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World Mission Conference Ends with Call to All Christians to Unite in Mission

by Elliott Wright

The Rev. John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York
The Rev. John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York.
Image by: Gary Doak/WCC

Edinburgh, Scotland, June 6, 2010--A broadly ecumenical world mission conference ended with a call to Christians to work together, not against one another, as they engage in God's mission of "love to the whole creation."

A nine-point "Common Call" was read aloud during a celebration concluding a June 2-6 event which marked the centennial of a landmark 1910 missionary conference, also held in Edinburgh. But in contrast to 1910, which was entirely Protestant, Edinburgh 2010 included Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Pentecostal and Independent churches. Many of the latter two groups did not exist a hundred years ago.

The call was not voted on by the 300 delegates from more than 50 denominations in 67 countries. It was the product of a lengthy pre-conference study process involving ecumenical groups and gatherings around the world. The days in Edinburgh were for the purpose of drawing together the streams of the study and reflection process.

The Rev. John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York, preached at the closing celebration held in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), the place where the 1910 missionary conference took place. Edinburgh 2010 was held at the University of Edinburgh. A Scottish African mass choir sang, and a group of Indian liturgical dancers interpreted Scripture.

The call was developed by a panel of persons representing a diverse group of conference "stakeholders," including organizations such as the World Methodist Council, the Vatican, the Lutheran World Federation, the Baptist World Alliance, the World Evangelical Association, the World Council of Churches, and a dozen others who engaged in planning the event entitled "Witnessing to Christ Today."

Important that Conference Happened

"The important thing about this conference is that it is taking place," said Dr. Dana Robert, a professor at Boston University School of Theology who delivered the keynote address at Edinburgh 2010. "It's amazing. The conference includes Pentecostals, who were just getting started in 1910, and is also endorsed by the Pope!"

Dr. Robert, a member of The United Methodist Church, speculated that the fact of the conference might be more important than the "Common Call," especially since dozens of other events are using the anniversary of Edinburgh 1910 for conferences on Christian unity and mission.

The call has one section for each of the nine study topics addressed before and during the conference. Along with basic Christian precepts, such as the Trinity and the church as the body of Christ, the document puts strong emphases on mission as "a zeal for justice, peace, and the protection of the environment." It also frequently mentions the role of children and youth in God's scheme of things and in mission.

From Everywhere to Everywhere

Reflecting the topics explored at the conference, the call encouraged "mission from everywhere to everywhere," an acknowledgment of the fact that in 1910 mission was from "north to south," while today, as one speaker said, "mission goes in all directions." The importance of migration in mission was a recurring theme in the conference.

The call addresses the use of power, urging the sharing of power by men and women in church and society, and also speaks to contemporary economic and political power. The statement says that its framers are "disturbed by the asymmetries and imbalances of power that divide and trouble us in church and world."

It states that "Christians are called to repentance, to critical reflection on systems of power, and to accountable use of power structures." This assertion contains obvious references to the fact that in 1910 much mission work in Africa and Asia was closely linked to European and American colonialism.

An awareness of the role of the Holy Spirit in equipping and guiding the church in mission is prominent in the call. It asserts that the Holy Spirit "blows over the world at will, reconnecting creation and bringing authentic life."

Read the full text of Edinburgh 2010: Common Call.

Worship and Music

"Through Midnight Gloom from Macedon," a hymn based on an incident in the life of the Apostle Paul and used in 1910, was sung at the closing worship this year. Yet most of the songs--many of them--at Edinburgh 2010 came from the global church today.

The Rev. John Bell, a clergyman of the Church of Scotland and a noted hymn writer, organized and led the music and worship, assisted by an international team of musicians. He is a member of the Iona Community, an ecumenical organization with particular interest in Christian faith at the grassroots level. Participants also took part in small group Bible study and reflection.

Where Is the Church Going?

Archbishop Sentamu in his sermon posed the question, "Where in heaven's name is the church of Jesus Christ going?" Sounding the theme that God through the Holy Spirit is the "chief actor" in mission, the Anglican leader said that the future faithfulness of the church will depend on its "worship and witness," which, he said, are the two most vital callings of the church.

Using images of the valley of dry bones and the river flowing into the desert from the Book of Ezekiel, the archbishop anticipated fresh views of God that will allow Christians in unity to become renewed and unafraid to wade into the deep rivers of human needs and God's grace.

>>Edinburgh 2010: Witnessing to Christ Today


Date posted: Jun 08, 2010