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The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is currently happening in Cape Town (16-25 Oct 2010). Our man on the spot, Iwan Russell Jones, is blogging for us from inside the congress with news and comment. Check back here each day for new posts.

Lausanne is held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance. The 2010 congress has brought together some 4,000 leaders from 198 countries for dialogue and action on the critical issues of today, including world faiths, poverty, HIV/AIDS and persecution.

Lausanne is also running a virtual congress with video clips and other resources. There's also a Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Photo of the closing ceremony of Lausanne
Absences at Lausanne

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 26 October 2010, 11:02

TUESDAY 26 OCTOBER – I met Lindsay Brown, the International Director of the Congress, for lunch yesterday and we talked about the absence of any reference to apartheid at the Congress. He told me that there were all sort of negotiations and rows going on behind the scenes on a number of issues.

In this instance the local South African black Christian leadership had asked specifically that there be no mention of the racial struggle since they feel it’s over and they want to move on. They opposed any invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the grounds that he would use the occasion to attack evangelicals for their stance on homosexuality.

Personally, I think this is far too big an issue to have allowed the local leadership to exercise such a veto. Evangelicalism as a whole needs to face up to the implications of a historical development that has happened in the world since the last Lausanne Congress in Manila in 1989. But even allowing for the local leadership’s views, it still doesn’t explain why none of the main speakers chose even to refer to apartheid as a case study when they were dealing with such relevant themes as ‘Truth’, ‘Reconciliation’, and ‘Integrity’.

The concerns about Desmond Tutu’s involvement highlight another absence in the conference programme. As far as I can see there was no discussion anywhere in the main schedule of the issue of homosexuality. Again, there are all kinds of sensitivities on this among African Christians, but given its importance as an issue within Western culture, and its massive implications for the future of the mainline denominations – especially the Anglican Communion – it’s incomprehensible that it could be excluded.

Evangelicals can’t bury their heads in the sand. We have to keep talking about our understanding of human sexuality, however difficult and painful it may be.

I believe there are some other major fault lines running through evangelicalism which barely surfaced in Cape Town, but will have to be dealt with head on sooner or later. One of these is the ministry of women. Cape Town 2010 did strive to be inclusive, and I think it was great that Ruth Padilla DeBorst gave one of the morning Bible expositions.

As far as I’m concerned, her contribution was one of the very best and demonstrated why women’s leadership in the church must be accepted and honoured. But there was, apparently, some serious arm-wrestling and unpleasantness behind the scenes at her inclusion. This has to be discussed openly.

Another issue is that of eschatology. Our doctrine of the last things can’t be kept in isolation, tucked away to be discussed only in relation to the final events of history. It works its way back, as it should, into every aspect of our theology, even into our understanding of the first things – the very meaning and purpose of creation.

I was struck by how little reference there was to Christian Zionism in Lausanne III, and in many ways, given how many believers there were from the Middle East, that was a very good thing. However, fundamental differences about the end times were at work in many of our discussions – especially with regard to fulfilling the Great Commission – and these need to be addressed explicitly.

I’m on my way back to Wales today. Lausanne III has been a unique experience and I feel massively privileged to have taken part. It’s challenged me in my own Christian faith and with respect to the seriousness with which I take the mission of Jesus Christ. The slogan of this movement is an excellent one: The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world. It’s going to take me weeks – maybe months – to reflect on all that’s happened here, and its implications for my life.

Photo: Lausanne Movement

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Desmond Tutu: the missing honoured guest

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 25 October 2010, 8:09

All week I’ve been waiting for some significant acknowledgement of the South African context, especially of apartheid. I’d imagined that at either the opening or closing ceremonies much would have been made of the road that South Africa has travelled in recent years and its emergence onto the world stage after years of pariah status.

But there was nothing. It’s almost as though it never happened. The World Cup merited a few mentions, but not the racist ideology that dominated this country for more than a century.

Apartheid is not ancient history. It only came to an end in 1994 and the bitter struggle against it is still fresh in many people’s minds. In that struggle Christians played a major role – on both sides.

On the one side were the majority of white Christians who either subscribed wholeheartedly to the perverted theology underpinning apartheid, or, as in the case of most evangelicals, did nothing to oppose it on the grounds that believers shouldn’t get involved in ‘politics’. It’s a shameful story that the country is still coming to terms with.

On the other side were a host of mainly black Christians and some towering leaders like the Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, and Beyers Naudé, a one-time member of the Broederbond, who broke with the Afrikaaner establishment and with his church over what he named as the idolatry of white racism.

