Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rene Padilla on the Cape Town Lausanne Congress

Rene Padilla blogged about the Cape Town Lausanne Congress, appraising the future of the movement and offering significant critiques. Very helpful analysis. (The original post is in Spanish, so here's a Google-translated English version.)

The future of the Lausanne Movement

C. Rene Padilla

The figures relating to the Third International Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 17 to 24 October under the theme "In Christ God was reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19) are impressive. There were more than 4,000 participants from 198 countries. In addition, there were about 650 Web sites connected with the Congress in 91 countries and 100,000 "hits" from 185 countries. This means that many thousands of people around the world were able to attend meetings via the Internet. Doug Birdsall, Executive Chairman of the Lausanne Movement, probably right in saying that Cape Town 2010 was "the most representative global evangelical meeting in history." Without doubt, this achievement was largely the result of his long effort to make that happen.

Equally impressive were the many practical arrangements were made before Congress. Besides the difficult process of selecting the speakers for the plenary and for "multiplexes" (elective seminar) and the dialogue sessions, translators and participants from each country represented, there were two tasks that must have involved a lot of work before Congress : The Global Conversation Lausanne to enable people around the world make their comments and interact with others taking advantage of contemporary technological advances, and the drafting of the first part (the theological) of Cape Town Commitment prepared by the Working Group Lausanne Theological directed by Christopher Wright.

A positive assessment of Lausanne III
The best way to check the value of a conference like Lausanne III to analyze the concrete results it produces later in connection with the life and mission of the church. For this reason, this assessment of the conference just held in Cape Town has to be considered merely as a preliminary assessment.
Each of the six-day program (with one day off between the third and fourth) had a theme:
1) Monday: Truth: check the truth of Christ in a pluralistic world of globalization.
2) Tuesday: Reconciliation: Building Peace of Christ in our broken and divided world.
3) Wednesday: World Religions: bearing witness to the love of Christ to people of other religions.
4) Friday: Priorities: discerning the will of God for evangelizing in our century.
5) Saturday: Integrity, call the church to return to humility, integrity and simplicity.
6) Sunday: Partnership: co-participation in the Body of Christ for a new global balance.

Each of these key issues, described as "the greatest challenges to the church in the next decade," was the theme of Bible study and theological reflection each day in the morning. The biblical text that was used in the series entitled "Celebrating the Bible" was the letter to the Ephesians. One of the most positive aspects of the program was the inductive study of the passage of the day in groups, each consisting of six members sitting around a table. This provided the group members the opportunity to learn together and pray for each other, develop new friendships and build alliances for the future. Bible study group was followed by exposure of the Ephesians passage selected for that day. Without minimizing the importance of music, drama, visual arts, stories and performances of "multimedia", a high percentage of participants felt that the time devoted to "Celebrating the Arts" could have been reduced to allow more time "Celebrating the Bible", an activity greatly appreciated.

Special mention should be made of several of the witnesses who gave the plenary sessions in the morning some people whose life experience clearly illustrated the theme of the day. Who that has been there will ever forget, for example, the young Palestinian and Jewish youth who spoke together about the meaning of reconciliation in Christ above racial barriers? Or the American missionary who spoke of witnessing the love of Christ with people of other religions, and told how many Christians, including her husband, a doctor, were killed by Muslims, while returning from a remote village where they had been moved to serve by Christian compassion in Afghanistan?

In the multiplexes and the dialogue sessions each day in the afternoon were explored in depth the practical implications of Bible study and biblical reflection in the morning. Indeed, the most important debate on the various topics are not necessarily carried out within the limits of time allocated in the program but in informal discussions outside the formal agenda. Anyway, the fact that much of the rich reflection on issues related to contemporary global problems occurred in the afternoon sessions. These participatory sessions, which were taken into account the understanding of the diversity of perspectives represented, the contextualization of ideas, models, contacts and materials, and commitment to joint action plans, will be the basis for the second part of Commitment Cape Town. The plan is to publish the document in two parts (the theological and practical) with a study guide at the end of November.

Of the twenty multiplexes that were offered during the Congress, was especially focused three issues that could be considered as the most critical for the Southern Hemisphere: globalization, environmental crisis, and the richness vs. poverty. These three factors are closely linked together and, given the enormous impact they have on millions of people in the world of big majorities, they deserve much more attention than they have received so far by the evangelical movement.

