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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 Vaughan Roberts
Another kicking for the ‘ecumaniacs’

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 23 October 2010, 7:08

FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER – I was looking forward to hearing Vaughan Roberts’ study of Ephesians 4 this morning. The Rector of St Ebbe’s in Oxford (pictured above) has quite a reputation as a writer and speaker and I’d never heard him before.

He started well, talking about John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and a world littered with broken dreams of one-ness. The church, he said, ‘should be a symbol of unity, but tragically, often it is not’. I thought that at this point he was going to tell us a few home truths and encourage a bit of evangelical soul-searching. But no.

In response to Paul’s instruction to ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3), all he could do was give those deluded ecumenists another kicking. ‘Ecumania’ and ‘the urge to merge’ lead to a marginalisation of the truth, he claimed: ‘our unity is not organisational but spiritual’.

Roberts’ remarks went down well with some of the audience, as I’m sure he knew it would. But in this midst of this self-congratulation there was no acknowledgement that we evangelicals have a history of schism and division worse than any other group in the history of the church. Does Paul not have anything to say to us, in the first instance, about our arrogance, our pride and our multitude of ego-driven splits?

And there was absolutely no recognition that the people who are on the other side of the argument might just have something in their favour – such as the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John’s gospel, for example. Before his death Jesus prayed to his Father that the disciples may be one, ‘that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17: 21).

That’s one heck of a reason to be serious about organisational unity, and those Christians who care deeply about it deserve a bit more respect. They are on solid biblical and theological ground when they argue that unity has to become visible and real – ‘that the world may believe’.

It may well be that, at the moment, organisational unity is not achievable or even desirable. But that’s really not the issue. Many evangelical churches can’t even bring themselves to join with local fellow Christians for an act of common witness during Lent or the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So let’s not pretend – while we’re busily writing off other believers – that our unity is ‘spiritual’. It’s nothing of the sort.

Photo: Lausanne Movement


Earlier this year we visited a church in Swanage that was joining with other local churches in outreach. The minister was saying that for these churches to come together like this was only possible after much heart searching, repentance and forgiveness between the churches and their members as there had been much hurt and misunderstanding in the past. They also said that all felt that they had no right to try to tell others of Christ’s love if that love was not to been seen between his people. It was not a case of unity for unity’s sake but because as children of God they have to be one if they want to serve their local community.

James Bull, Sat 23 Oct, 10:38

Good stuff. Keep it coming.

Veryan Richards, Sat 23 Oct, 08:23

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