Lausanne III to bring its world conference to South Africa


Session is planned for 2010
By Lori Arnold
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism will host its third International Congress on World Evangelism in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010.

The Rev. S. Douglas Birdsall, executive chairman of the committee, announced the congress May 4 to the Evangelical Press Association, which was holding its annual convention in Colorado Springs.

Birdsall said thousands of evangelical leaders from across the globe are expected to participate in the event, which will focus on challenges and opportunities that the church faces in its efforts for world evangelism.

The conference is designed to equip leaders in reaching the world for Jesus Christ.

In an interview with the Christian Examiner immediately after the announcement, Birdsall said the pending congress will have significant implications for American evangelicals who have lost their "home-field" advantage to Christians in Asia and Africa.

"Now all of a sudden we are being marginalized," he said. "We need to operate from a learning posture of humility. We are no longer a mission-sending culture. The church is losing its influence in society."

"Where the church is growing, on the edge of the kingdom, they are struggling," he said.

The selection of South Africa as the site of the conference reflects the shift in evangelical growth, Birdsall said. He added that is also historically significant because Cape Town was proposed by William Carey, the father of modern missions, as a site for an 1810 international missionary conference. The date of the conference also marks the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference, held in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Among those planning the conference will be the Rev. Henry Orombi, the Ugandan Anglican Archbishop, who will serve as chairman of the Africa Host Committee. The advisory council will be chaired by Dr. Samuel Escobar from Latin America. Other leaders include Bishop Hwa Yung of the Methodist Church in Malaysia; the Rev. Ramez Atallah, director of the Bible Society of Egypt and the Rev. Blair T. Carlson, a former international crusade director with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Carlson grew up in Hong Kong and has spent much of his life working overseas.

The groundwork for the congress began in 2004 during the Forum for World Evangelism in Thailand. That conference drew 1,500 people and led two years later to the 2006 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Malaysia. About 500 young people from 120 countries attended that event. Further planning is expected in June when the Lausanne Bi-Annual Leadership meeting is held in Budapest.

The most recent world congress was held in 1989 in Manila when 3,600 leaders from 190 nations attend Lausanne II. The original meeting was convened in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland, under the guidance of the Rev. Billy Graham. That meeting, according to a news release by A. Larry Ross Communications, produced The Lausanne Covenant, a collaborative document dealing with such issues as the authority of Scripture, the nature of evangelism, Christian social responsibility, the urgency of world evangelism, faith and culture and the nature of spiritual conflict.

"The 1974 Lausanne Congress was critical to the evangelism efforts of that day," Graham said in a news release. "But the issues facing today's generation are radically different. That's why I strongly support the need for a new congress in 2010."

Many of the issues faced by the evangelical church are potentially graver than ever.

"The pressing issues before us today, such as engaging worldviews increasingly hostile to Christianity, the threat of terrorism, and HIV/AIDS, coupled with the new opportunities and new technologies, are very different from those issues faced in 1974," Birdsall told the evangelical publishers.

"New global challenges require thoughtful and prayerful global responses."

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Published, May 2007