Scary stories from a lovely place
Next week in Cape Town the Lausanne 2010 conference is taking place.If you’re thinking “isn’t Lausanne that city in Switzerland where they make decisions about the Olympics” then you’re correct. It seems it’s also that city in Switzerland where in 1974 some Christians got together and decided they would have a conference about the future of the church. Like the Olympics it’s full of men and some women determined to stand their ground and win their prize. Unlike the Olympics the prize of Lausanne isn’t a multi-million dollar advertising contract. Rather, the prize is being right. Lausanne is where Christians and leaders from around the Evangelical (read: conservative) world get together to ruminate on the global state of the church and the progress of world Evangelisation.
I’m all for this. I know the gospel of Jesus can’t be changed or adulterated or sullied in any way. It has to remain right, or ‘whole’ as they say at Lausanne, because it is true. And since the gospel is all about love and life and reconciliation with God, brought about by no human effort, then I’m all for everyone in the world hearing about it.
Nevertheless, I still have a fairly deep-seated beef with Lausanne. The first seed of displeasure was sown against Lausanne at least 5 years ago when my conservative minister father received something in the post about it. We must have previously been discussing the 2010 World Cup and how it was to be hosted in South Africa, namely Johannesburg. I was peeved to see that Lausanne too weren’t hosting their conference in the capital of Africa, but rather had chosen the much prettier (read: less in your face poverty) and more European Cape Town.
Sure Cape Town has a spectacular mountain and a lovely, albeit cold, ocean, but I would have thought Joburg was the obvious choice for such a meeting. I have contacted the organising committee of Lausanne to understand their decision but haven’t had a reply. I surmise they share the popular but unfair view of Johannesburg – that it is not as nice as Cape Town – and hence not worth it.
The rest of my beef with Lausanne is to do with the exclusivity. Attendance is by invitation only and I would like to understand how the select (4000 from 200 countries) are chosen. This year Lausanne seem to be trying to attract a younger crowd, there is even a presence on Twitter. Granted, this is a good thing because the conference is about the future of the Christian church, but it does mean more mature delegates (read: those not on twitter), like my old man, miss out. I was also dismayed to hear that from the church I belong to, (Church of England in South Africa – conservative Evangelical as they come), only one person was invited, and he has since retired from his position. It’s a bit slack to host the thing in South Africa, and only invite one person from a large-ish evangelical church group.
I would also like to know what the spread of delegates will be like – the mixture of men and women, but also, the mixture of people from developed and developing nations. How many from America or England or Australia will be attending in comparison to those from Kenya or South Africa or Pakistan?
I am struggling to find a cogent answer to what it is all about as well. I watched this video this morning that I found quite helpful, but that may have been because of the cute Irish accent. There are lots of other videos on youtube of different church leaders from around the world (though it’s mainly white guys) giving their take on it. This morning someone told me that a church leader they know declined the invitation because to his knowledge the discussion was going to be all about social action in terms of caring for the environment. If that’s the case it’s a bit late for the Christians to be getting on that bandwagon.
I am open to hearing answers to these questions.
Whoever’s there and whatever happens, there’ll be discussion and a lot of it. There’ll be lots of talk, lots of networking (‘pressing the flesh’ as my mum aptly calls it), lots of worshiping at the altar of famous church leaders and lots of cogitation over cups of coffee (and ‘tweeting’ it would seem). I hope the delegates, particularly the young’uns, are inspired to go home and fly the gospel banner. But I think things will continue on much as they do now. Everyday individual Christians in all different kinds of situations will make decisions to either stick to the truth or waver from it, and that is what will effect the course of the church, Lausanne 2010 or not.
However, since we conservative Christians believe in God’s providence, it’s nice to remember that he’s in charge of his church, so he’ll sort it out.