After 24 hours of flying and waiting between flights I have arrived in Cape Town for the Lausanne Congress III. I traveled from Washington, DC to Johannesburg via Dakar. A second flight took me from Jo’burg to Cape Town. I have heard that these venues are beautiful but it was hard to tell in the dark! Many other delegates and participants were on my flights. I conversed on the planes with a Christian fiction author and a New Testament Greek professor (both women) plus an anthropologist and an Internet evangelist (both men). Then at registration I met a host of interesting folk from various corners of the world.
The Lausanne Movement had its roots at the Berlin Congress on World Evangelism in 1966. Then at the invitation of Billy Graham and Bishop Jack Dain the first Lausanne Congress took place in 1974. This conference was notable for the declaration that mission efforts include both evangelism and ministries of compassion and justice. This attempt to envision mission in a holistic way was captured in the Lausanne Covenant. The Covenant was written by John Stott, Anglican pastor in London.
A second Congress was held in Manila in 1989. I had the privilege of attending that conference as a delegate. The Manila gathering was significant for the many partnerships birthed by the networking that occurred. There was robust discussion and disagreement among attendees about the work of the Holy Spirit—Pentecostals and traditional evangelicals came with differing presuppositions.
1989 was a significant year for Iron Curtain countries. I remember Russian delegates having trouble leaving their country to reach Manila. Now Cape Town 2010 will begin under the shadow of the real-politik news that more than 100 Chinese delegates are being barred from leaving their country to attend. Government officials answer in explanation that the invitees’ churches are not sanctioned by the State. How that “religious freedom” issue plays out will stimulate many discussions and prayers.
One hundred years ago the first modern missions conference convened in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Cape Town Congress is one of several anniversary events that celebrate Edinburgh 1910 (other events are occurring in Tokyo, Boston, and of course, Edinburgh). Edinburgh 1910 heralded the fruits of Protestant mission efforts throughout the 19th century, namely, the birth of the modern ecumenical movement and the flowering of global Christianity. In 2010 nearly 60% of the world’s Christians come from non-western nations. Cape Town 2010 will mirror that new demographic face of the worldwide church. Two thirds of the scheduled Congress speakers hail from the global South.
Stay tuned for news of the opening plenary (Sunday evening) and Monday’s full day devoted to the theme of “Making the Case for the Truth of Christ in a Pluralistic, Globalized World”.
Richard L. Haney Interim Pastor
Fairfield Presbyterian, Mechanicsville, VA.