Why Lausanne III, and All Ecumenical Assemblies for That Matter, Are a Waste of Time

As always, Carl Trueman is spot-on in this critique of ecumenical declarations. Here are excerpts of his essay:

Thomas Jefferson was no orthodox Christian but I have a deep suspicion that he should take significant responsibility for one of the greatest myths that currently dogs the church in the modern world.   In drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he helped to create the impression that declarations and petitions can actually achieve something…

The problem [with the Declaration of Independence] is that it has left a residual belief in the wider world that petitions can actually achieve something. This belief seems to exert a peculiar hold over the minds of many Christians, despite, I should add, all of the evidence to the contrary.  Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of petitions and declarations which have all, by and large, achieved nothing…

The Manhattan Declaration is another example… For all of the excitement surrounding its launch, however, and the high hopes that it would have some kind of significant impact, it seems to have achieved almost nothing in the time since it was published and, perhaps most ironically, served in certain evangelical quarters as a source only of discord.  Evangelicals typically make the fatal mistake of assuming that the wider world actually cares about what they think. It does not: it increasingly regards us as fringe lunatics, rather as it did in the first century…

What puzzles me is the idiom by which these things are expressed. Do we really need a ‘declaration’ on these things, and what good is this actually going to do?  First, I might remark that, frankly, such sentiments as ‘We love God’ and ‘Jesus is unique’ are in a similar league of obviousness to the phrases ‘We oppose wife beating,’ ‘We consider clean water to be a good thing,’ and even ‘Disco music was a very bad idea (not to mention the white suits and chest wigs).’  To read some of the blogs and reports on the conference, you would think that something new and radical was being proposed.  Nothing I have seen could not have been found better expressed elsewhere by somebody else at some point in the past…

The question then becomes: did we need a gathering of thousands of church leaders (though no leader from my own church, local or otherwise, seems to have been present), at huge expense, to tell us these things?  Do most of us not belong to churches where such things have been part of the very reason for our existence from the very start? The conference presumably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to organize (if not more), before one even includes the hours spent by said church leaders away from the local postings to which they have been called. Is this a legitimate use of money at a point in time when many churches and Christian organizations are struggling to make their budgets?…

Now, I know that we want to find ways and means of expressing our unity in Christ; but to do this via a non-ecclesiastical root is not consonant with scripture and also leaves the gathering vulnerable to the accusation that it is self-appointed and unrepresentative. This latter criticism is particularly ironic, given the laudable desire of the organizers to be inclusive and, to quote the webpage, to be  ‘perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church.’ To play the postmodern card: one wonders who decided which people were ‘representative’ and thus received an invitation, and which were not and were left by the wayside

Maybe Lausanne III will be significant. I wish I could believe that. More likely, I suspect, it will go the way of Lausanne I and II: it will produce some inspiring documents, an interesting book or two, and perhaps give those fortunate enough to have been present a vision of the kingdom which may last for a few months or maybe a year. It certainly will not have any impact at local level: it does not have the mechanisms attached to it to do so.  Thus, for most of us, life will go on as normal, in all of its boring, mundane routine: we will ensure that the gospel is faithfully preached week by week from our pulpits, we will attempt to apply God’s word to the routine pastoral problems of our congregations, we will seek to reach out to the community where God has placed us, and we will, in these straitened times, strive to meet our modest budgets. In this context, a context very familiar to most Christians, some of us will wonder if the money and time spent in Cape Town might not have given a better return if invested elsewhere.

Read the whole thing here: http://www.reformation21.org/counterpoints/i-blame-jefferson.php

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