Hundred Years After Mission Conference Gave Impetus to Start of Ecumenical Movement, Kobia Calls for Ecumenically Responsible Evangelism


On the threshold of the 100th anniversary celebration of the 1910 Edinburgh World Mission Conference, widely regarded as the symbolic starting point of the modern ecumenical movement, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia offered a sober analysis of the past century’s achievements and failures, and called for an "ecumenically responsible evangelism". 

Speaking today in Edinburgh, Scotland, at a meeting to prepare the 100th anniversary celebration of the landmark event, Kobia affirmed: "We need a new Edinburgh and can only hope that the celebration we foresee for 2010 will be a step in that direction."

Such a re-edition depends on involving today’s newer and most dynamic mission movements, Kobia said. These "are to be found among Christian traditions not represented in any of the formal fora that exist as a consequence of the structures of last century".

Only after acknowledging Christianity’s new face, the result of the "spiritual revolution brought by the Pentecostal and charismatic movements and churches," can a "fruitful theological dialogue on priorities and disciplines in mission" be envisaged.

In that sense, it is particularly urgent that mission "be understood and practised in a way that does not lead to an increase of hatred and violence". New forms of "non-aggressive evangelism" must keep "the bold witness to Christ and God’s kingdom in creative tension with respect for men, women and children of all convictions".

For Kobia, "ecumenically responsible evangelism" means "a proclamation which, while critical of human pride and sin, makes it clear that God wants peace and not war, life and not death, unity and not division, forgiveness and not vengeance".

Healing of memories

Reflecting on the famous Edinburgh motto "the evangelization of the world in this generation," the WCC general secretary acknowledged that 100 years later, the number of Christians in the world is proportionally the same: roughly a third of the world population.

"Realistically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to just repeat the Edinburgh watchword," Kobia argued. Instead, and in view of the extent to which both the world and the landscape of Christianity have profoundly changed since 1910, he proposed to focus on "this generation’s mission in a globalized world".

According to Kobia, this course should include "the healing of Christian divisions, building communities of healing and reconciliation, challenging all justifications of violence, striving for peace as God’s gift, and sharing the gospel in Christ’s way".

Amongst wounded memories in need of healing is the rift between "Christians of the evangelical mission family and Christians of the conciliar or ecumenical mission family". "We should find a way to confess mutual exaggerations and disrespect" so as to favour "an authentic reconciliation process" if any progress in co-operation around 2010 and beyond is to be achieved, Kobia said.

The WCC general secretary is halfway through a 24 April – 4 May visit to the UK and Ireland.

The full text of Kobia’s keynote speech at the planning meeting for the 2010 centennial conference in Edinburgh is available at the following link: 
More information on Kobia’s visit to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, including a detailed schedule, is available on the WCC website at:  


Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 347 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
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An Easter Message From ELCIC National Bishop
Raymond Schultz

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb,
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
–Isaiah 49:15 (NRSV)

What a pleasant surprise it was to visit Sweden for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council meeting and get some relief from North American news. The North American mood, since September 11, 2001, has been one of doomsday dread. The rationale for the Iraq war was built on that mood. The US demands for beefed-up Canadian security were based on that mood. There is a sense in the air that if one is not watchful every minute, life, as we know it, will be snatched away for good. Apocalyptic religious views such as those expressed in the Left Behind series by Tim LaHay add to the doomsday dread.
How much more Easter-centred was the mood in Europe! The gathering there celebrated a mixture of experiences, some undeniably dangerous, but others life-giving. Life is not an all-or-nothing battle. Christians who have been dealt life-crushing disasters continue to re-emerge as hopeful and dedicated evangelists for Jesus Christ. The LWF community offered the opportunity to reason through our faith together.

God, who created us out of sheer grace, has permanently adopted us in love. Nowhere do I find the Easter message more profoundly spoken then in the prophesies of Isaiah, who did not know Jesus, but who knew the promise in which Jesus trusted. Eternal life is not a future promise, but a reality in which we already exist. I disagree with those who believe that death is an illusion, but death, real as it is, cannot prevent God from preserving us in God’s own self for all of God’s life.

Let us not be ground down by doomsday worries. Let us celebrate life in fearless trust and give ourselves over to the celebration of life eternal! Easter always calls us forward into the future.

Thanks be to God!

National Bishop Raymond Schultz
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada ( is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 174,555 baptized members in 620 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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