Theological News Nov 2010 Vol 39 No 4



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Lausanne III Cape Town 2010 Special Reports

It was a great joy to meet hundreds of members and friends of TC in Cape Town among the delegates. What great theologians we have in the Global South and what a gift it is to learn from them—some from countries with very few Evangelicals and under persecution, and others from countries with a very high percentage, like Uganda (37%).

I spoke at meetings of the Anglican Community (five archbishops from every continent!) and the World Reformed Fellowship. I also had a meeting with Pentecostal theologians and deep discussions with the observers from WCC and other international bodies, some of them having come out of TC, like ICETE. 

The cooperation with Chris Wright and Rosalee Ewell of the Lausanne Theology Working Group working on the final statement was great, as was the cooperation with the Lausanne and WEA leadership, the other WEA commissions (Mission, Religious Liberty, IT) and our initiatives like Micah and IIRF. We distributed thousands of CDs and other material. At the Missions Commissions meeting, my first words were ‘We love you!’ I see the deep desire of Lausanne and WEA, that theology, mission theology, missions practitioners and initiatives like Micah go hand in hand, which is also a great challenge for theologians worldwide.

For this special issue of TN, I have asked three different people to present their evaluation of Cape Town from totally different perspectives—and asked them not only to sing praises but to be self critical as well: Rolf Hille, former chair of TC, who has been at all Lausanne conferences since 1974, Rosalee Ewell, who has been in the centre of drafting the final statement for the Lausanne Theology Working Group, and John Baxter-Brown, as an observer from WCC.

Thomas Schirrmacher

God is on the Move by Rolf Hille

God is on the move.  That means, God can really be experienced.  This experience, this feeling, and this commitment characterized the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization at the southern tip of Africa in Cape Town.  ‘God is not dead. Jesus is alive!’ was sung over and over again with great enthusiasm by more than 4,000 evangelical Christians from 197 countries at the Cape of Good Hope. 

With this truly international and ecumenical conference, the Lausanne Movement succeeded in connecting a new generation to the new beginning they made 36 years ago in the Swiss city of Lausanne.  The vitality of the global Evangelical movement was evident in Cape Town as a great source of strength throughout all Protestant and Anglican churches.  The conscious connection to the historically significant first conference on world missions 100 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, was certainly a very powerful symbolic gesture.   Holding this conference in the year 2010, the perspectives of the Lausanne delegates are connected to continue the legacy of Protestant missionary work on a broad ecumenical  level.

The development following the Edinburgh conference of 1910 was dramatic.  After a series of productive missionary conferences and the integration of the International Council on Missions in the World Council of Churches (WCC), a rising break with tradition came to a head in the year 1968.  At the WCC, socio-political responsibility in the world appeared to replace evangelization.  Finally, a moratorium was even placed on the commissioning of white missionaries to the Third World and this practice was supposed to be halted entirely. Instead, the question arose:  Should missions be replaced by dialogue with non-Christian world religions?  Theologically-conservative churches and groups, that is, the evangelicals, wanted to stay firmly committed to the goal of world evangelization.  They appealed to the new beginning made in Edinburgh in 1910.  In this situation, Billy Graham, with his financially powerful organization, took the initiative by inviting 2,700 evangelists and missiologists to Lausanne.  In doing so, the evangelical movement was established as a globally strong force next to the WCC.   ‘Lausanne’ 1974 then launched a large number of missionary efforts and developed a deeply-founded theology of missions.  The Second Lausanne Congress in Manila in 1989 was an important motivator for evangelization for many young Christians; yet, because of some internal conflicts, it could not really fulfil its expectations. 

With Lausanne III in Cape Town, it is evident that a changing of the guard has taken place. With globalization, urbanization, communications technology, and the end of the East-West conflict, the world has fundamentally changed.  Profound changes have also occurred in the churches:  The majority of Christendom is now in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The young churches are blossoming in many different ways while the once Christian West is mostly secular.  The WCC has clearly moved away from radical positions and is now in regular dialogue with evangelicals.  For today's Facebook generation, the controversies of the 1970`s are church history.  Even within the evangelical movement, women have found a new self-confident role of responsible leadership. 

Lausanne III has taken up all of these challenges and overcome them in a overall convincing way. 

  1. The long conflict with the WCC is being replaced by dialogue. In the meantime, it has become a self-understood fact throughout all Protestant churches that churches must work together ecumenically in world missions.
  2. The representatives of the Two-Thirds World make up a large part of the face of the evangelical movement. Their way of expressing and living out faith, enduring persecution, and evangelizing with great joy is simply contagious. The manifold participation of women and young participants fits seamlessly into this context.
  3. In the age of multimedia, the vast amount of program offerings are characterized by an abundance of audio-visual presentations, theatre productions, and skit dramas. Despite these, the theological depth of Lausanne 1974 was not reached again in Cape Town.
  4. The important elements of ‘Lausanne III’ were personal piety and the encouraging testimonies of experiences with God. ‘God is on the move!’ - the Lausanne Movement has been impacted by this fact and set in motion.

(The author, Dr. Rolf Hille of Heilbronn, Germany, former Chair of the WEA TC, is the Chairman of the Fellowship of Evangelical Theologians in Germany and was a participant on all congresses held by the Lausanne movement since 1974. (The original German text was published in the Information Service of the German Evangelical Alliance-idea )

TC Member Addresses Lausanne Congress on Truth

Dr Carver Yu, a long term member of the WEA Theological Commission who is President of the prestigious China Graduate School of Theology, Hong Kong, addressed the Cape Town Lausanne Congress on its first full day on the importance of presenting the truth of the Christian message in its evangelistic work.

In the advance version of his paper which was circulated early for feedback (go to ) Dr Yu said, ‘If moral values are severed from their transcendent source, then the highest virtue will be nothing but pragmatic function. . . . The value of the human person lies in her marketability or functionality in the market. The person is basically a tool or a commodity to others.’

He went on to say, ‘The exile of transcendent truth will exact a heavy price on us leading to socio-cultural chaos and therefore immense suffering. We cannot but stand up to turn back the tide. We have to preach the truth of the Christian gospel at all costs.’

Dr Yu explained, ‘Those of us who live in Asia have for centuries lived with the reality of cultural plurality in general and religious plurality in particular. Yes, we have lived with plurality, but not pluralism. Pluralism has never been an option.’.

One blogger commented, ‘For me, Carver Yu was one of the most thought-provoking presentations of the day followed by Os Guiness who offered “Six Reasons Why Truth Matters to Us Supremely”.

For the video go to