Stories from Cape Town 2010

This week I attended an informal discussion meeting in which my friend Doug Koop, editor of ChristianWeek, talked about his experience of Cape Town 2010, the third congress of the Lausanne movement (the first being 1974, in Lausanne). We discussed The Cape Town Commitment, a document authored for the congress by Chris Wright, but mostly we enjoyed hearing about the event, especially to get those perspectives one doesn’t necessarily get in official press releases. I confess that I hadn’t really informed myself about this event earlier, as I’m mostly out of the loop on matters Evangelical, but I did read some of Doug’s reports on Facebook.

He gave us a quick history primer: the Lausanne event in 1974, key organizers being the Billy Graham group and John Stott, with an internal debate sparked by then-young upstarts Samuel Escobar and Rene Padilla, arguing for a holistic gospel; then to the congress in Manila in 1989 whose primary result was partnerships and an emphasis on the language of “unreached people groups.” And now, a third congress in Cape Town, 2010. The Cape Town Commitment uses the language of love as a way of framing commitment (We love because God first loved us, we love the living God… etc., 10 points in all), which struck us as both compelling and significant, though one person in our discussion group commented (to the nods of others) that while it uses love language it seems to have a belief agenda.

Doug shared Cape Town 2010 highlights: the words of Libby Little, recently widowed when Dan Little was killed in Afghanistan, and of Sung Kyung, a young woman from North Korea. Other matters of note included controversy around John Piper going “off script” in his exposition of Ephesians 3, and the critique of “managerial missiology” or preoccupation with numbers.

Rather than trying to convey things third-hand, I commend Doug’s writing on the event at ChristianWeek blogs. There’s also an interesting piece there by Wendy Gritter of New Direction on her conversation about homosexuality with Anglican Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda.

Sometimes it seems that the large clusters of the Christian church — Evangelicals, World Council of Churches, Anabaptists — circle only in their own orbits, which partially explains the personal out-of-the-loop note above, but I notice that the Mennonite World Conference had some 30 representatives at Cape Town, according to this report by Byron Rempel Burkholder.

Assembly 15: does it need more analysis?

The January 11 Canadian Mennonite carried a letter from Margaret Loewen Reimer, which she had first sent to the Mennonite World Conference (MWC). In it she thanked for the “colourful reports” of Assembly 15 in Asuncion, Paraguay, in the recent MWC magazine, Courier. But, she went on, “The glowing reports, as appropriate as they are, did, however, leave me with many questions and a longing for some deeper analysis.” Loewen Reimer then offered some questions she would like explored in future issues of Courier and the Mennonite press generally.

MWC president Danisa Ndlovu (left) and Lutheran World Federation general secretary Ismael Noko embrace after the LWF apology to Anabaptists at Assembly 15 in Asuncion, Paraguay. Photo credit: Lowell Brown


Although I do not currently work for the Mennonite press, I was part of the four-person Meetinghouse team that covered Assembly 15 in Asuncion, Paraguay. (Meetinghouse is an association of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ publications.) I also oversaw Assembly 15’s presentation in the MB Herald, where I was working at the time. We covered the event primarily for our papers, but shared our material with MWC for use on their website and in Courier. They had also assigned stories that they then sent us through their news service. 

I’ve been thinking about Loewen Reimer’s letter and would like to offer a few responses to it from my perspective. I hope I won’t sound defensive, because I think the questions raised are good ones, indeed. 

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