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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

Comments

I live in Cape Town, but was not at the conference. I am saddened to hear that the local leadership did not wish to include key social issues such as racism etc. in our society. If this is the level of maturity of the evangelical church in SA then, despite the Lauzanne conference, we may reach our own ground zero: meltdown of Christian influence in our society; furthermore for South Africans the Lauzanne conference was a non event, since, as far as I’m concerned, there was very little awareness made prior to the event. The opportunity to strengthen the witness of Christianity in our society has been lost, because the leadership failed to educate the nation about the historic significance of the conference. 

Kevin Thompson, Tue 16 Nov, 09:17

For me the thing that was missing was the sound of voices in a language other than English. We were told on the last morning that we have to listen to the voices from the margins, but if the example of the congress is anything to go by, we should only do so if they speak la langue de Shakespeare.

It was sad to hear people forced to speak English and coming across badly, when they would have been animated in their own language. The argument that we needed everything in English for the translators does not cut much ice. There are simple ways around that.

Eddie, Sat 30 Oct, 15:26

As a CT2010 participant, I share many of these observations. It should be noted, however, that there were a series of dialogue sessions and a multiplex that did deal with sexuality – and homosexuality in particular. These sessions were presented from only one paradigm of ministry – that of Exodus.  This monopoly resulted in some deficits, in my opinion, that I elaborate on in this post on my blog.

Wendy Gritter, Sat 30 Oct, 15:21


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Iwan Russell-Jones is a TV producer based in Cardiff.
   
 
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