Orlando 2011: Hwa Yung Calls Complaints Against Cape Town 2010's Diversity Unjust

Tonight's presentation by Malaysian Methodist Bishop Hwa Yung was excellent.  I will not delve into all of it, but I wish to highlight one important comment that he made regarding Cape Town 2010, lest it go unnoticed.

Bishop Yung referred to the fact that there had been a number of complaints against CT2010.  The accusation was that the third Lausanne had been representative / multicultural / international only on a superficial level.  That behind-the-scenes, Western Caucasians were really controlling everything.  I have mentioned this before in my blog.  I had heard that at one point some even considered staging a protest during the final Communion service.

Tonight, Bishop Yung, himself from the majority world and a key player in the design and planning of CT2010 had this to say, "I do not find these complaints to be justified."

I had heard previously from Doug Birdsall that the Bishop felt this way, but I was very glad to hear him say it publicly. Hopefully now some of these accusations could be tempered.  In particular, I believe it is important that those responsible for generating them take at least a moment to consider, ponder, search their hearts.

My Own Research into this Controversy

For my part, I had been aware of the complaints to which Bishop Yung referred before even returning from Cape Town.  Later I came across an article by Tim Stafford in Christianity Today that served to add some steam to this issue. Then in December, I was asked by Beth Snodderly and Scott Moreau to write a chapter on CT2010 for a book they were editing for Regnum.  My research took me deeper into the controversy.  Eventually, I came across some reflections by missiologist Rene Padilla that seemed to express this same sentiment.  I have just now noticed that the reflections have now been taken down from the Micah Network site.

What I would like to see happen is for this particular controversy to give way to peace and a spirit of unity.  To that end, I offer below and excerpt from my CT2010 chapter that I hope can be helpful in addressing the concerns that have been raised:

The Will to Represent: Pressing towards the Whole Church

While I was in South Africa for the Congress, a friend and teammate of mine was invited to attend a national consortium focused on church planting and evangelism in the United States. This was a relatively small, invitation-only event organized by some leaders in our denomination. My friend is an immigrant to the US from East Africa and was struck by the fact that in a meeting presumably focused on reaching all people groups in the nation, he was the lone African. In fact, besides himself, a small handful of Korean leaders, and one African-American, the other participants at the meeting appeared to be American-born, Caucasian men. It was likely an unconscious and unintentional thing for the organizers. Other immigrant leaders were perhaps invited but unable to attend. My friend may not have noticed a Russian or Polish pastor, a Hispanic church planter, or even a woman amid the crowd. But the point is that in that meeting and countless other Christian meetings like it throughout the history of the family of God, little to no effort was placed in intentionally trying to represent the Church in its wholeness.
Here is where CT2010 has broken the mold, although it was not the first Christian meeting to do so, following in the historic tradition of Lausanne 1974 and Manila 1989, two of the most representative Christian gatherings in history. Beyond that, we may assume that other gatherings of Christians have exercised great intentionality in seeking to be as representative as they could be. However, it is safe to say that nothing on the scale of Lausanne III has ever been either attempted or accomplished. During the opening ceremonies, Doug Birdsall called the Congress ‘the most representative and diverse gathering of Christian leaders in the nearly 2000-year history of the Christian movement’.[i] The figures were impressive—more than four thousand carefully selected on-site delegates representing 198 nations, an additional 100,000 people reached through 650 fully interactive GlobaLink sites in 91 countries,[ii] and a less formal, social networking system called the Lausanne Global Conversation that allowed countless individual Christians from all over the world to read papers, watch session videos, offer feedback, and even create their own content to share with the global Church. Plenary and multiplex session presenters were likewise carefully chosen so as to pursue both excellence in content and a broad representation of the global Christian community. In addition, a rather complicated selection grid was designed in order to help ensure that more of the Church in its wholeness would be represented than ever before. At minimum, 60% of participants were to be under the age of 50, 10% under age 30, 35% women, and 10% of the delegates were to come from the marketplace.[iii]
When a friend of mine, a female pastor from Germany, learned about what she referred to as a ‘quota system’ for selecting participants, she was initially disappointed. ‘I want to be here because I deserve to be here, not because of some quota’, she told me. However, as she reflected throughout the week, she realized that without such a system she simply wouldn’t have been invited to attend. As a young leader under 40, I knew that the same was true for me. Yet all those traditionally marginalized segments of the Church—the young, women, disabled peoples, laity, ethnic minorities, and others—truly belong at the table. In fact, as we have seen from Ephesians, they are needed. That the CT2010 Participation Selection Committee, led by Hwa Yung, understood, prioritized, and actually accomplished bringing them to the table in a historically unprecedented way will stand as a lasting part of the legacy of the Congress. What is more, this intentional effort to represent the breadth of the global Church must also be appreciated as one of the truly significant contributions of Lausanne III to the cause of Christ.
CT2010 modeled for the Body of Christ what it looks like to pursue the biblical ideal and mandate of gathering the Church in its wholeness. This was done in continuity with the two previous Lausanne Congresses, but to a degree of thoroughness which surpassed them. Taken together, the example of the Lausanne Movement’s three global Congresses now resounds as an unambiguous call to the global Church to ‘go and do likewise’. The mantle of responsibility has now clearly fallen upon the delegates of CT2010, many of whom are key influencers of churches, denominations, and organizations around the world, to pursue the same kind of breadth of representation in the committees, leadership teams, consultations, and conferences that they are and will be a part of. If this is done with faithfulness by a significant number of Christian leaders, it will signal the dawn of a new era in the history of Christ’s Church and its partnership in mission.
Before leaving this section, something must be said with regard to the voices of dissension that have openly criticized the Lausanne Movement at this very point for not being representative enough in the planning and implementation of CT2010. Of the more notable critiques on this issue, Latin American missiologist Rene Padilla specifically pointed to the plenary session focused on evangelism strategy as being ‘made in the USA’ and reflecting ‘the obsession with numbers typical of the market mentality that characterizes a sector of evangelicalism in the United States’.[iv] Wrote Padilla, ‘All too frequently Christian leaders in the North and West, especially in the United States, continue to assume that they are in charge of designing the strategy for the evangelization of the whole world’.[v] Still others lamented the fact that Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or other non-evangelical Christians, while present as official observers, were not invited to serve as delegates to the Congress.
Doug Birdsall, in response to such critiques has offered the following:

