Out of Cape Town, South Africa: The defining document of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, held in October 2010 (Foreword and Preamble)
The Cape Town Commitment
(1) Foreword and Preamble »
For the Lord We Love:
The Cape Town Confession of Faith
The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town, 16-25 October 2010) brought together 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries, and extended to hundreds of thousands more, participating in meetings around the world, and online. Its goal? To bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching—in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas.
The Cape Town Commitment is the fruit of this endeavour. It stands in an historic line, building on both The Lausanne Covenant and The Manila Manifesto. It is in two parts. Part l sets out biblical convictions, passed down to us in the Scriptures, and Part ll sounds the call to action.
How was Part l shaped? It was first discussed in Minneapolis in December 2009, at a gathering of 18 invited theologians and evangelical leaders, drawn from all continents. A smaller group, led by Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright, chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, was asked to prepare a final document, ready to be presented to the Congress.
How was Part ll shaped? An extensive listening process began more than three years before the Congress. The Lausanne Movement’s International Deputy Directors each arranged consultations in their regions, where Christian leaders were asked to identify major challenges facing the Church. Six key issues emerged. These (i) defined the Congress programme and (ii) formed the framework for the call to action. This listening process continued on through the Congress, as Chris Wright and the Statement Working Group worked to record all contributions faithfully. It was a herculean and monumental effort.
The Cape Town Commitment will act as a roadmap for The Lausanne Movement over the next ten years. Its prophetic call to work and to pray will, we hope, draw churches, mission agencies, seminaries, Christians in the workplace, and student fellowships on campus to embrace it, and to find their part in its outworking.
Many doctrinal statements affirm what the Church believes. We wished to go further and to link belief with praxis. Our model was that of the Apostle Paul, whose theological teaching was fleshed out in practical instruction. For example, in Colossians his profound and wonderful portrayal of the supremacy of Christ issues in down-to-earth teaching on what it means to be rooted in Christ.
We distinguish what is at the heart of the Christian gospel, i.e. primary truths on which we must have unity, from secondary issues, where sincere Christians disagree in their interpretation of what the Bible teaches or requires. We have worked here to model Lausanne’s principle of “breadth within boundaries,” and in Part l those boundaries are clearly defined.
All through this process we were delighted to collaborate with the World Evangelical Alliance, who partnered with us in each stage. The leaders of the WEA are in full agreement with both the Confession of Faith and the Call to Action.
While we speak and write from the evangelical tradition in The Lausanne Movement, we affirm the oneness of the Body of Christ, and gladly recognize that there are many followers of the Lord Jesus Christ within other traditions. We welcomed senior representatives from several historic churches of other traditions as observers in Cape Town, and we trust The Cape Town Commitment may be helpful to churches of all traditions. We offer it in a humble spirit.
What are our hopes for The Cape Town Commitment? We trust that it will be talked about, discussed and afforded weight as a united statement from evangelicals globally; that it will shape agendas in Christian ministry; that it will strengthen thought-leaders in the public arena; and that bold initiatives and partnerships will issue from it.
May the Word of God light our path, and may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us.
S. Douglas Birdsall
As members of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ, we joyfully affirm our commitment to the living God and his saving purposes through the Lord Jesus Christ. For his sake we renew our commitment to the vision and goals of The Lausanne Movement.
This means two things:
First, we remain committed to the task of bearing worldwide witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching. The First Lausanne Congress (1974) was convened for the task of world evangelization. Among its major gifts to the world Church were: (i) The Lausanne Covenant; (ii) a new awareness of the number of unreached people groups; and (iii) a fresh discovery of the holistic nature of the biblical gospel and of Christian mission. The Second Lausanne Congress, in Manila (1989), gave birth to more than 300 strategic partnerships in world evangelization, including many that involved co-operation between nations in all parts of the globe.
And second, we remain committed to the primary documents of the Movement—The Lausanne Covenant (1974), and The Manila Manifesto (1989). These documents clearly express core truths of the biblical gospel and apply them to our practical mission in ways that are still relevant and challenging. We confess that we have not been faithful to commitments made in those documents. But we commend them and stand by them, as we seek to discern how we must express and apply the eternal truth of the gospel in the ever-changing world of our own generation.
The Realities of Change
Almost everything about the way we live, think and relate to one another is changing at an accelerating pace. For good or ill, we feel the impact of globalization, of the digital revolution, and of the changing balance of economic and political power in the world. Some things we face cause us grief and anxiety—global poverty, war, ethnic conflict, disease, the ecological crisis and climate change. But one great change in our world is a cause for rejoicing—and that is the growth of the global Church of Christ.
The fact that the Third Lausanne Congress has taken place in Africa is proof of this. At least two thirds of all the world’s Christians now live in the continents of the global south and east. The composition of our Cape Town Congress reflected this enormous shift in world Christianity in the century since the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910. We rejoice in the amazing growth of the Church in Africa, and we rejoice that our African sisters and brothers in Christ hosted this Congress. At the same time, we could not meet in South Africa without being mindful of the past years of suffering under apartheid. So we give thanks for the progress of the gospel and the sovereign righteousness of God at work in recent history, while wrestling still with the ongoing legacy of evil and injustice. Such is the double witness and role of the Church in every place.
We must respond in Christian mission to the realities of our own generation. We must also learn from that mixture of wisdom and error, of achievement and failure that we inherit from previous generations. We honour and lament the past, and we engage with the future, in the name of the God who holds all history in his hand.
In a world which works to re-invent itself at an ever-accelerated pace, some things remain the same. These great truths provide the biblical rationale for our missional engagement.
• Human beings are lost. The underlying human predicament remains as the Bible describes it: we stand under the just judgment of God in our sin and rebellion, and without Christ we are without hope.
• The gospel is good news. The gospel is not a concept that needs fresh ideas, but a story that needs fresh telling. It is the unchanged story of what God has done to save the world, supremely in the historical events of the life, death, resurrection, and reign of Jesus Christ. In Christ there is hope.
• The Church’s mission goes on. The mission of God continues to the ends of the earth and to the end of the world. The day will come when the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ and God will dwell with his redeemed humanity in the new creation. Until that day, the Church’s participation in God’s mission continues, in joyful urgency, and with fresh and exciting opportunities in every generation including our own.
The Passion of Our Love
This Statement is framed in the language of love. Love is the language of covenant. The biblical covenants, old and new, are the expression of God’s redeeming love and grace reaching out to lost humanity and spoiled creation. They call for our love in return. Our love shows itself in trust, obedience and passionate commitment to our covenant Lord. The Lausanne Covenant defined evangelization as “the whole Church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.” That is still our passion. So we renew that covenant by affirming again:
• Our love for the whole gospel, as God’s glorious good news in Christ, for every dimension of his creation, for it has all been ravaged by sin and evil;
• Our love for the whole Church, as God’s people, redeemed by Christ from every nation on earth and every age of history, to share God’s mission in this age and glorify him forever in the age to come;
• Our love for the whole world, so far from God but so close to his heart, the world that God so loved that he gave his only Son for its salvation.
In the grip of that three-fold love, we commit ourselves afresh to be the whole Church, to believe, obey, and share the whole gospel, and to go to the whole world to make disciples of all nations.
The Cape Town Commitment
(1) Foreword and Preamble »