Saturday, June 5, 2010

Edinburgh 2010

June 2 was the beginning of “Edinburgh 2010,” a five-day conference marking the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference of 1910, one of the most important Christian conferences in the twentieth century.

While the Edinburgh 2010 meeting is sponsored primarily by the World Council of Churches (WCC), it is encouraging to note that the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as well as the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are a part of the “General Council.” The Baptist World Alliance is also a part of that same sponsoring group.

Leaders of the WCC and WEA spoke at the opening session on June 2. Noting the promise of theological conversations among Evangelicals, Orthodox, Catholics, and members churches of the WCC, the WEA leader said, “I hope that we can listen to one another with love and respect, build bridges rather than create chasms, pray together, learn together, discover new friendships.” That is an aspiration we all can surely affirm.

There are some conservative Christians, though, who are critical of the meeting in Edinburgh this week. From May 11-14, an alternative commemorative meeting to the one being held now in Edinburgh was convened in Tokyo. There were around 2,200 who gathered on May 11 for the conference whose official name was “Tokyo 2010: Global Mission Consultation and Celebration.”

One of the sponsors of Tokyo 2010 was CrossGlobal Link, an association of over ninety mission agencies that was formed in 1917 under the name Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association. Marvin Newell is the current Executive Director of CrossGlobal, and he was one of the plenary speakers at the meeting in Tokyo.

Soon after we boarded our flight to Tokyo on May 10, a man across the aisle in the row ahead of where I was sitting started reading a manuscript that appeared to be about missions. I asked if he was going to the missions consultation in Tokyo, and he said he was. It turned out that he was Marvin Newell, and he soon signed and gave me a copy of his new book Commissioned: What Jesus Wants You to Know as You Go.

There is a lot of good stuff in Dr. Newell’s book, which I sped-read on the airplane. And there were, no doubt, many good sermons and papers presented in Tokyo. But I am sad there still is so much division in the church, and I think the meeting this week in Edinburgh is a more hopeful sign for the future of world Christianity than the alternative meeting in Tokyo.

Edinburgh 2010 ends on Sunday afternoon with a “symbolic act of reflection, thanksgiving and commitment” to be held at 2 p.m. GMT. At that same time churches and Christian communities around the world are encouraged to celebrate “the global church united in its commitment to global mission.” For those of us living in CDT, that is 9 a.m. (but for those in Japan, it is 11 p.m.).

I hope some of you will be able to join me and many other Christians around the world at 2 p.m. GMT on Sunday for some time of reflection, prayer, and commitment to both the unity and the global mission of the church. 


  1. The first e-mail response I received after this morning's posting was from Dr. Glenn Hinson, who wrote,

    "You can count on me joining you in the prayer for Christian unity. Edinburgh 1910 was one of the most important moments in Christian history, and I'm glad to have spent 15 years on the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC."

  2. Unity was Christ's plan for the Church, and a key focus of His final petition to His Father. I pray for that.

    Yet there are reasons for divisions, primarily seen in the western Church which has been splitting and splintering since the dawn of the second millennium. Arrogance, unforgiveness, and heresy all continue to this day. Yet there are some who truly seek unity for the true Church from all branches - Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Evangelical. But finding a palatable man-made forum is difficult, without much humility and prayer.

    The Story and followers still are alive and a force in the world.