Serious deficiencies
The official definition of its mission, the Lausanne Movement exists to "strengthen, inspire and equip the Church to world evangelization in our generation, and encourage Christians to their duty to participate in public affairs and social." A careful analysis of this definition reflects the dichotomy that has influenced a large segment of the evangelical movement especially in the western world: the dichotomy between evangelism and social responsibility. Because of this dichotomy, closely related to the dichotomy between secular and sacred, the Lausanne Movement aims to "strengthen, inspire and equip the Church for evangelization" but only "encourage Christians" about their social responsibility . The implicit assumption is that the primary mission of the church is evangelism conceived in terms of oral communication of the Gospel, while participation in matters of public interest and social good works by which Christians fulfill their vocation as "Light of the World" for the glory of God (Matthew 5:16) - is a secondary duty for which Christians do not need to be strengthened, inspired and equipped, but only encouraged.

In biblical exposition on Tuesday based on Ephesians 2 (the second day of the Congress) became clear, from the biblical text, that Jesus Christ is our peace (v. 14), made our peace (v. 15) and preached peace (v . 17). In other words, in Christ, being, doing and proclaim peace (shalom, life in abundance) are inseparable. The church is faithful to God's purpose in so far as it extends the mission of Jesus Christ in history stating specifically the reality of the Gospel not only for what it says but also what is and what it does. The whole mission of the church is rooted in the mission of God in Christ, a mission that involves the whole person in community, to all creation and every aspect of life.

Bible exposition based on Ephesians 3 the next day put in relief the urgent need for the Lausanne Movement to clarify theologically the content of the mission of God's people. In contrast to what was said yesterday, the designated speaker for Wednesday said that while the church is concerned about all forms of human suffering, she is particularly concerned with eternal suffering and thus is called to give priority to evangelize the lost.

A serious deficiency of Lausanne III was not giving time for serious reflection on the commitment God expects of its people regarding their mission. Unfortunately, no time to discuss the commitment of Cape Town, on which the Theological Task Force led by Christopher Wright had worked for one year with the intention to circulate at the beginning of Congress. The document was distributed only on Friday night and no action was taken for participants to at least write their personal comments on it before the close of the conference in response to specific questions. According to the Executive Committee, had no time for that! The negative stance taken by the organizers of the program on the recommendation of a group of elderly participants interested in ensuring that all participants see the document as his own not only works against this purpose. It is also a sign that the Lausanne Movement is still very far from achieving the partnership, without which no basis to be considered a global movement.

In contrast to the treatment she received the document produced by the Theological Task Force on Wednesday devoted a full plenary session on the strategy for world evangelization in this generation, a strategy developed in the United States on the basis of a list of "unreached people groups" prepared by the Strategic Working Group in Lausanne. This strategy reflected the obsession with numbers, typical of the market mentality that characterizes a sector of the evangelical movement in the United States. Moreover, according to many participants of the Congress who know first hand the needs of their countries in relation to evangelism, the list of unreached people groups did not do justice to the real situation. Interestingly, the list contained no people group in the United States!

Another shortcoming of Lausanne III was that, as noted by the Special Interest Group on Reconciliation and towards the end of Congress, there was no official mention of the fact that he was performing in a country that until recently was dominated by apartheid and still suffer social injustice resulting from this policy. Indeed, Congress was held at the International Convention Centre was built on land that is claimed to sea with the debris of the Southern District of Cape Town where, in 1950, the district was declared for whites only area. Consequently, about 60,000 black residents were expelled from the area by force and their homes were completely destroyed. However, the organizers of Cape Town 2010 turned a deaf ear to the request of the Special Interest Group on Reconciliation Congress officially rejected "theological heresies that supported the apartheid" and lamented "the socio-economic suffering is this legacy of apartheid. " One wonders how serious the Lausanne Movement leaders in their commitment to the Lausanne Covenant, which stipulates that "the salvation message also contains the message of trial of any form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not fear denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist "(paragraph 5).

The partnership in mission and future of the Lausanne Movement
A fact now recognized and often mentioned those interested in the life and mission of the church globally is that in recent decades the center of gravity of Christianity has shifted from the North and the South West and the East. Despite that, all too often Christian leaders in North and West, especially in the United States, continue taking it for granted that they are responsible for designing the strategy for the evangelization of the world. As stated on the page about the "Day Six - Partnership" of the book containing the detailed description of the Congress program, "the basis of organizational leadership, control of financial resources and decision-making power of the strategy tends to remain in the north and west. "

Sadly, the biggest obstacle to implementing a true partnership in mission is the wealth of the North and West, the wealth that Jonathan Bonk, in his important book on Missions and Money (Misiones and money) has described as "a Western missionary problem ". If this is so, and if the Lausanne Movement is to contribute significantly to fulfilling the mission of God through his people, it is time that the missionary force connected with this movement, including his strategists, renounce power Money and model of missionary life in the incarnation, earthly ministry and the cross of Jesus Christ.