I was only 12-years-old when it was first written, but having just now finished reading through the "Manila Manifesto," I can testify that this is a document that we must not forget about or neglect. Structured similarly to the newly submitted Lausanne Theology Working Group paper "The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World", The "Manifesto" is powerful, direct, and timeless in its wisdom.
As I read, I was struck by how insightfully this document speaks to many of the great issues of our time and, for that matter, to many of the advance papers that have been submitted for Lausanne III. I’m still very new to the Lausanne Movement, but it has been my sense that while the Lausanne Covenant is often spoken of and promoted, the Manila Manifesto gets comparatively little attention. May we move away from this tendency. God clearly worked to gather His Church in Manila in 1989. His Spirit was operating in them to produce the Manifesto as a weighty and prophetic message to the whole Church. This much becomes abundantly clear in simply reading the text.
I hope and pray that as at the Congress, the Manifesto will be affirmed and allowed to speak into our conversations and context. A few items to make specific note of:
1. Statements of Repentence -- the Manifesto contains several statements of repentance that the Church as a whole hasn’t been faithfully living out. For example, there is this, "In the past we have sometimes been guilty of adopting towards adherents of other faiths attitudes of ignorance, arrogance, disrespect, and even hostility. We repent of this." The fact that the new LTWG paper contains very similar statement is evidence that this repentance hasn’t actually taken place. We must examine these statements of repentance in the Manifesto (and the Lausanne Covenant as well, as Chris Wright has pointed out) and consider how we must actually go about repenting.
2. The careful affirmations of and exhortations about distinctions between clergy and lay roles are important and speak to some of what has been written in an advance paper by Willy Kotiuga and elsewhere. The Manifesto statement does an excellent job of affirming the Biblical distinction while also challenging those problems that we all agree exist. Says the Manifesto, "[God] calls some to be evangelists, missionaries, and pastors, but He calls his whole Church and every member of it to be His witnesses."
3. The Manila Manifesto provides an excellent mediating statement on the issues of gender roles in the Church. I see this statement as doing a better job of addressing the issue than the newer statement produced by the LTWG paper. In the Manifesto we read,
"God created men and women as equal bearers of his image, accepts them equally in Christ and poured out his Spirit on all flesh, sons and daughters alike. In addition, because the Holy Spirit distributes his gifts to women as well as to men, they must be given opportunities to exercise their gifts. We celebrate their distinguished record in the history of missions and are convinced that God calls women to similar roles today. Even though we are not fully agreed what forms their leadership should take, we do agree about the partnership in world evangelization which God intends men and women to enjoy. Suitable training must therefore be made available to both."
This, in my view, is as powerful statement that the Church can unite behind and it should be a model for us as we consider any statements made on this issue at the Congress.
4. The Local Church section of the Manifesto is simply profound and needs to be read. It goes a long way in answering some of my questions regarding the idea of local church v. local franchise that were raised after reading the LTWG paper. Also, in includes a powerful "determination" to "turn our churches inside out" in the wake of Lausanne II. This itself calls attention to the for us to examine the "determination" statements that have been made in the past at Manila and Lausanne to see if we have indeed been faithful to carry them out.
5. A paragraph in section 11 speaks to the issue of modernization and technology. It confesses that "we have not struggled as we should to understand" such things. Again there is a determination statement about intentionally engaging in critical and Christ-centered ways new technology. And yet, years later, we find ourselves in a very similar place with respect to new technologies. The statements here were made in a day when our present technologies couldn’t have been anticipated. Yet, they speak powerfully to our context. Note, "We have used [the world’s] methods and technologies uncritically and so exposed ourselves to worldliness." Again, I am reminded of the importance of allowing our Manila predecessors to speak to us in Cape Town through the Manifesto.
Much more could be said. I know you all have much to read, but let me encourage you to at least print off and take a copy of the Manila Manifesto with you on the plane. Please allow the Lord to speak to you again through those who have gone before us.
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