Archive for June 2010

Basque Evangelicals apologize for not supporting ETA victims

June 9, 2010

Basque Protestants have produced a manifesto calling ‘for peace and remembrance’, and exhorting the Basque separatist organisation, ETA, to lay down its weapons. It tells ETA that ‘here can be no forgiveness without repentance’. At the same time the Evangelical Council of the Basque Country sought forgiveness from the victims of ETA terror campaign for ‘not having known how to help those who have been the object of rejection, public shame, abandonment and the cowardly violence of those who use arms to try to impose their will’. At the same time it affirmed that ‘silence’ from the universal Christian Church on any type of violence ‘should cause us profound pain’ and ‘repentance’.

The Basque Evangelical churches called on ETA, to ‘abandon their arms’, adding that ‘there is no true justice without peace, that there is no peace without forgiveness, and that there will be no forgiveness as long as there is no acknowledgment of guilt. Also, that guilt cannot be acknowledged without a desire to live together peaceably, and this coexistence cannot come about without the desire for a free society’.

The churches strengthened their commitment to ‘serve’ Basque society ‘by providing a shared space for healing wounds, for strengthening positive, constructive values in people, and for contributing, along with the rest of society and with the help of God, towards the creation of an environment where we can reach the ideals of peace, justice and liberty that we all long for”.

Source: Protestant digital

From the European Parliament

June 8, 2010

Two issues recently brought to our attention by the office of Care for Europe

Elections in the Netherlands and Czech Republic

Voters in the Netherlands go to the polls this Wednesday (9 June) to elect a new Parliament. These elections are being held early because the ruling Christian Democrat/Labour/Christian Union coalition fell apart earlier this year over the stationing of Dutch troops in Afghanistan. According to the polls the right if centre People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) could take as many as half of current Christian Democrat votes and become the largest party, but it will still need coalition partners.

In the Czech Republic, last Sunday’s elections had an unexpected result. Although the Social Democrats did scrape through as the largest party, with only 22.8% of the vote, their position is well below that of the three right of centre parties led by the Civic Democrats (ODS). Both the Christian Democrats and the Greens failed to achieve the 5% threshold necessary for any seats in the parliament.

Prayer: Please pray for wise choices by the Dutch voters, and for both countries an early formation of a coalition government willing to take strong action in the national interest in response to the current financial crisis.

European Parliament Written Declaration on setting up a European early warning system (EWS) for paedophiles and sex offenders

This excellent Written Declaration (No. 29) – the equivalent of a Westminster Early Day Motion – is currently open for signature by MEPs. It is calling for a system to prevent sex offenders escaping surveillance by moving from one European country to another. Please consider contacting you MEP/s to ask them to consider giving this Declaration their support.

Please pray that this declaration will be successful in attracting MEP signatures and achieving concerted European action to protect children.

Source: European Impact Direct (7th June 2010)

Unintended consequences

June 3, 2010

The one phrase I will take with me from this morning’s opening plenary of the Edinburgh 2010 Mission Conference is ‘unintended consequences’. Dana Roberts challenged delegates to take a long view of mission and to consider the unintended consequences following the Edinburgh 1910 World Mission Conference. She outlined these as the destruction of the churches of the near east, the suppression of the Orthodox churches in Soviet Russia, the growth of the Churches in Africa and Latin America, the  decline of the churches in Europe in the face of overwhelming secularism and indifference.

In his reply, Bertil Ekstrom, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Mission Commission, replied that in the face of such decline, the churches of Europe had to face honestly the need for repentance and a renewed commitment in their witness to Christ today. That’s certainly the case but I was interested in what the possible unintended consequences over the next century are likely to be.

Chatting with my neighbour after the presentation we were talking about the emerging forms of evangelicalism that are developing in parallel to the historic denominations. That’s a challenge for traditional mission agencies which in many instances look to particular evangelical champions who, in several instances, are quite critical of the emerging streams. How can mission agencies work with and draw upon the missional energy and vision of emerging churches and streams in a way that makes the best possible use of partnerships?

