The Network of Covenant Islands (NCI)


John C. Rankin (20 November 2014)


An Epiphany in the Middle of the Night

In January, 2012, I arrived late in Kampala, Uganda, at midnight before teaching an all-day seminar for some 100 clergy and other church leaders. At 3:00 a.m., awaking from a deep sleep, I sat up, literally shot up, in a moment of epiphany I did not yet understand. I looked forward into the darkness and spoke aloud two words I had never put together before: covenant island.

The next day, when teaching Class 1 of what has become the TEI International Leadership School, I shared this experience, and in consultation with all present, we began to fashion an enthusiastic vision for what became the Network of Covenant Islands (NCI). This vision began in the third world, but is also most applicable to many cities and neighborhoods in second and first world economies. And at present, it is set to be taught in up to seven or eight African nations in 2015.

Local participation in the NCI will be at the discretion of self-chosen existing communities, and in their ownership of the model and its implementation. When I next teach in Uganda and elsewhere, we will work out many details as per local leadership.

The root word for economics, oikonomos in the Greek, refers to the rule of the household, tracing back to the Hebrew definition of marriage and family. It is the opposite of top-down political and economic models and operates free of any government programs, using private investment dollars.


An original outline is in place, but needs to be worked through much more.

  1. The vision statement is this: NCI works to produce integrity in housing, reliable infrastructure and utilities, job creation, and thus, order and beauty in its self-chosen communities.
  2. NCI neighborhoods (in larger towns or cities) or villages will embrace a simple open-ended affirmation: We believe that the trust and mutual care necessary for a healthy society is rooted in the purposes of the biblical order of creation; and through the foundation of the faithful marriage of one man and one woman for one lifetime. The trust necessary for healthy social order is rooted in such a definition of marriage. This inclusive statement identifies those who want to build a prosperous community, take ownership for its well-being, and where each NCI community will set its own goals. A simple way to sum up this affirmation is a commitment to Genesis, marriage and trust.
  3. Biblical teaching with practical application will be the starting point for the NCI, where trust has been the common currency in all walks of life among believers. Thus, the starting point is the TEI International Leadership School.
  4. The NCI applies to both residential and business communities; they are visually identifiable with signature lampposts and/or ornamental gates with the TEI Logo, inviting all to see and visit, in the model of Mt. Zion as a light to the nations. The logo assures the theological and ethical commitment of the covenant island, and remains in place so long as the covenant island honors the affirmation. Otherwise, the TEI exercises no control, knowing that God designs local communities on outward to govern themselves.
  5. Once, when speaking with the associate rabbi of the largest synagogue in New England (just a block from where I grew up), I mentioned how the Hebrew essence of Mt. Zion serves my evangelical faith well. He was surprised. I said that in the New Testament, the believers in Jesus are temples of the Holy Spirit, and as such we are “portable temples,” namely, that wherever we are, the Light of Jesus should be a beacon of hope through us to all people. We do not cajole people into belief. Rather, we live the faith, lift up the Name of Jesus, and people are attracted to him. My rabbi friend was surprised at how he liked the ethics of my understanding.
  6. The NCI may start with one or several model communities, with self-chosen communities applying to qualify for a high standard threshold; outside expertise will be used for start-ups, with intensive training for local members, especially unemployed youth, to make these NCI communities self-sustaining then prosperous in their own economic abilities.
  7. To salt Africa and elsewhere with such NCI communities can hit a tipping point of great emulation and blessings. For example, if local communities on outward own their own economies, then the well-being of the social order flourishes.
  8. In terms of the political order, we are all sojourners in this life, whether we live in a free society or an enslaving one. Jeremiah gives this wisdom to the exiles in Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce … Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” This is the substance of how,in the Sermon on the Mount,  Jesus calls us to be “salt” and “light” in the world.
  9. There is a great need for many gifted believers with wide ranges of skill sets, along with investors, to join in here in volunteer, vocational and staff work.
  10. The TEI Economic Alliance will also be developed, with these goals:
    1. Establishment of the TEI Bank, deeply biblical in nature, purpose and transparency.
    2. TEI Care (a biblically rooted alternative to health insurance).
    3. TEI Health Kit and program for wise, organic and preventive medical decision making.
    4. TEI Cities of Refuge as appropriate.
    5. The TEI Year of Jubilee that envisions abolition of debt as described in the Law of Moses.
    6. retail vision.