Audiences, Numbers, Culture and the Churches – a report from Cape Town 2010


Evangelicals Now December 2010 Chris Sugden

When 400 people attended a meeting on the Crisis in the Anglican Communion at the Lausanne Congress, at least half on a show of hands were not Anglican.

Why the interest? The archbishops of Uganda, South East Asia, the Middle East and North America argued that a similar crisis of faith and teaching would be affecting all the churches globally under pressure from western secular culture. Therefore all the churches of Africa, Asia and Latin America needed to offer support and encouragement to those in the west in the same way that Global South Anglican churches had supported orthodox Anglicans in “the north”.

This was truly in the “Spirit of Lausanne” a movement which at its best provides space for various evangelical interdenominational networks to meet, engage and move forward. Its fruits are borne on other trees.

Archbishop Henry Orombi explained that the current crisis was about more than the violation of biblical morality: it was about the wholesale revision of the historic Christian faith in which the divinity of Jesus Christ, his bodily resurrection and uniqueness were denied by Anglican leaders in North America. This had given rise to a crisis of order since nothing had changed despite all the actions taken by the leaders of the Anglican Communion.

“Key leaders of TEC still take part in every level of Communion affairs, and are given access to all levels of decision making to wear down the church in the hope that others will accept their false gospel,” said Archbishop Orombi. “We are seeing a realignment in the Anglican Communion. It is painful for everyone involved. But we are moving forward,” he concluded.

My Congress experience impressed on me that, for all our difficulties, the struggle for orthodox Anglicanism is important because Anglicanism takes seriously the incarnation of Jesus and the incarnate expression of his church in the community.

The congress wavered between two different audiences. One was the audience in the room, the 4000 carefully chosen evangelical leaders from 198 countries. The other was the global audience, through the Globallink internet sites, who received 15 minute packages from the plenary presentations to light the fire of their conversations. As far as the plenaries were concerned, the 100,000 on the internet were the prime audience. So the plenaries were in magazine format, and no speaker was allotted more than 10 minutes. The interest and attention span of those in the room were hungry for more than ten minutes of Tim Keller or Os Guinness. But their presentations were tailored for the interest level and attention span of the unselected thousands on the internet.

So global evangelicalism at the Congress was overtaken by the marketing need for numbers, partly to meet the 16 million dollar budget. And that is where Anglicanism comes in. It insists, as do many others, that God’s agent for change is the local church community witnessing to the Lordship of Christ over all of life.

Churches exist because in them people find hope in the purpose, love and power of God, a new identity as people beloved by God, and inspired by the reality that Jesus has overcome the injustice of all death in his resurrection.

The experience of those churches since Lausanne 1974 was available in the Congress Hall – the growth, and plateauing of the church in Korea, the rapid expansion of the churches in Africa still struggling in their relationship with Traditional Religion and Culture, and the comparative inability of evangelicals to find structures and mechanisms in wider society to exercise the social, political and cultural influence that their highly committed numbers should exert. The networks for which Lausanne provides gathering space were there, but were not able to share or build on what they had achieved and still dream of, because there was a strong move for branding the Lausanne Movement as an institution in itself.

Following Lausanne, addressing the second annual conference of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Canon Vinay Samuel asked whether it is enough to focus on the great ideas that will shape a culture and win hearts and minds. Andre Crouch of Christianity Today argues that culture is made up of cultural goods, not just of ideas. TV shows, cartoons, and songs have far more power in shaping people’s lives.

“Culture is a framework of norms”, Samuel said “These are embedded in narratives, myths and ideals. Culture expresses itself through intellect, will, appetites, memory, and passion. Evangelical faith is often presented solely as a set of propositions.”

At the FCA conference, leaders of the Church of England in South Africa and orthodox leaders in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa resolved to charge parish representatives to share with those around them The Jerusalem Declaration – as the central shared truths of Anglicanism we can use as the minimum expression of the truth and to express appreciation to the CAPA conference in Entebbe for the clear and definite leadership in the midst of the global Anglican crisis. (www.anglican-mainstream.org.za).


Chris Sugden
Anglican Mainstream

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