The new president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) believes the 57-year-old organization must enlarge its borders in order to survive.

The NAE announced its choice of 43-year-old Kevin W. Mannoia on March 1 at its annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. Mannoia will be working part-time with NAE until he wraps up duties with the Free Methodist Church in July. He is one of three U.S. bishops for the Free Methodist church, and the youngest in the history of the 400,000-member denomination based in Indianapolis.

The NAE leadership post had been vacant for a year following the resignation of 59-year-old Don Argue (CT, April 27, 1998, p. 18). Mannoia will move from Rancho Cucamonga, California, to head the NAE, which has headquarters in Carol Stream, Illinois.

The aging membership of NAE members and the dwindling attendance at annual gatherings—only 350 came this time—has been a growing concern for the organization in recent years.

Mannoia, who served on the NAE board for the past year, thinks it is time for the group to include those who are outside the traditional realm of evangelicalism yet have compatible views. "We have perhaps drawn the circle too close," Mannoia told CT. "We don't need to be looking for litmus tests. We should be replacing block walls with picket fences."

For instance, he notes that many evangelical United Methodists who are questioning the liberal leanings of some pastors would feel at home in the NAE. And Mannoia, whose books include Church Planting: The Next Generation, says NAE need not be fearful of charismatic movements such as the Vineyard.

In an unprecedented move at this year's meeting, 20 executives visited from the Association for Church Renewal—confessing and renewal movements within mainline denominations. United Methodist theologian Tom Oden was among those attending NAE for the first time. "There is a real evangelical ecumenism," Oden told CT. "This could signal a convergence of the NAE and mainline evangelicals."

Mannoia's views of the need to change—and soon—are shared by other leaders in the organization. In fact, this year's panel discussions stressed the need to develop new ministry strategies to evangelize a changing culture.

In a report to the board, R. Lamar Vest, in the midst of a two-year term as chair, wrote, "I am repeatedly amazed at how many people seem to believe things remain as they have always been, that there is nothing different today from a few decades ago." Vest, an executive with the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, says the NAE has an unprecedented challenge to make Christianity relevant. "If that moment is missed, decline is inevitable," Vest told the board. "We either rise to the next level or, like so many other organizations, anticipate our drift into insignificance."

During the past year, 40-year-old David L. Melvin has been NAE director of operations. He had been one of 40 applicants for the president's post.

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