Around 1,000 Christians from across the denominations and traditions heard the call from the Archbishop of York to “be, see, think and do mission” Sunday night as they came together to for the close of Edinburgh 2010.
Christians were gathered for the conference in the Scottish capital for most of last week. The occasion celebrated the 100th anniversary of the historic World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910 and the subsequent birth of the world church.
In an honest closing address, the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, said that too much of what the church did today amounted to nothing more “re-arranging the furniture.”
“Reorganizing the structures; arguing over words and phrases while humanity as a whole plunges suicidally into obscurity and meaningless and despair; and so often the church’s activities and energies appear to be totally irrelevant to the needs of the world today,” he said.
The archbishop stressed that although not every follower of Christ was called to be an evangelist, every Christian was nonetheless called to be a witness, with a responsibility to lead people to Christ.
He warned that Jesus was being judged negatively as a result of the words and deeds of believers and noted that Christians had “stopped being expectant” of Jesus’ ability to transform the failure and hopelessness of believers.
“We need to learn to expect the unexpected,” he said. “Some of our church gatherings often feel like graveyards. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, we should never give up on them because God loves the graveyards, as they are his greatest opportunity.”
Sentamu urged Christians “to put love where there is none” by turning away from the culture of “self-absorbed individualism” and rediscovering the benefit of service to one another.
A common call was issued on the final day of the conference expressing the desire of conference delegates to be witnesses for Christ and continue working towards a common vision.
It reads: “Recalling Christ, the host at the banquet, and committed to that unity for which he lived and prayed, we are called to ongoing cooperation, to deal with controversial issues and to work towards a common vision.
“We are challenged to welcome one another in our diversity, affirm our membership through baptism in the One Body of Christ, and recognize our need for mutuality, partnership, collaboration and networking in mission, so that the world might believe.”
The Rev. Rose Dowsett, a member of the Edinburgh 2010 General Council and the World Evangelical Alliance, said the common call was not a creed, but “simply an attempt to capture what it is the Lord is asking us to do.”
She said she hoped delegates would consider how they could use the common call within their own local settings.
The common call was welcomed by the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, who said it had been drafted with a view to getting “as much in as possible.”
“It’s a credit to those who prepared it to be as inclusive as possible. I’m happy with it,” he said.
The final celebration was held at the same venue as the World Missionary Conference, the Church of Scotland’s Assembly Hall. Delegates hailed the visible progress that had been made in mission in the 100 years since the 1910, when almost all of the 1,200 delegates were from North American and northern European mission movements and the 200 women present were not given the opportunity to formally address the conference.
The Rev. Andrew Anderson, Church of Scotland minister and member of the Edinburgh 2010 leadership, said the conference had been a “very special occasion.”
“It was always the hope of the General Council that this event would give us a sense of the world church and even a taste of heaven," Anderson commented.