Hearing the “deaf voices” in Lausanne Europe 20/21, Evangelical Focus

In November 2021, the Lausanne Movement held its first major conference on European soil since the original 1974 Congress on World Evangelism.

the general theme of the Lausanne Europe 20/21 Conversation and Meeting was “Dynamic Gospel New Europe” with its dual concern to harness the power of the everlasting gospel in today’s changing Europe.

Eight hundred delegates from each of the forty countries of Lausanne Europe had been invited according to a strict quota system to ensure fair representation of age, gender and area of ​​ministrybut also a large quota for majority world leaders.

At the same time, delegates and others were encouraged to join the Lausanne Europe Conversation, a monthly engagement in groups with the key themes that would be discussed at the gathering.

Unfortunately, the covid pandemic led to the original gathering being postponed from October 2020 to November 2021, and ultimately the decision was made to move the entire rally online.

Nevertheless, six hundred of the original delegates, with six hundred other people who were able to participate following the event going live, met virtually with a small team organizing the event from Southampton International Lighthouse Church in the UK.

Jeff Fountain, director of the Schuman Center for European Studies, summed up his experience of the European Gathering in Lausanne:

“Whether we follow alone from home or the office, or in national gatherings like the one I joined in Almere just outside Amsterdam, we have all been drawn into a large, multi-ethnic, multilingual and multinational company. ‘ covering Europe and far beyond. We have become more aware of our own cultural blind spots, our nationalistic limitations, our linguistic differences and perhaps even our racial prejudices. We have been confronted with the needs and challenges in the needy mission field of Europe today. The four days of online conversations, video reports, exchanges via chat boxes, interactive seminars and Bible exhibitions created a landmark event that will impact the evangelical landscape of Europe for decades. to come”.

Three years ago, in January 2019, the organizing committee of Lausanne Europe 20/21 Conversation and Gathering, organized a day of reflection in Amsterdam.

The approximately eighty participants were leaders of churches, denominations and church planting movements, youth and student ministry leaders, diaspora church leaders and agency leaders. missionaries from all over the continent.

They were challenged to discuss the benefits a Lausanne Europe Gathering could bring, the goals we should set ourselves for the Gathering, but also to look around the room and ask the question: who is missing? What perspectives, contributions and voices are missing from the deliberations?

A few months later, the Vista editors decided to investigate this issue further. We interviewed a group of church, mission and network leaders from across Europe and found that four voices were often silenced in conversations about mission: the voice of women, the voice of young people, the voice of Central and Eastern Europe and the voice of Majority World Christians (“Who speaks for Europe?” Vista 33, June 2019).

In the next issue, we featured articles written by someone from each of these groups giving their perspective on what needed to change (“Reimagining Europe” Vista 34, Oct. 2019).

As the Gathering program developed, the issue of deaf voices has become increasingly importantand finally the decision was made that one of the morning plenaries should be called: “Welcoming diversity: listening to “deaf” and marginalized voices”.

the quota system was intended not only to ensure a balanced representation in the whole gathering, but also within each of the national delegations. However, the table overleaf only shows global figures, not country breakdowns.

In each case, there are three percentages: the goal or target representation that the organizers were aiming for, the percentage of that collective that registered as delegates, and the actual percentage of that collective that participated online in the gathering. from November 2021.

It’s obvious that in the case of women and youth, the quota system has generally been successful to ensure a balanced representation, although in the case of womenas noted by Amanda Jackson, director of the World Evangelical Fellowship Women’s Commission, a target of at least 40% would seem appropriate given that (more than) one in two European Christians is a woman.

The efforts to ensure that an appropriate number of delegates from Central and Eastern Europe and a majority world are less successful. The number of delegates from Southern, Central and Eastern Europe was below target, mainly because a large number of speakers came from Northern and Western Europe.

However, while more Southern Europeans registered online than registered delegates, the number of Central and Eastern Europeans joining online actually declined further.

This may well reflect the provision of simultaneous translation into French, Spanish and German, but not into Central and Eastern European languages.

In the case of Majority World’s participation, the figures are even more striking.. The 20% target was very ambitious and in some countries it would be an overrepresentation of the Christian diaspora population, but overall it was rather disappointing that only 6% of delegates came from a majority background.

However, with Lausanne Europe 20/21 moving online, there has been a 50% increase in Diaspora Christian engagementand much of the feedback indicated how much the ethnic diversity among speakers and presenters was highly valued by all delegates.

One thing is to be invited to join in a conversation. Another thing is actually being asked to speak. Yet another thing is to feel that you have been heard.

The organizers certainly did efforts to ensure that speakers include women, young leaders, speakers from Central and Eastern Europe and leaders from the diaspora also.

So, did the Europe 20/21 Conversation and Gathering in Lausanne serve to amplify the voices of women, young leaders from Central and Eastern Europe and the voices of Diaspora Christians in Europe? The short answer is yes, but there is so much more to do.

amanda jacksoncelebrates the emphasis on the non-mutation of the voices of half of the Church, but also challenges Lausanne Europe, and more broadly the evangelicals, to go further in the animation and the equipment of the women to use their gifts for the benefit of the church and the mission in Europe.

Henriette and Alexandre Engberg Vinkel are young leaders from Denmark. They were encouraged by the representation of youth, youth speakers and mission to the younger generation, but observed that “we haven’t heard much about how young people are a muted and marginalized voice in the world. ‘church”.

They make a passionate plea to not just talk about or to young leaders, but to talk with them. There is a desire for mentors and role models who are willing to walk alongside young leaders.

Slavko Hadzic and Peter Pristiak are respectively church leaders from Bosnia and Slovakia. They make a number of observations, including that the the number of speakers from Central and Eastern Europe did not reflect the number of participants.

Nonetheless, they were challenged to think more deeply about how they could partner with diaspora churches in their countries and saw this as a way to counter the influence of unhealthy nationalism.

Finally, co-editor of Vista Harvey Kwiyani evaluates Lausanne Europe 20/21 from the perspective of the diaspora. While celebrating that nearly one in ten attendees were a majority global Christian, he noted the absence of some diaspora leaders from major Pentecostal churches in Europe:

“I have become more optimistic just as much as I have become more worried. I have taken hope because I see a great possibility that the voices and perspectives of Diaspora Christians will continue to be heard in Europe. has a growing general willingness to engage and listen to Christians in the Diaspora. I was concerned because, as the challenge of getting 20% ​​Diaspora attendance to this conference showed, there is has a huge chasm between the Diaspora and European Christians… The chasm that exists between us needs to be bridged, and both sides need to understand how to reach out and be hospitable to each other.

In my opinion, the deaf voices of the church in Europe have been heard more prominently at Lausanne Europe 20/21 than at any other European evangelical gathering in recent years. However, we still have work to do.

The four keywords of Lausanne Europe 20/21 were See, meet, talk, act. We saw new perspectives, met new people and started a real conversation. Yet, ultimately, this conversation must turn into action, into collaboration in the re-evangelization of Europe.

Memory of Jim is the Vista editor. He was part of the Lausanne Europe 20/21 Conversation and Gathering organizing committee and led the process team that put together the monthly Conversation materials. He was recently appointed as the new Regional Director of Lausanne Europe.

This article first appeared in the January 2022 edition of Vista Journal.

Barry F. Howard