Theological News Jul 2004 Vol 33 No 3




Theological Commission meeting marks 30 years

The WEA Theological Commission will mark 30 years of its life as it meets for its annual business and planning session Sept 25-28, 2004. The meeting, to be held in Bangkok. will feature important discussions on the program and activities of the Commission, including its publications, consultations and study units. It is expected that a publication on environmental stewardship will be finalised by the time of the meeting, and that there will be progress to report on the electronic publication program. A special feature for discussion will be the impact on the TC of plans for the WEA to further restructure itself. Membership of the 9-strong TC will also be on the agenda as consideration as given to ways to fill vacancies and to expand its scope.

An important feature of the 2004 session will be the participation of the members in the Lausanne Forum on World Evangelisation which will follow the TC meeting. Most of the TC members will be involved in the Forum issue groups, while Dr. Rolf Hille, chair of the TC, will be the convenor of one (The uniqueness of Christ). Those named as theologian include Dr. David Hilborn (Globalisation), Dr. David Parker (Changing expressions of the church), Dr. Jae Sung Kim (The two-thirds world church), Dr. George Vandervelde (The whole gospel), Dr. Ken Gnanakan (Racial Conflict and Reconciliation), Dr. Brian G Edgar (Bio-Ethics).

A special session of the TC meeting will be devoted to joint discussions with the Lausanne Theology Working Group, led by Dr. Luder Whitlock. This will enable both groups to share information about their activities and plans with the aim of better cooperation and maximising their impact in theological reflection for the global evangelical community.

TC Member Publishes Survey of Evangelical Statements of Faith

TC Member, Dr. Thomas C. Oden has teamed with Dr. James I. Packer to produce survey of key evangelical statements of faith to show that there has been a high level of consensus over the last fifty years. In the book to be published soon by InterVarsity Press called One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus, the authors focus on sixteen different doctrinal themes. Despite the fact that there is often a problem with fragmentation in evangelicalism, the authors of this book show there is a high level of unity to be found in the various documents which range from the well known Lausanne Covenant (1974), Manila Manifesto (1989), The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration (1999) and The Amsterdam Declaration (2000) through to statements of faith of seminaries, missionary bodies and parachurch groups. Doctrinal areas covered include the gospel, Scripture and all the main areas of systematic theology plus religious pluralism, Christian unity, and social responsibility.

In an interview with Christianity Today, Dr. Oden was asked, 'What do you hope your book will accomplish?' He replied, 'I think the Holy Spirit is at work in our time to bring evangelicals together in common witness and mission and service. This is work of the Spirit, and we are only attesting that textually. We are trying to show how there is a correlation and a resonance that runs all the way through virtually all of the major evangelical statements in the last 50 years. Our purpose is not to display an act of tour de force scholarship, but rather to cooperate with the mission of the Spirit in eliciting the unity of the body of true believers.'

WEA TC 1974-2004 Celebrating 30 years

We continue our special focus on the 30th anniversary of the WEA Theological Commission. The July 2004 issue of our Evangelical Review of Theology commences with the second part of the history of the TC, covering the period from 1986 to 1994.

The 1986 general meeting of the TC marked the conclusion of the work of the third chairman, Bishop David Gitari, of Kenya. He was brought up in a pioneer missionary family and worked as an untrained teacher before studying theology in Bristol, UK. He served as General Secretary of the Pan-African Fellowship of Evangelical Students. and then General Secretary of the Bible Society of Kenya. From 1975 he was Anglican Bishop of Mt. Kenya East, Bishop of Kirinyaga Diocese from 1990. In 1997 he became Archbishop of Kenya, retiring in 2002. He holds degrees from the Universities of Nairobi and London and Hon. DDs from Ashland Seminary, Ohio and University of Kent. Strongly influenced by the Lausanne Congress, he has been a leading advocate of holistic witness in Kenya, even at considerable personal risk, and in many other places around the world. The biblical basis for his action is outlined in the article published in the July issue of ERT, entitled, Church and Politics. Now in retirement, he sends this greeting for our anniversary feature.

"It is a joy to realize that WEF Theological Commission is now celebrating thirty years of its existence. I think I was present when the Commission was established thirty years ago and I had the privilege of serving it as the Chairman for a decade. The Commission has stimulated many Evangelical theologians to share their theological thinking throughout the globe. The WEF Theological Commission should be challenged to continue looking afresh into the challenging issues of the world today and to remain faithful to the Word of God. I have no doubt that where Evangelicals have faithfully proclaimed the truth of the Gospel the church has continued to grow whereas where such truth has been compromised the church has declined. I remind you of the shortest and yet most comprehensive commission Jesus gave disciples 'As the father has sent me, so send I you' JOHN 20: 27. May the Lord continue blessing the ministry of WEF Theological Commission."

From 1986, the TC was led by Dr Peter Kuzmic as chairman and Dr Sunand Sumithra as Executive Director. With new leadership, this was a period of considerable readjustment. There was further adaptation when Dr Bong Rin Ro became Executive Director in 1989, first on an interim basis, and then permanently a year later. Despite this unsettlement, the work of the TC continued strongly with numerous publications, conferences and study units in action, and significant developments in the work of the theological education section, International Council of Accrediting Agencies (ICAA, now ICETE). Topics for study included the uniqueness of Christ, evangelization of the poor, ecumenical relationships, ethics and the environment, conversion, and key theological trends of the time.

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