One of the important tests of a conference, especially one which claims to want to establish justice and seek hope and peace is that the people who are asked to present are representative of the movement. The participants, unless invited, you can’t control. So I did a Study of the profile of the main speakers. On the negative side there were only 33% women and 67% men. Having said that, this is a higher percentage than would be found in many conferences. What was really notable was that only 46% were Western–that is from Europe, North America and Australasia–and 54% were non-Westerners. For an international mission conference this is outstanding and a massive step forward.
After various morning seminars the conference started in ernest with a time of corporate singing followed by an intense cultural experience. This was intense for the force of the message and the volume of the presentation. And it was cultural because it went on for 45 minutes longer than the programme. I do not say this as a criticism but because neither the participants nor the organisers were phased by this.
So in afternoon, there were two major sessions, one by a woman and the other by a man, but both from the Majority world.
In her paper on “Governance and integral mission”, Melba Magay sought to broaden our thinking biblically on Integral mission; going beyond the old dualism of evangelism and social action. Therefore she spoke of three Cs: The cultural mandate, The great commandment, The great commission. All of these give humanity and the church especially, a duty to be involved in Integral Mission. This was notable because she related this to the context of the Refugee crisis in the world.
In the main sessions there was translation into Russian, French, Portuguese and English as well as Spanish. Rene Padilla, because there was complaints from the Latin Americans that there was no translation in a couple of morning seminars he decided to give the paper in Spanish whilst it was written in English This caused some panic in the translation booths! I think this gave the Non-Spanish speakers, especially the English only speakers a new experience.
In his paper, Civil society, the common good and integral mission related many theological and biblical themes to the will of God for all human beings to have the opportunity for basic human dignity. In an international consumerist society this often denied to most. This is a call to the church to be involved in seeing the will of God done on the earth as it is in heaven.
Given the speakers’ reputation and ministry, both presentations were a great challenge and call to all the participants. Good first day!