Was Cape Town 2010 scripted by the West?

Recently, Tim Stafford posted an article on his blog entitled "Blind Spot." This seems to be a follow up from his Christianity Today article "Teeming Diversity" which provides a kind of post-Cape Town 2010 review.  I appreciate what Tim is trying to do in both offerings, but I have been very concerned generally by the kind of criticisms and complaints that have been coming out of the congress.

To be clear, I'm not trying to respond to or argue with Tim here as much as I'm seeking to respond more generally to the spirit of criticism voiced by some who have tried to suggest that the program of Cape Town 2010 was essentially a Western production that non-Westerners were invited to participate in.  I've heard some suggest that while African, Asian, and Latin American faces were on the stage, Americans where calling the shots, writing the script.  I'm disturbed by this kind of talk because my feeling is that in the midst of it, we're missing something huge -- Jesus.

I've already written on this before in my article "Top 3 Complaints about Cape Town 2010".  So, I refer you there.  But today, I feel compelled to post this article because I found an important comment by none other than Doug Birdsall tucked away in the comment section of Stafford's CT article.  Doug, of course, is the chairman of the Lausanne Movement.  I believe his response is compelling and important.  Writes Doug:

"It is a stretch to suggest that the program was planned by westerners and and then sent to the rest of the world. The program chair was Ramez Atallah of Cairo, Egypt. The program director was Grace Mathews from India. The twelve International Deputy Directors from the twelve regions of the world were involved at every stage, including hosting of 20 pre-congress consultations. The program represented the consensus of hundreds of leaders from around the world. A group of leaders from across Africa met annually in Cape Town for the last three years under the Chairmanship of the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Rev. Dr. Henry Orombi to ensure that the program was global in scope and also African in nuance. Two thirds of the speakers were from Africa, Latin America and Asia. They shaped the program. The leaders of the worship team were from South Africa and from Jamaica. It is a slight to these global leaders to overlook their rich contribution and suggest it was planned by the west."

Perhaps more on this later. For now I leave it at this.  May the Lord grant us to worry less about such controversies and more about Christ and His Kingdom.


  1. I guess the wonderful presence of he Lord at Capetown 2010 was not important to those who find fault under every tablecloth. We are not the world; we are the Church of God. These pithy complaints do not honor the name of the Lord. I felt the Congress was a foretaste of Heaven. I did not find fault with one thing. The diversity of presentations, topics, testimonies and the final traditional sitting at table with the Lord, and 4,300 persons from 198 countries was overwhelming.

  2. Thank you, Joseph. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to respond. I too was overwhelmed by this rich time with the Lord and His Church.

  3. I was also overwhelmed by the richness of the experience. To add a little to your information on the worship team, it was led by a South African and a Barbadian living in Germany, and included persons from the US, Canada, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, Kenya, Latvia, Tobago and Mozambique. Along the way, we included persons from Colombia, Rwanda, Taiwan and Brazil. It certainly was a very international mix!

    I must say also, though, that I'm not sure that we should dismiss the 'complaints' as being divisive and negative. For me, the richness of the experience was in spite of these very observations that have been highlighted - evidence that God is still sovereign regardless of the shortcomings of man.

    From the interior, I could certainly observe the scripting being a Western one, if not from any other standpoint, then certainly from a musical one. Having persons from various ethnic backgrounds and nationalities does not guarantee having worldviews rooted in these backgrounds. Colonization was very successful. I don't think it will be helpful to ignore or deny this truth. We need to dig deeper, search our hearts with regard to our true desire for reconciliation, and be open to whatever the Spirit of God is saying to us.

    We have not yet attained. Let us keep on pressing!

  4. Thank you, Jo-Ann, for your comment. I see what you mean. Still, the spirit of some of the complaining did indeed feel out-of-place. I'm not sure. You've given a good perspective.

  5. Hi,

    I think to dig deeper into such 'accusations' one must go back to some communication theory. Yes there is a sense in which the West is dominating the non-Western church, which if it only realised, would be very embarrassing to it. Something needs to be done about this, and it is not confined to Cape Town. Yet the West is very reluctant to turn their ear to taking such critiques seriously, as they seem to threaten a great deal without necessarily replacing it with anything substantial.

    This is, I believe, a vitally important concern. Just assuring ourselves that certain people of non-Western origin participated in key aspects of the convention will not suffice. For example, I believe that although the conference was in Africa and Africans seemed to have a high profile, no African language was there for official purposes in translation. But this is only scratching the surface.

    I suggest folks take the time to read a few articles, such as

    The issues that are here often wallpapered over by the West are deep and wide and need attention.


  6. Jim, thanks for your comments. French, English, Portuguese, and Arabic were all official languages of the congress that would be considered either primary or secondary languages for African participants.

    You have said that "Just assuring ourselves that certain people of non-Western origin participated in key aspects of the convention will not suffice". What do you mean? The accusation is that the Western leaders scripted the whole thing. This is rather hard to believe in light of the facts as to who was actually in charge.

    I encourage you to look at Hwa Yung's answer to these complaints: