Four major missions conferences are being held this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the historic Edinburgh 1910 Conference: in Tokyo, Edinburgh, Cape Town, and Boston. Edinburgh 1910 brought Protestants of various backgrounds together with the goal of: “The Evangelization of the World in This Generation” (their slogan).
So much has changed over the past 100 years, where only one African and twenty Asians were part of the former event out of about 1,200 delegates. This present conference brought 250 leaders from over sixty countries, with a shift in attendance with more Africans, Asians, and women to better represent global Christianity.
We had the privilege to attend part of this event. A Sunday service at St. Giles Cathedral where John Knox, a Scottish religious reformer and the founder of Presbyterianism, preached in the 1500′s hosted a Korean preacher from Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Seoul, which is the largest Presbyterian church in the world with 50,000 members. Nobody could have predicted this 100 years ago, with South Korea becoming the 2nd largest missionary sending country in the world and home to some of the largest churches in the world. Also, the Celebration event on Sunday afternoon allowed us worship with all the delegates from the world. We sang songs from four continents, heard an African choir, watched an Indian dance, and listened to a message from the Archbishop of York (2nd most important position in the Anglican Church) who is from Uganda.
The atmosphere seemed different from what the event might have been 100 years ago. This conference brought Christians from all backgrounds, including Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox. There unfortunately didn’t seem like a strong emphasis on evangelism like the past, but a stronger emphasis on unity in the mission regarding social justice and the environment. Also, the last one predates the World Wars and showed confidence in what man could achieve by reaching the world for Christ. Sobered by pain and wars on behalf of men in the previous century, the focus this time was God’s Mission: a stronger reliance on God and His Spirit to accomplish His mission in the world.
While great to rally together on common issues all Christians can collectively strive towards, a de-emphasis on reaching the lost and spreading the Gospel was somewhat disappointing. We are all for the whole mission that brings reconciliation in various forms to lives, societies, and nations, but it must also incorporate
aspects of transforming lives for eternity through the hope of Christ and His work on the cross.