beth barnett and stephen hale
From Kew to Cape Town: Beth Barnett and
Bishop Stephen Hale.
 

Calls for a second Reformation and a perceptible shift in evangelical strength from the West to the East and from the North to the South were among the features of the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation in 21 years, held recently in Cape Town.

Bishop Stephen Hale and Mrs Beth Barnett, both of St Hilary’s in Kew, were two of about 50 Australians among 4000 delegates to the third Congress in late October, the first to be held since the 1989 Manila Congress at which Melbourne’s former Archbishop, Dr David Penman, led Bible studies shortly before his illness and death upon his return to Melbourne.

Bishop Hale said the evangelical movement no longer had “giants” such as Lausanne pioneers Billy Graham and John Stott but was now much larger and more diverse. After Manila, the Lausanne Movement was in turmoil because it had a large deficit. “They seem to have re-established on a very strong and stable basis,” Bishop Hale said.

He said people were moving around the planet and that God was at work through these movements and migrants. Faith was spreading across countries and within countries, often without the formal involvement of churches. But the Church of England and the Church Missionary Society UK were doing “reverse mission”, for instance, with missionaries coming to the UK from Africa and the West Indies.

“All of us ought to be open to receiving people in mission work as well as sending people in mission work,” he said. “We can’t reach the ethnic diaspora in this country. If you leave it to us, it won’t happen.”

Mrs Barnett said: “When you say evangelism, you have to mean discipleship.”

But she said in persecuted churches, not everyone was able to withstand the pressure. “Lots of people lose their faith because it’s just really, really hard.”

In Cape Town, the retiring Chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, Dr Chris Wright, said in a speech entitled “Calling the Church of Christ Back to Humility, Integrity and Simplicity” that many evangelical leaders had become obsessed about their status and power in the Church and had become disobedient to Christ in the process. They worshipped popularity and tried to make themselves look more successful than they were.

“The Church was dazzled by these super apostles who boasted about their credentials and their impressive speaking and great popularity,” the British theologian said.

“What hurts God the most [is] the failure, disobedience and rebellion of those he has redeemed.”

Dr Wright said three idols were especially seductive, even for evangelical Christians – the idol of power and pride, the idol of popularity and success and the idol of wealth and greed.

He described the “prosperity gospel” as false teaching, which distorted what it meant to be blessed by God and did not properly teach about suffering and the cross.

“Reformation is once again the desperate need,” he said. “It needs to start among those who claim the name ‘evangelical’, but who are characterised by these and other failures and abuses.”

The Associate General Secretary for Partnership and Collaboration with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, Nigerian Femi Adeleye, said the prosperity gospel was “nothing less than seduction into a false delusion”, which reduced God to the “genie in the bottle”.

“It is the shepherds fleecing the flock… the poor who sow the seed are not the ones that get richer. It is leaders and pastors who wear better suits, drive better cars and acquire bigger homes.”

The Lausanne Movement’s International Director, Mr Lindsay Brown of Wales, said in his closing address: “The evangelical church has rightly put an emphasis on bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to every people group, but we have perhaps been a little weaker in our attempts to apply biblical principles to every area of society, and to public policy: to the media, to business, to government. We need to engage deeply with all human endeavour – and with the ideas which shape it.”

The Cape Town Commitment, a declaration of belief and a call to action in the historic tradition of the Lausanne Covenant issued by the first Congress in Switzerland in 1974, is to be issued in two parts.

The first part, which followed discussions between senior evangelical theologians from all continents, is on the Lausanne website, www.lausanne.org.

The consequent call to action, shaped from discussion at the Congress around critical issues facing the Church over the next 10 years, will be completed by this month, with Dr Wright its chief architect. 

 

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