Lausanne Congress – Cape Town: Of Opening Ceremonies and Services

Chris Sugden

4200 people from 198 countries have gathered at the International
Convention Centre in Cape Town in what is claimed to be the most
united expression of the Church that has been seen.   A further
100,000 people are linked in through 700 Global Link centres in 96
countries. View here

It is clear that the great success of the running of the World Cup,
acknowledged on all sides here, has provided Cape Town with a very
well oiled infra-structure for this sort of event.

The opening ceremony began with choreographed choirs, full orchestra,
dancers, vigorous drumming, and video presentations of African nature
and children. It started at fortissimo and stayed there.  The identity
of the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelisation, 36 years on from
the original congress at Lausanne in 1974, was clearly the focus on
the evening,

Greetings were brought from Billy Graham and John Stott who brought
together the 1974 gathering; Michael Cassidy of Africa Enterprise was
identified as the person who had been instrumental in bringing the
Congress to South Africa.  There followed a video history of world
Christianity from Pentecost to the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary
Conference.  Then the history of the growth of the church in the last
100 years was presented in a series of dramatic presentations of
Bishop Azariah in India encouraging someone to defy issues of caste;
Pandita Ramabai of India taking up the cause of women; John Sung in
China, Simon Kimbangu in Congo and William Wade Harris in West Africa,
Rene Padilla (present in the hall) as a student worker in Argentina
and, according to a South African colleague a slightly off target
presentation about sexual harassment in the apartheid era. While this
gave examples of personal ministry, where will we see the role of
churches in communities bringing changes to families and groups and

Rev Douglas Birdsall, the chairman of the Committee, brought the
welcome address.  This was primarily a ceremony expressing Africa’s
welcome, the identity of the Lausanne Movement and the purpose of the

Two questions concerned my host and me as we drove back home.  First,
was the attempt to express the identity of the movement by drawing to
itself the whole of church history up to Edinburgh 1910 and beyond (
without by the way mentioning the Edinburgh 2010 conference in July
this year), in fact necessary?  Everyone present has an identity in
their own church affiliation and ministry. They come together at
Lausanne because it expresses their common concern to share the love
of God shown in the one Lord and Saviour of humanity, Jesus Christ,
with the people of the world in their whole existence. Lausanne 1974
came together because mission societies had nowhere else to gather
once the World Council of Churches had absorbed the International
Mission Council. Bishop Lesslie Newbigin its then chairman later
judged this absorption to be an error of judgement.  They do not come
because they want to join an institution or gain a further identity.
They come because of the great strength and encouragement to be gained
from taking counsel together in a common task.

Secondly, an opening ceremony is as we know from their sporting
counterparts, a great leap in the dark, essentially a one off.  The
whole is not seen until it comes together. And while much of the
ceremony was great theatre, two and a half hours was slightly long,
and slightly light on worship and preaching,

The best part so far is the actual meeting together, catching up with
old colleagues and meeting new ones and working on a common vision.
As the African phrase has it: “Things happen when people meet
together.”  And  the style of the congress is for people to sit at
tables of six to listen to and engage with the presentations. So there
is a good reference point for finding people in a vast hall as all
have specific table locations for the congress, and a place for solid
interaction and discussion, and belonging, Modern technology is a
great servant but a bad master and nothing can replace human
interaction and relationships face to face in the Christian movement.

There are to be two or even three gatherings of Anglicans at the
congress. Present so far are Archbishop Bob Duncan from the Anglican
Church in North Anerica, Archbishop Ben Kwashi from Nigeria and
Archbishop Henry Orombi (Uganda) who is the Congress Chairman. Others
expected are Archbishops John Chew (South East Asia), Mouneer Anis
(Egypt) and Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria).  There are no Bishops from the
United Kingdom due I am told to their diaries being filled up a long
way ahead. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town was present at the
opening ceremony.

Chris Sugden
Anglican Mainstream

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