A group of 10 theologians from five continents have met to discuss insights on evangelism and how the Anglican Communion engages in evangelism in different contexts. The group, from the Global South, met in Dallas this month for the event hosted by Bishop George Sumner and the Diocese of Dallas. Some were from majority Muslim contexts where overt evangelism is not possible and new believers are brought into the faith through friendship and humanitarian service.
Conference participants also heard how in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, evangelism has been boosted through Pentecostal influence especially in worship, though “churches are needing to resist the allure of the Prosperity Gospel,” Canon Dr Stephen Spencer, Director for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, said. “In Africa there are also dangers of syncretism with African traditional religion. In Asia the churches are spreading through their humanitarian response to human need, not least in Nepal since the devastating earthquakes, which now has the highest rate of church growth in the Province of South East Asia.”
The conference was the second of three planned to help the Anglican Communion prepare for the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which will be held in Canterbury, England, in 2020. The conference papers are being collected together into books that will be printed and distributed in different regions of the Communion. “While they are not official Lambeth 2020 publications, their topics link well with the strap line of the conference, “walking, listening and witnessing together”. The first, Preparing for Lambeth 2020: Walking Together will be published in partnership with SPCK by the end of this year.
“The Dallas conference also included responses from global North theologians, showing creative dialogue taking place,” Canon Spencer said. “These will be included in the books so that the chapters reflect how there is ongoing conversation across the Communion from which all can learn, setting a tone which hopefully the Lambeth Conference itself will pick up on.”
The Dallas conference represents the conclusion of the first phase of the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion project, founded by Bishop Graham Kings and run by Dr Muthuraj Swamy, a theologian from South India who is now director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity Worldwide – formerly the Henry Martyn Study Centre – in Cambridge.
Phase Two of the project is being hosted by the Theological Education department of the Anglican Communion Office, which will work to disseminate the conferences insights across the Communion.
Dr Swamy has joined the staff of the Anglican Communion Office to facilitate this. “He brings a valuable South Indian perspective to the team at ACO,” Canon Spencer said.