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Edinburgh 2010: Demographic shift provides focus for Mission Conference

09 June 2010

Dr Sentamu urges delegates to fight in­justice, Ed Beavan reports from Edinburgh

THE Archbishop of York highlighted “the crucial importance of Christian witness” during his address at the closing act of worship at the Edin­burgh 2010 Mission Conference on Sunday.

Addressing about 300 delegates from 60 different countries, from Orthodox, Ro­man Catholic, Angli­can, and various Protestant denom­inations, and including the Pente­costals, Dr Sentamu said: “Jesus today is on trial in the court of the world.” He urged delegates to “help our Churches by acting pro­phetically, speaking out for freedom against injustice.

“Our forebears have done so in the past against slavery and more recently against apartheid, world debt and poverty. We must continue to speak out against injustice shown to asylum-seekers and all in need.”

Exactly 100 years before, delegates from Protestant missionary societies had gathered for the 1910 Mission­ary Conference in the same venue, the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scot­land, to explore issues facing missionaries in the 20th century.

At the 2010 Conference, “Witnes­sing to Christ Today”, delegates ex­plored a wide range of issues in­cluding mission and unity and in a multifaith context.

The keynote speaker Profes­sor Dana Robert, co-director of the Centre for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology in the United States, observed the huge demo­graphic shift in the Christian world since 1910.

Delegates 100 years ago “could not have imagined . . . the decline of Christianity in the Euro­pean heartland”, she said. She called for del­egates in 2010 not to allow “difficult theological, socio-cultural or political issues, or disagreements over theologies of religion, to discourage us from sharing God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ with all the world”.

Another keynote speaker, Dr Antonios Kireopoulous, senior program director for Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations of the National Council of Churches in the United States (NCC), spoke of Christian mission among other faiths, and criticised negative aspects of evangelism.

He cited the example of evan­gelists in Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, when missionaries “took advantage of the weak situation of the people, seeing them as ‘heathens’ who needed to be con­verted rather than as brothers and sisters whose Orthodox Christian self-understanding was just starting to resurrect after some seven decades in a virtual tomb”.

A nine-part statement was released at the end of the conference, calling for Christians to act with “a renewed sense of urgency . . . to incarnate and proclaim the good news of salvation, of forgiveness of sin, of life in abundance, and of liberation for all poor and oppressed”, and to demonstate the “love, righteousness, and justice that God intends for the whole world”.

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