Some 300 Christians from across the denominations and traditions are arriving in Edinburgh today for the start of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the 1910 World Missionary Conference.
They include Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, international director of the World Council of Churches, Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, and Doug Birdsall, Chairman of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation.
Edinburgh 2010 marks 100 years since the World Missionary Conference brought 1,200 missionaries and missionary agency representatives to the Scottish capital to address the challenges of mission in their day and the goal of “The evangelisation of the world in this generation”.
While the 1910 gathering was formed almost entirely of Protestants from North America and northern Europe, Edinburgh 2010 will bring together representatives of all the mainline Christian denominations and traditions, including Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Pentecostal, and will include many delegates from the African, Asian and Latin American continents.
The Andrew Anderson, Church of Scotland minister and member of the Edinburgh 2010 Executive Committee, said the breadth of traditions represented this time round demonstrated just how much had been achieved in the 100 years since the World Missionary Conference.
He said the missionaries who had gathered in 1910 would be pleased that a truly “world church” had emerged since then.
“In 1910 the church was almost entirely in Europe and North America. Today, it might be around 25 per cent of the church in Europe, and 25 per cent in Africa, another 25 per in Asia and so on. So a world church has emerged and the centre of the world church is certainly no longer in the West,” he said.
In the two years running up to Edinburgh 2010, representatives of the different Christian denominations and traditions have been engaged in a study process on the major themes to be addressed at the conference, including Christian mission among other faiths, mission and post-modernities, and authentic discipleship.
Mr Anderson praised Edinburgh 2010 for bringing together ecumenicals and evangelicals, who have not always seen eye to eye on interpretations of Scripture and the Bible’s call upon the church. He said he hoped Edinburgh 2010 would pave the way for greater openness and acceptance between ecumenicals and evangelicals.
“We’ve brought these two together and that’s a fantastic, wonderful thing, that we can see the ecumenical gospel and the evangelical gospel as two sides of the same coin. That does seem to me to be quite significant and Edinburgh 2010 has brought these two strands together,” he said.
Christians are coming together under the theme of “Witnessing to Christ Today”, with plenary sessions looking at the challenges and opportunities for worldwide mission today.
The conference will culminate with a Common Call by delegates, still in the final drafting phase, and a celebration on Sunday bringing together around one thousand Christians at the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, the venue of the 1910 gathering. The main speaker will be the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
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