Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Conference Message from Salvador: Conference on World Missions and Evangelism, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, November 24 - December 3, 1996

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Conference Message from Salvador: Conference on World Missions and Evangelism, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, November 24 - December 3, 1996

Article excerpt

The Conference on World Mission and Evangelism has met in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, at a significant moment in history - the approach of the end of the century and of a new millennium.

Soon after the start of this century, the first comprehensive ecumenical mission conference took place in Edinburgh. It stated: "The work [of mission] has to be done now. It is urgent and must be pressed forward at once." The work of mission, however, did not turn out to be straightforward. Within four years of that conference the world was engulfed in war. Since then it has known massacres and mass deportations, another world war, the development of new forms of colonialism, life under nuclear threat, the destruction of ecosystems by human greed, the growth and collapse of the Soviet bloc, violent and separatist ethnic struggles, rampant capitalism leading to an ever-greater gap between rich and poor.

We believe that it is still the church's primary calling to pursue the mission of God in God's world through the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ. Yet this mission, history-long, worldwide, cannot be seen today in narrow ways - it must be an every-member mission, from everywhere to everywhere, involving every aspect of life in a rapidly changing world of many cultures now interacting and overlapping.

In conference here in Salvador, we have sought to understand better the way in which the gospel challenges all human cultures and how culture can give us a clearer understanding of the gospel. It would be difficult to find a more appropriate venue for such a conference. Brazil has the second largest population of people of African origin of any nation. Salvador is a microcosm of the world's diversity of cultures and spiritualities. Yet this very place made us aware of the pain and fragmentation that comes from the racism and lack of respect for other religions that still exist in sectors of the Christian churches.

The theme of the conference was "Called to One Hope - The Gospel in Diverse Cultures."

The hope of the gospel is expressed in the gracious coming of God in Jesus of Nazareth. From the day of Pentecost this hope manifests itself as the fruit of faith and in the struggle of the community of faith. It reaches out to all people everywhere. This conference has been a foretaste and impulse of this hope.

In the conference we have experienced much which has given us such hope.

* The wide diversity of peoples and churches represented (in Edinburgh in 1910 the large majority of the participants were European or North American; in Salvador over six hundred Christians of a wide spectrum of cultures from more than one hundred nations participated in the life of the conference).

* The genuine attempt which has been made to listen and to share ways and wisdoms across cultures.

* The thrill of participating in the life of a community where the voices of young and old, women and men from Christian churches around the globe have all been speaking out.

* The willingness of the churches and mission agencies to admit past failures and to refuse to engage in stereotyping, and the determination to stay together and work together for the good of our common mission.

* The solidarity of standing at the dockside in Salvador where, for three hundred years, the African slaves who were still alive after their capture and deportation were unloaded. By the "Stone of Tears" together we wept tears of repentance.

* The encouragement of participating in the rhythm of daily worship where the honouring and use of different sounds and languages did not result in a divisive and confusing "Babel," but rather gave a hint of the unity and inspiration of a Pentecost.

* The privilege of sharing for a short time in the life of a continent and people with a rich cultural history and a diversity of religious spirituality, whose churches are responding to the challenges of social change and poverty through the embodiment of gospel hope. …

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