Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baptist Contributions to Edinburgh 2010: Centenary of the 1910 World Missionary Conference

In a previous post I called attention to the Edinburgh 2010 conference held June 2-6 marking the centenary of the 1910 World Missionary Conference. The following press release from the Baptist World Alliance highlights the Baptist contributions to this historic ecumenical gathering. (For what it's worth, Malkhaz Songulashvili, the archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia mentioned in the press release, represents along with his Baptist communion a fascinating case study in receptive ecumenism, for the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia has deliberately received some of the liturgical and ecclesiological gifts of the majority Eastern Orthodox tradition in their Georgian context.)

June 16, 2010

Baptists share in Edinburgh mission conference

Washington (BWA) -- Approximately 300 delegates from 60 countries, including 17 Baptists from 13 countries, attended the centenary of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, from June 2-6. The first conference, held in Edinburgh in June 1910, is regarded as the event that sparked the modern Protestant ecumenical movement and that which gave impetus to international Christian mission.

"Prominent among the 2010 participants was the significant contribution of the many women working in mission agencies, missiological faculties, various mission networks, and church departments of mission," wrote Darrell Jackson, director of the Nova Research Centre at Redcliffe College in the United Kingdom, and convener of one of the study groups at the conference.

Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, and one of four official BWA representatives at the event stated that "one can clearly see the global expansion of the faith since 1910 in the makeup of those attending." The latest statistics, Medley said, "are that 60 percent of all Christians now live in the Southern hemisphere. The foremost mother tongue in the church today is Spanish. Religious pluralism due to migration and other factors has increased throughout the world except in predominantly Muslim countries. Asia is the most religiously diverse region in the world."

Malkhaz Songulashvili, archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia and another BWA representative, declared that "Edinburgh 2010 should be considered a huge success not only because of all the sessions and documents that were discussed and approved, but also because it was a fascinating encounter of God's people from all sorts of traditions, cultures and countries."

Songulashvili noted that "Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Oriental and Eastern Orthodox came together to discuss matters of common interests on an equal footing." Jackson observed that many "plenary presentations and small group discussions were led by a variety of individuals from around the world."

The major focus of the conference was on nine themes, including foundations for mission, other faiths, mission spirituality, mission and unity, and theological education for mission.

Common Call, a declaration released during the five days of meeting, asserted that "the church, as a sign and symbol of the reign of God, is called to witness to Christ today by sharing in God's mission of love through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit."

Common Call implored the church to trust in the Triune God with a renewed sense of urgency, to remember Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection for the world's salvation, to know the Holy Spirit, and to affirm the importance of the biblical foundations of missional engagement.

The declaration affirmed that Christians should incarnate and proclaim the good news of salvation; enter into authentic dialogue, respectful engagement and humble witness among people of other faiths - and no faith - to the uniqueness of Christ; celebrate the renewal experienced through movements of migration and mission in all directions; become communities of compassion and healing; and to have a new zeal for justice, peace and the protection of the environment.

Medley indicated that "questions as to the nature of the relationship of the Christian faith to other faiths and to culture" will continue to be of great interest to those who are engaged "in missiological circles."

The four BWA representatives at the mission conference were Medley from the United States, Songulashvili from the Caucasus country of Georgia, Marvia Lawes, a Jamaican missionary in Panama, and Noah Moses Israel from South Africa.

© Baptist World Alliance

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