Joel will be remembered as an outstanding Director of the Evangelical Alliance for 11 years (1997-2008) – the first black Pentecostal leader in that role – and as the International Director of Micah Challenge. The wider Christian community will also know him as a clear communicator of the Christian faith through his BBC Thought for the Day broadcasts, and his role in enabling the Evangelical Alliance to be at the heart of the Christian response to public policy.
Joel was always a friend to the wider community of churches in England, while holding firm to his Evangelical and Pentecostal convictions.
In June 2018, Joel preached at the national Spirit of Windrush: A Service of Thanksgiving, held in Westminster Abbey and organised by Churches Together in England. And last year (2020), Joel joined us as the keynote speaker at our first online mission conference.
CTE’s General Secretary, Rev Dr Paul Goodliff, said in tribute, “Joel Edwards was one of the most influential Christians in the UK and the most influential black Christian of his generation – a friend to the wider ecumenical movement while remaining committed to his Pentecostal and Evangelical tradition. His wisdom, faith and vision will be missed, and his legacy enduring. In his final message all these qualities were shining through, as he concluded, ‘I wait to welcome you…’: I can imagine Joel on the welcome team at heaven’s gate. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Joel was a probation officer before becoming a New Testament Church of God pastor in the East End of London, and then General Secretary of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance. He later brought his leadership experience to the wider role of General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, and with it his commitment to the transformation of society, both in the United Kingdom and globally.
Our prayers are with his many friends and colleagues, and most of all with his family.
Tributes to Rev Dr Joel Edwards
Christians and churches from across many traditions have shared their tributes to Joel, with a selection shared in the images at the bottom of this page.
These include CTE President the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose tribute, shared alongside the Archbishop of York, began: “We are deeply saddened at the death of our dear friend and brother Joel. He worked tirelessly for many years with churches of all denominations to find common purpose, seek unity and encourage us all to try and learn to disagree well.”
CTE’s Pentecostal President Pastor Agu Irukwu said in his tribute: “One of our finest, Rev Joel Edwards, has gone to be with the Lord. A real gentleman, true soldier of the cross, a genuine friend and brother. Joel, we will all miss you. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family at this time.”
From our Member Church the International Ministerial Council of Great Britain (IMCGB): “It was a sad day when we heard of the passing to glory of Rev. Dr. Joel Edwards. He was there at the beginning of the struggle, working in parallel with IMCGB, to lift up black people, their leaders and churches. His awareness that one of the necessary paths to serving the cause of Christ and the defence of the Gospel along with those leaders who represent it, was influence in the public square, was of major importance.
“No-one who had not started when he did, facing conditions as they were then, can fully appreciate the cost to him and his co-workers. We rejoice that he lived to receive the recognition, appreciation and acknowledgement of his immeasurable contribution. The Bishops and Ministers of IMCGB extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and colleagues and all who mourn his loss.”
In his own words
Many tributes have appreciated Joel for his deep wisdom and insight – qualities which are illustrated in the quotes below from a range of his speaking engagements and writings:
Joel Edwards reflecting on his own story in ‘Reverse mission: Towards a structural change in society’, a chapter in Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK (edited by Israel Olofinjana, 2013):
‘Impact goes beyond influence. I don’t really care where you come from in the missionary enterprise, structural change is part and parcel of that mission, and that is a part of the challenge facing those of us from ethnic minorities. And I think this is about dialogue and partnership… The issue we face together is this: how do we integrate together with God – black and white – in order to have influence and make a difference?’
An excerpt from Joel’s keynote message at the online CTE Mission conference, November 2020:
‘…Much of our witness has been tarnished by a kind of ecclesial discipling which means we have been inclined to spread our own Christian brands while spreading the good news about Jesus. But as the theologian Dallas Willard said, what Jesus meant was, ‘Go therefore into every ethnic group and help them become my students…’
A Tale of Two Peoples – Joel’s sermon at the Spirit of Windrush: A Service of Thanksgiving, Westminster Abbey, Friday 22 June 2018:
“In our story today, Windrush has gifted Britain: trade union leaders, politicians and senior civil servants… Leaders in Britain’s spiritual life, its business, science, the arts, education, music, media and sport.
“… But settling down hasn’t been plain sailing. The children of Windrush have experienced over representation in Britain’s prisons and mental health institutions. Knife crimes. Underachievement in education and the job market. Settlement has meant racism, sometimes too much policing and not enough protection. And Stephen Lawrence.
“But in the words of our New Testament reading, sometimes “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
“… Like the Hebrews, the people of Windrush are resilient in the face of both realities. History has taught us that this is often the price of citizenship.
“… We may be perplexed, but Christian faith is all about future hope. And Windrush resilience arises, supremely, from the conviction that God, our help in ages past will always be our hope for years to come.’
Read more from Joel Edwards
Joel Edwards, Lord Make Us One: But Not All the Same! London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1999.
Joel Edwards, ‘Reverse Mission: Towards Structural Change in Society’ in Israel Olofinjana (ed), Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK, Watford, Instant Apostle, 2013.
Joel Edwards, An Agenda for Change: A Global Call for Spiritual and Social Transformation, Grand Rapids, MI, 2009.
Joel Edwards (ed), Let’s Praise Him Again: An African-Caribbean Perspective on Worship, Eastbourne, Kingsway Publication, 1992.
Social media tributes
Photos from the Spirit of Windrush service © Dean & Chapter of Westminster