If the next century is to be a post-denominational future (and that’s a big ‘if’) then one unintended consequence of the missionary endeavour might be that traditional mission agencies fail to make the connect with these streams and movements and become a mere missiological sideshow. Direct church to church partnerships within Europe are increasingly common. Basic cross-cultural mistakes will be made. Individuals and agencies involved in cross-cultural preparation within the existing structures of mission agencies may increasingly need to take account of how to work at the church-to-church level.

There will be many more unintended (and unforeseen) consequences of mission passion and vision. God, in the name of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit, remains able to prompt and lead in such a way that we can sometimes be a part of the ‘new things’ that God is doing. Our task remains one of listening prophetically, speaking boldly, and acting in humility.

Edinburgh 2010: Continuing before beginning

June 2, 2010

The legacy of Edinburgh 1910 was, among other things, the establishment of a continuation committee. Out of its activity sprang, as just one example, the International Review of Mission, still widely read and consulted today by students of mission. Informal conversations with delegates here have already raised the question of ‘What next?’ It might seem a bit premature to be thinking about this even before registrations for the 2010 conference have opened, but it seems that the mood may well turn towards the best way of dealing with the differences that still exist among delegates and the Christian traditions they represent.

I suspect that Edinburgh 2010 will be far from the mythical ‘cosy ecumenism’ that critics like to believe exists. I hope we will allow our differences to show, will acknowledge them with honesty, and pray for a future together that will not allow simplistic harmonising ‘Statements’ to obscure the important and necessary work of  developing ways of living and witnessing together that are faithful to Christ and his church.

Within Europe it is possible to point to many ways in which joint witness has enriched the witnesses and equally many areas in which co-operation in mission has struggled to produce any meaningful fruit. Speakers and delegates here in Edinburgh are likely to reflect together on what we can learn from both success and failure. If Europeans are to be more effectively ‘introduced to Christ’ in a non-partisan or non-nationalistic fashion,  ‘introduced to our Christ’, then churches are going to have to begin the painful task of finding ways of co-operating in mission.

What has to live beyond June 6th 2010? In reality I’m not sure, but the mission legacy of Edinburgh 1910 deserves more respect than the prospect of multiple celebrations, even more than the current two or three main alternatives, in the year 2110. Many delegates here in Edinburgh will be making the journey to Cape Town later in the year for the Lausanne meetings. At the very least it ought to be possible for national European reviews following both events to be joint reviews, drawing on delegates who have attended both events. That may not quite be a strategy for a continuation committee, but it would be a good way to start.

Welcome to Edinburgh 2010!

June 1, 2010

I’m imagining that the regular passengers getting off the train this afternoon in Waverley station exhibited a greater degree of ethnic diversity than did the delegates to the world mission conference of Edinburgh 1910. The arrival of the ‘great and the good’ of the global mission community arriving in Edinburgh this week will certainly bring diversity and colour to this week’s World Mission Conference meeting at the Pollock Halls of the University of Edinburgh.

But, the welcome’s not been all that it should have been. One of the contributor’s to the Study Theme I will moderate (‘Mission and Unity: Mission and Ecclesiology’) was refused a visa by the British Consulate in Kinshasa. He had been officially invited, was a listed contributor, is a theological educator, and a member of Roman Catholic missionary order. he was denied the visa because he couldn’t show that he had enough funds in a bank account for the duration of his stay. Apparently, British authorities now expect visiting members of religious orders who have taken a vow of chastity and poverty to have a bank account (and a stock of condoms?) just in case!  This despite the fact that the conference organisers had guaranteed all expenses whilst he would be in Scotland.

The first welcome I got was from a Hungarian colleague, already installed in his ‘student apartment’ (students have it a lot easier than I did when I was an undergraduate!). He texted me whilst I was still on the train from Gloucester. He’s a pretty nifty mission historian and will be here, doubtless reflecting on the failure of the conference in 1910 to consider Europe a mission field. Thankfully we don’t need anybody’s permission to discuss it in those terms here in 2010 – I suspect that Archbishop Rowan’s probably a bit grateful for the help that the Church of England receives from its ecumenical sisters and brothers.

So, Europe is officially on the mission map (see the excellent Atlas of World Christianity) and missionaries are most welcome here! Can somebody now please bring the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office up to date?