It is a stretch to suggest that the program was planned by Westerners 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.[vi]

Added Birdsall:

There were many participants from churches related to the WCC - including Bishop Hwa Yung the Methodist Bishop of Malaysia.  There were many Catholics and Orthodox who were there as participants from many places around the world.  There was indeed a smaller group of observers who were officially deputized on behalf of the Vatican, the WCC center in Geneva, and the Orthodox Patriarchs.  I met with all of them twice during the Congress.  They all expressed their desire for more involvement with Lausanne and their desire for ongoing discussions.”[vii]

The criticisms nevertheless are of tremendous value in that they soberly remind us that CT2010 did not fully arrive at the biblical ideal as presented in Ephesians, a fact that Birdsall himself would readily admit. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that with the third Congress, the Lausanne Movement pressed in more closely to it than anyone ever has.

[i] Birdsall, ‘Cape Town’. A significant disappointment that must be noted was the shutting out of some 200 Chinese delegates by the government of that country. Though prevented from attending, the delegation nevertheless rejoiced in the face of their persecution and accepted the Chinese government’s decision with humble and hopeful submission. See The Lausanne Movement, ‘The Third Lausanne Congress Opens’, online: http://www.lausanne.org/news-releases/the-third-lausanne-congress-opens.html, 16 October 2010 [accessed 31 December 2010].
[ii] The Lausanne Movement, ‘The Third Lausanne Congress Opens’.
[iii] T. Stafford, ‘Teeming Diversity: The Third Lausanne Congress Demonstrated That Global Evangelicalism Has Been Transformed’, online: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/december/6.34.html?start=2 , 1 December 2010 [accessed 31 December 2010].
[iv] C. R. Padilla, ‘Reflections on Cape Town 2010: Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization’, online: http://www.micahnetwork.org/en/story/reflections-cape-town-2010-lausanne-congress-world-evangelization, 2010 [accessed 31 December, 2010].
[v] Padilla, ‘Reflections’.
[vi] Birdsall, D. Email to Cody C. Lorance. 9 January 2011.
[vii] Birdsall, Email.

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