financially headquartered in Singapore, our team is scattered around the globe. Yes, we facilitate the Covenant / Statement of Commitment, but our 110 organisations actually enter this agreement with one another.
This shifts expectations. Certainly, Alliance organisations are expected to subscribe to our purpose, mission, vision, core values and doctrinal statements. Those five statements form our identity together—they are the Alliance. But from there, this is where the Covenant leads us: Alliance organisations focus on how to serve one another, how to collaborate and how to provide each other with resources that the other does not have. The Covenant calls on each organisation to determine its contribution to this body, rather than sitting in expectation to receive orders or resources from a centralized authority.
This enriches everyone within—and within reach of—Alliance organisations, and it beautifully represents the Body of Christ.
*Because the word covenant carries different contextual meanings for some of our organisations, it is alternatively called the Statement of Commitment.
The Alliance is still a relatively young organisation. I believe we are in a season of maturing—from a loosely knit group of autonomous organisations to a true alliance, growing together in a Bible translation movement. We are polyphonic. That is a musical term which means many voices and different melodic lines blending together beautifully. In our case, this is happening in a truly global context where processing and decision-making differ and worldviews don’t all look exactly the same.
I can see the shift. It has been coming for a long time, but as the Alliance’s Executive Director I am now in a position to have a better global view. I see organisations moving beyond their own contexts — what they set out to achieve, what they need to achieve. Today, increasingly, they are looking out for others. All of us together are realizing that we will be more productive, better informed—and more like Christ—when we listen to and learn from other voices, rather than addressing situations only from our own contexts. I see greater willingness to share experiences and resources with others. I see openhandedness developing within the Alliance, and also toward other organisations, partnerships and networks.
For the global Body of Christ, these are wonderful signs of things to come.
I am often asked in regard to a covenant mindset: Who sets the standards? Will new Bible translation initiatives follow our standards? Who will hold them accountable? Who will provide them with training? The Alliance has a strong voice within global networks grappling with these questions.
The questions assume there remain central, super-standards out there somewhere for Bible translation and consultancy. But today, in collaborative discussions, new ideas come to the fore. We realize that by thinking, praying, discerning and working together, we learn more of what God intends for Bible translation, and for organisational health. To me, that is a huge benefit of multiple organisations across the globe speaking into each other’s lives.
When an organisation joins the Alliance, it is invited to indicate its participation in Bible translation from among seven participation streams: church, prayer, funding, people, Bible translation programs, training in Bible translation roles and specialty services. This is not intended as a test of maturity to see how many of these an organisation will choose. In fact, often the Alliance benefits more when you choose just one or two.
For example: Of course all of our organisations pray. But participating in the Alliance stream of prayer requires a coordinated, focused effort around the vision of praying effectively and specifically for Bible translation, and engaging others. It must be a concerted effort to provide the resources for prayer, so that people can pray intelligently for Bible translation.
The thinking around the other streams is similar. You will not be appreciated more, or less, because of which one(s) you choose. This is simply a question of where God has equipped your organisation to make its best contribution to the Alliance.
A true Alliance
Finally, let me address a common, if unspoken, misconception. There may be expectations that our largest or oldest organisations are really the ones driving the Alliance. Those expectations are historical, because of a membership hierarchy that once existed. The expectations may be unintentionally reinforced because many of our organisations rely on those larger ones for resources.
But, please hear me: Hierarchy is gone, in favor of a true and more equitable community. Our funding structure has spread out more, with our largest organisations shouldering a smaller percentage of the total weight. When a vote is required, each organisation gets one vote. Our larger organisations voluntarily and prayerfully gave up control, so that the Alliance as a whole determines what we become together.
Those are kingdom values at work. I look forward to our Global Connect gathering in September, as together we live out the values expressed in our Covenant.
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