During the week we heard that Iguassu in Brazil is also the location of an important Al-Qaeda cell belonging to Osama bin Laden's group. Well, let's hope that the decisions taken there in 1999 will have greater
earth-shaking impact than the intentions of terrorism.
The Iguassu Affirmation was "a working document, forged in the warmth, collegiality, and discussion of a very intense week of doing missiology in Brazil" (op. cit., p.2). The famous Iguassu Falls, which appears in many stunning films, provided the perfect backdrop to the overarching, programmatic models for mission that were presented, discussed and debated there as the participants, from the vantage point of hindsight, considered the challenges of the present and future against the historic models of mission, some clearly successful and others were disastrous failures. The papers presented reflect the principles that have guided evangelical Christianity through the past twenty five years. They showed sensitivity to the issues that have dogged the efforts to win the world for Christ and covered adequately the macro context of the complex cross-cultural situation of mission. There was a keen sense of the urgency of tackling issues that through the years have engaged the minds and hearts of not only 'think-tankers' but especially practitioners who are out there on the front line of mission. The views of leading missiologists in the various countries were highlighted. The resultant Affirmation states succinctly nine "Declarations" which provide the theoretical basis for fourteen
"Commitments" which cover broadly areas like, "The Gospel and Culture", "Pluralism", "Christian Responsibility and the World Economic Order", "The Ecological Crisis", "Partnership", and "Member Care". Their brevity belies the large amount of thinking and writing that undergirds each area.
By comparison the Lausanne Covenant, with its much larger group of participants (150 countries were represented at Lausanne as against 53 countries at Iguassu), dealt with both the biblical as well as the missiological issues. The Covenant proper spelt out fifteen aspects touching on the entire spectrum of mission. The evangelistic strategy papers and reports proved helpful to mission practitioners who have used Let the Earth Hear His Voice (thanks to the painstaking efforts of its editor, Dr J. D. Douglas) as a useful reference tool. Also helpful were the "Theology of Evangelization Papers and Reports" which covered a wide range of theological issues that interface with mission. The "Geographical Reports" also gave useful snapshots of the mission situation in each country.
My observations must be limited broadly to a few matters. First, both these documents should serve as a valuable reference to thinking about mission and they deserve careful reading and study. Second, whether or not one agrees or disagrees with the views presented, there is more than enough in them that commands agreement by evangelical Christians that we cannot just sit back and await further agreement and study. It is axiomatic that the Christian world by and large has engaged in too much talking and too little action. Third, my personal disappointment with the Iguassu Affirmation is its failure to build specifically on the earlier findings of the Lausanne Covenant. Certain issues, I feel, need to be re-examined, particularly the strange and oft-quoted view that missions must be built on an incarnational model with reference to our Lord Jesus Christ. Theologians have difficulty expanding to uniqueness of Christ's Incarnation to embrace the mission of the Church. Fourth, I see the need to re-examine the ecclesiological thinking of evangelical Christianity. I realize the danger of categorizations and generalizations: a name in itself cannot describe accurately what a person or a group believes or stands for. But why, I ask, is there is a summary dismissal of the mission work of fundamentalistic Christianity while careful attempts are made to learn from the Jesuit, Coptic, Nestorian, and other communities? True, we can always learn from the work of others. But surely at the heart of mission are important principles that cannot and should not be compromised. (QSH)
We have received four more orders for the "Good Books CD".