Fifteen years after the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization, the Lausanne Committee brought together four-thousand global leaders for a second world congress on evangelization in Manila, Philippines.
Participants came to Manila from 173 nations, far more than were members of the United Nations at the time. Many commented that such expansive global representation provided an awesome foretaste of heaven.
Why a Lausanne II?
In his opening address, former Lausanne Committee chairman Leighton Ford enumerated the reasons for a Lausanne II Congress. Though the message of salvation remained the same, Ford said, much had changed in the world and in the world church.
The 1974 Congress convened at a time of radical social change and at the height of the Cold War. In 1989 the upheavals and wars of the Sixties seemed a thing of the past, and a new era of glasnost in the United Soviet Socialist Republic provided a sense of hopeful expectancy. Those gathered in Manila rejoiced to welcome 67 delegates from five Soviet bloc states.
Lausanne I had provided a forum in which Christians worked together to seriously address the pressing issues of the day. By contrast, Lausanne II was more focused on the future, namely on the push to make great progress toward completing the task of world evangelization by year A.D. 2000.
Whereas Lausanne I had been organized and funded almost entirely by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Lausanne II was organized by the Lausanne Committee and funded by those who embraced the “spirit of Lausanne.” Lausanne I had inspired an astonishing array of partnerships, networks, and conferences around the world that, in turn, fed into Lausanne II. The Congress in Manila was an opportunity to celebrate all that the Lord had done through the Lausanne movement.
Lausanne II was designed “to be as much motivational and inspirational as informational” according to Program Director, Edward Dayton. Plenary sessions included testimonies, video presentations, and upbeat worship music sung in 20 different languages.
Lausanne II participants did wrestle with missiological issues. The Congress included forty-five discussion groups, called “tracks”, on a wide variety of issues such as: Tentmaking, Youth Leadership, Unreached Peoples, The Poor, Modernization, Spiritual Warfare, Migrants, Reaching Hindus, and Bible Translation.
Although Lausanne II is not thought to have equaled the historic impact of Lausanne I, the congress in Manila did provide what Dayton called “a marvelous ‘town meeting’ of people from all over the world who could find new networks, new relationships, new challenges, and thus move toward the goal of the Lausanne movement.”
Like its predecessor, Lausanne II also issued a joint statement to express the convictions and concerns of the Congress. The Manila Manifesto is to be read as an elaboration of the Lausanne Covenant.
Following an explanatory preamble, the Manifesto offers twenty-one theological affirmations which are distilled from the Covenant. The affirmations include the authority of Scripture, the depravity of man, the necessity of salvation, the uniqueness of Christ, the importance of holiness, the reality of spiritual gifts and warfare and the urgency of worldwide mission.
The remainder of the text is divided into three sections: The Whole Gospel, The Whole Church and The Whole World.
The section on the whole gospel echoes the Covenant by affirming the primacy of evangelism in Christian witness as well as the “inescapable social implications” (A.4.) of the message of Christ. The Manifesto rejects false gospels, half-gospels, and trivialized gospels, and calls all Christians to “remember God’s radical diagnosis and his equally radical remedy” (A.1.).
As the only one with power to both diagnose and remedy the sin-sick human soul, “God himself is the chief evangelist” (B.5.). Yet in his wisdom, he “normally chooses to witness through us” (B.6.). The evangelistic mission of the church requires the empowerment of the laity for service, the personal integrity of witnesses, and a healthy spirit of cooperation among Christians of all ethnicities, classes, ages, and denominations.
The final section of the Manifesto looks at the world context in which the whole church must preach and demonstrate the whole gospel. The modern world is characterized by globalization, industrialization, urbanization and by the dizzying and often dehumanizing advance of technology. Two billion people remain totally unreached by the gospel and many more have “no valid opportunity to respond to it” (C.11.). The persistence of numerous “trouble spots” around world impedes the church’s mission. The Manifesto laments “the recent brutal suppression of China’s democratic movement” but also expresses hope that glasnost and perestroika will open Soviet Union to religious freedom and the spread of the gospel (C.12.).
Given that the Manifesto was an “elaboration” of the Covenant and thus a longer document, full agreement was harder to achieve. Participants wrangled over particular words and phrases. John Stott, the wise elder statesman of the movement, suggested participants be asked to affirm the document “in general terms.” His diplomacy succeeded. At the conclusion of the Congress, participants voted overwhelmingly to “receive the Manila Manifesto as expressing in general terms our concerns and commitments.”
Billy Graham called Manila a “far-reaching and historic gathering” that would be a “tremendous inspiration, encouragement, and blessing to the whole world church.” To this day, the Manila Manifesto serves as complement to the Covenant and a milestone in the history of the Lausanne movement.
In 1989 the United Nations had 159 member states. This information was found at http://www.un.org/Overview/growth.htm.
Ford’s full comments can be found in Proclaim Christ Until He Comes: Calling the Whole Church to Take the Whole Gospel to the Whole World. (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1990): 49-54.
Personal interview with David Wells. Hamilton, Massachusetts. August 9, 2006.