If the 314 participants in the “Global Consultation on World Evangelization by AD 2000 and Beyond” are right, the gospel message will be available to all people by the start of the next century. The consultation, held in Singapore January 5–8, affirmed this goal, delivered in the form of a manifesto drafted in several small-group sessions.
Participants came from 50 countries; half were from the Third World. And despite the mix of evangelical, mainline, Pentecostal, and charismatic traditions, there was “an uncanny relaxedness and mutual trust,” as Ralph Winter, general director of the U.S. Center for World Mission, observed.
“We see afresh,” their manifesto states, “that cooperation and partnership are absolute necessities if the Great Commission is going to be fulfilled by the year 2000.” Participants confessed to “pride, prejudice, competition and disobedience that have hindered our generation from effectively working at the task of world evangelization.”
The manifesto lists four basic thrusts: focusing on the 1.3 billion people who have not heard the gospel, sharing the gospel in all the world’s languages, planting churches within every group of unreached people, and establishing a congregation “in every human community.”
“The AD 2000 movement has now laid a foundation,” said Thomas Wang, chairman of the consultation’s steering committee. The movement will gain additional exposure when some 4,000 Christians gather in Manila, July 11–20, for Lausanne II, the Lausanne movement’s second international congress. Wang also is international director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
However, the consultation may signal that some missions leaders are no longer looking to Lausanne as a world evangelization rallying point. Some voiced concern over Lausanne’s future, given the advancing age of Billy Graham and other leaders of the movement.
One consultation organizer who asked not to be identified said Lausanne has not adjusted to new realities. It retains some of the 1960s–70s mentality that “Catholics are eternally decadent” and “charismatics are forever fanatical,” the organizer said, whereas both are becoming key elements in the world evangelization movement.
Those “new realities,” however, are age-old problems for some in the AD 2000 movement, as evidenced by Latin American participants who drafted a “statement of concern” about Roman Catholic participation in the consultation. They said “the religious-political force of the Roman Catholic Church is using all means available and is in fact the most fierce opponent to all evangelistic efforts on our part.”
The Latin American evangelicals said cooperating with Catholics “goes beyond our historical and biblical commitment.” One Latin leader said being known as “ecumenicals” in their home countries would “destroy” their ministries.”
Gina Henriques, one of a half-dozen Catholics attending the consultation and the director of Evangelization 2000 in Asia, responded to the Latin Americans’ concerns by saying, “For whatever hurts they have received from Catholies, I’m not only grieved but I would beg pardon for those hurts, and I love them in the Lord. I was not aware of this undercurrent that was going on because of all the kindness and fellowship I’ve experienced here.”
Apart from their concerns regarding Catholicism, the Latin Americans said they intend to have “the broadest cooperation” with fellow evangelicals’ efforts to carry the gospel worldwide.
Yet Another Plan?
Another point of tension during the consultation involved a 50-page, 104-point “kaleidoscopic global plan” for evangelization, prepared by a team of 15 missiologists headed by David Barrett, an Anglican missionary from Wales noted for missions research.
The plan includes an array of declarations and steps toward world evangelization, such as the creation of an agency to monitor social, political, and religious conditions and trends throughout the world. It also calls for efforts to redeploy Christian missionaries to the unevangelized. Currently, 92 percent of all foreign missionaries “work with heavily Christianized populations in predominantly Christian lands, “the plan states.
However, concerns were voiced about the plan. Among them: it duplicates the roles of the Lausanne movement and the World Evangelical Fellowship, and it needs a stronger theological base. In response, the plan was revised to include key points from more than 300 pages of suggestions submitted by the participants or their working groups.
In a surprise move, Wang announced the steering committee’s decision to disband so that consultation participants would have “total freedom to decide what they want to do for the future.” Following a suggestion by Winter, about 100 participants laid plans for an information office to allow participants to maintain contact with one another. Several organizations and individuals expressed interest in covering start-up expenses. Still, some wondered how the consultation’s plans will be implemented.
“We had differences of opinion, methodology, and procedure,” Wang said, “but in the areas of world evangelization, missions, and a burden for fulfilling the Great Commission, we are in total harmony.”
By Art Toalston in Singapore
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