Rev. Dr Joel Edwards


William Robinson Clarke

‘Words cannot express the depth, breadth and height of my gratitude, but I have gone home’

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Eight-year-old Joel Edwards arrived from Jamaica in 1960. After the early years of education, he worked as a probation officer and served as an ordained minister of a New Testament Church of God in East London for ten years.

In the decades that followed, he devoted his life to bringing Christians together.

Black Gospel music became popular in the 1970s UK and, as a musician of some competence, Joel had co-founded a Christian band, Kainos, with him as lead guitarist. The band’s repertoire was different from that of traditional Gospel groups. Its funky, fast, fiery output surprised older Black Christians but delighted audiences at ‘Greenbelt’ and other big festivals. He was completely at home on the main stage, producing radical sounds with his prized Gibson Les Paul guitar.

Joel was the first Black leader of the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK) and served as the spokesperson for thousands of other UK evangelicals who did not always agree on theology, politics, or culture. He was regarded as a leader who could confidently preach the gospel on BBC and campaign against injustice. His connection with the Evangelical Alliance came when he first became the general secretary of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance in 1988. In 1992, he became the UK director. Five years later, Joel was appointed general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance and was soon the consistent evangelical voice radio listeners heard regularly on the BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

During his tenure as EAUK director, Joel was appointed a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK body charged with enforcing legislation guaranteeing equality without regard to age, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. At a service at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 2018, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the ship, he reminded the audience of their obligation to seek the welfare of their community. He acknowledged his own responsibility in raising up the next generation of Black British Christian leaders.

On the day of his passing (June 30, 2021), Joel’s family posted a letter of gratitude he had written to his friends:

“This is to say a final goodbye. First, my incredible thanks for your prayers, love and holding on with me to that fingernail miracle,” the letter said. “Words cannot express the depth, breadth and height of my gratitude, but I have gone home. My earnest prayer is that your faith and tenacity on my behalf will not be considered a pointless religious exercise, but that it will have strengthened your faith in a God who is marvellous, mysterious and majesticinallthatHedoes:TheFaithfulOne.”

Joel’s wife Carol, his children Joel junior, and Davina and his grandchildren are very proud of his legacy.

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