These Christians suffered greatly – ‘for righteousness’ sake’. They explicitly described their opposition to apartheid as part of their Christian discipleship and their witness to Jesus Christ.

Much was made earlier in the week about the evangelical commitment to truth. We also heard today in the Bible study about the call to spiritual battle against the ‘the powers of this dark world’ that seek to dominate and destroy human life.

Naudé and Tutu were no strangers to the gospel. They were determined to speak the truth before ‘the powers’ and they should have been honoured by the third Lausanne Congress. Beyers Naudé died in 2004, but it would have been a wonderful way to mark Desmond Tutu’s recent retirement from public life. Neither of them got even a mention from the main speakers at Lausanne. That just cannot be right.

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Final blessing

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 25 October 2010, 7:48

Lausanne III came to an emotional climax tonight with a three-hour communion service that will live long in my memory. It took the form of an Anglican liturgy from Kenya set to music and accompanied by a magnificent choir and orchestra.

There were a number of genuinely awe-inspiring moments throughout the service, and I wondered how on earth the preacher, Lindsay Brown, would manage to follow a particularly powerful choral piece, ‘Worthy is the Lamb’.

Lindsay is the International Director of the Congress, and he’s also a good friend of mine. I felt really proud of this boy from Merthyr Tydfil tonight. He was wearing a tidy suit and tie for a change instead of his usual clapped-out sweater, but apart from that there were no airs and graces.

He spoke directly and passionately to this vast congregation about the need to bear witness to Jesus Christ in every sphere of life. Christ is the Lord of all creation, he said, and he quoted from one of his favourite thinkers, the Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, who was prime minister of his country in the early years of the 20th century: ‘There is not one inch of human life about which Jesus does not say that is “mine”.’

The quote was followed by a challenge: ‘Are you willing to extend the Lordship of Christ to wherever he has called you, including the workplace?’

‘The peace’ is always an important moment in the communion service for me. But sharing the peace of Christ tonight with a Nepali, an Egyptian, a German, a Thai and a Scot – all about to leave this temporary community and return to whatever awaits us in our normal context – was very special.

And that feeling remained right through to the very end and the Kenyan blessing: ‘All of our problems, we send to the cross of Christ… All of the Devil’s work, we send to the cross of Christ… All our hopes, we set on the Risen Christ’.

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Photo of people praying at Lausanne

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 24 October 2010, 15:39

SATURDAY 23 OCTOBER – Sometimes, during this week, the all-too-familiar has suddenly shown up in altogether unfamiliar context and become wonderful, shiny and new. It’s like a transfiguration.

It happened on the first day of the congress when we said the Lord’s Prayer together and there was an extraordinary, synchronised murmuring as the words of Jesus were spoken in many languages.

It’s happened a number of times in the worship when a well-known song such as ‘I love you Lord and I lift my voice’, is delivered in Hindi or Mandarin or Xhosa. And it happened tonight, when a noisy and seemingly anarchic time of collective prayer moved smoothly into the singing of the doxology and the recitation of the Nicene Creed.

For me, there was something hugely significant about this ancient statement of the church’s faith being affirmed by such a truly global gathering of believers…

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ… We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life… We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church… We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I guess that most people here do not come from liturgical churches. It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen the creed used in such an eclectic gathering of evangelicals. Amazingly, and movingly, it didn’t seem at all out of place.

Photo: Lausanne Movement

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The missing lunch boxes

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 24 October 2010, 15:30

SATURDAY 23 OCTOBER – The logistics of this huge conference are staggering – 4,000 people all tumbling out of the main hall at the same time to visit the loo, make their way around the convention centre, get fed, etc. And it seems to have gone remarkably well.

But today I arrived at the food counter to discover that the lunch boxes had all gone. A few other people were in the same predicament, and we rushed off to find another counter on the first floor. Nothing doing there either. Try the next staircase along, the caterer advised. We did. No joy.

‘This is serious!’ said the guy who’d been dashing along the concourse with me, as we headed to the next possible feeding point.

I found out that his name was Stephen, that he was from Nigeria and that he wasn’t keen on missing lunch. But at the next table, still no lunch box. ‘This is desperate!’ said Stephen, and we moved swiftly along.

I discovered that his organisation has 1,200 Nigerian missionaries working in their own country and throughout West Africa.

Finally, at the far end of the building we found what we were looking for. ‘Thanks be to God,’ Stephen said. Indeed. Before we parted ways he also expressed gratitude for the work of Western missionaries in his country, and real satisfaction that Nigeria itself is now a missionary sending country.

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photo of iwan russell jones
Iwan Russell-Jones is a TV producer based in Cardiff.
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