For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action
Our covenant with God binds love and obedience together. God rejoices to see our ‘work produced by faith’ and our ‘labour prompted by love’, for ‘we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’
As members of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ, we have sought to listen to the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. We have listened to his voice coming to us from his written Word in the exposition of Ephesians, and through the voices of his people around the world. Our six major Congress themes provide a framework to discern the challenges facing the worldwide Church of Christ, and our priorities for the future. We do not imply that these commitments are the only ones the Church should consider, or that priorities everywhere are the same.
IIA. Bearing witness to the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world
1. Truth and the person of Christ
Jesus Christ is the truth of the universe. Because Jesus is truth, truth in Christ is (i) personal as well as propositional; (ii) universal as well as contextual; (iii) ultimate as well as present.
A) As disciples of Christ we are called to be people of truth.
We must live the truth. To live the truth is to be the face of Jesus, through whom the glory of the gospel is revealed to blinded minds. People will see truth in the faces of those who live their lives for Jesus, in faithfulness and love.
We must proclaim the truth. Spoken proclamation of the truth of the gospel remains paramount in our mission. This cannot be separated from living out the truth. Works and words must go together.
B) We urge church leaders, pastors and evangelists to preach and teach the fullness of the biblical gospel as Paul did, in all its cosmic scope and truth. We must present the gospel not merely as offering individual salvation, or a better solution to needs than other gods can provide, but as God’s plan for the whole universe in Christ. People sometimes come to Christ to meet a personal need, but they stay with Christ when they find him to be the truth.
2. Truth and the challenge of pluralism
Cultural and religious plurality is a fact and Christians in Asia, for example, have lived with it for centuries. Different religions each affirm that theirs is the way of truth. Most will seek to respect competing truth claims of other faiths and live alongside them. However postmodern, relativist pluralism is different. Its ideology allows for no absolute or universal truth. While tolerating truth claims, it views them as no more than cultural constructs. (This position is logically self-destroying for it affirms as a single absolute truth that there is no single absolute truth.) Such pluralism asserts ‘tolerance’ as an ultimate value, but it can take oppressive forms in countries where secularism or aggressive atheism govern the public arena.
A) We long to see greater commitment to the hard work of robust apologetics. This must be at two levels.
We need to identify, equip and pray for those who can engage at the highest intellectual and public level in arguing for and defending biblical truth in the public arena.
We urge Church leaders and pastors to equip all believers with the courage and the tools to relate the truth with prophetic relevance to everyday public conversation, and so to engage every aspect of the culture we live in.
3. Truth and the workplace
The Bible shows us God’s truth about human work as part of God’s good purpose in creation. The Bible brings the whole of our working lives within the sphere of ministry, as we serve God in different callings. By contrast, the falsehood of a ‘sacred-secular divide’ has permeated the Church’s thinking and action. This divide tells us that religious activity belongs to God, whereas other activity does not. Most Christians spend most of their time in work which they may think has little spiritual value (so-called secular work). But God is Lord of all of life. ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,’ said Paul, to slaves in the pagan workplace.
In spite of the enormous evangelistic and transformational opportunity of the workplace, where adult Christians have most relationships with non-Christians, few churches have the vision to equip their people to seize this. We have failed to regard work in itself as biblically and intrinsically significant, as we have failed to bring the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ.
A) We name this secular-sacred divide as a major obstacle to the mobilization of all God’s people in the mission of God, and we call upon Christians worldwide to reject its unbiblical assumptions and resist its damaging effects. We challenge the tendency to see ministry and mission (local and cross-cultural) as being mainly the work of church-paid ministers and missionaries, who are a tiny percentage of the whole body of Christ.
B) We encourage all believers to accept and affirm their own daily ministry and mission as being wherever God has called them to work. We challenge pastors and church leaders to support people in such ministry – in the community and in the workplace – ‘to equip the saints for works of service [ministry]’ – in every part of their lives.
C) We need intensive efforts to train all God’s people in whole-life discipleship, which means to live, think, work, and speak from a biblical worldview and with missional effectiveness in every place or circumstance of daily life and work.
Christians in many skills, trades, businesses and professions, can often go to places where traditional church planters and evangelists may not. What these ‘tentmakers’ and business people do in the workplace must be valued as an aspect of the ministry of local churches.
D) We urge church leaders to understand the strategic impact of ministry in the workplace and to mobilize, equip and send out their church members as missionaries into the workplace, both in their own local communities and in countries that are closed to traditional forms of gospel witness.
E) We urge mission leaders to integrate ‘tentmakers’ fully into the global missional strategy.
4. Truth and the globalized media
We commit ourselves to a renewed critical and creative engagement with media and technology, as part of making the case for the truth of Christ in our media cultures. We must do so as God’s ambassadors of truth, grace, love, peace and justice.
We identify the following major needs:
A) Media awareness: to help people develop a more critical awareness of the messages they receive, and of the worldview behind them. The media can be neutral, and sometimes gospel friendly. But they are also used for pornography, violence and greed. We encourage pastors and churches to face these issues openly and to provide teaching and guidance for believers in resisting such pressures and temptations.
B) Media presence: to develop authentic and credible Christian role models and communicators for the general news media and the entertainment media, and to commend these careers as a worthy means of influence for Christ.
C) Media ministries: to develop creative, combined and interactive use of ‘traditional’, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, to communicate the gospel of Christ in the context of a holistic biblical worldview.
5. Truth and the arts in mission
We possess the gift of creativity because we bear the image of God. Art in its many forms is an integral part of what we do as humans and can reflect something of the beauty and truth of God. Artists at their best are truth-tellers and so the arts constitute one important way in which we can speak the truth of the gospel. Drama, dance, story, music and visual image can be expressions both of the reality of our brokenness, and of the hope that is centred in the gospel that all things will be made new.
In the world of mission, the arts are an untapped resource. We actively encourage greater Christian involvement in the arts.
A) We long to see the Church in all cultures energetically engaging the arts as a context for mission by:
Bringing the arts back into the life of the faith community as a valid and valuable component of our call to discipleship;
Supporting those with artistic gifts, especially sisters and brothers in Christ, so that they may flourish in their work;
Letting the arts serve as an hospitable environment in which we can acknowledge and come to know the neighbour and the stranger;
Respecting cultural differences and celebrating indigenous artistic expression.
6. Truth, science and emerging technologies
This century is widely known as ‘the Bio-tech Century’, with advances in all the emerging technologies (bio, info/digital, nano, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics). This has deep implications for the Church and for mission, particularly in relation to the biblical truth of what it means to be human. We need to promote authentically Christian responses and practical action in the arena of public policies, to ensure that science and technology are used not to manipulate, distort and destroy, but to preserve and better fulfil our humanness, as those whom God has created in his own image. We call on:
A) Local church leaders to (i) encourage, support and ask questions of church members who are professionally engaged in science, technology, healthcare and public policy, and (ii) to present to theologically thoughtful students the need for Christians to enter these arenas.
B) Seminaries to engage with these fields in their curricula, so future Church leaders and theological educators develop an informed Christian critique of the new technologies.
C) Theologians, and Christians in government, business, academia and technical fields, to form national or regional ‘think tanks’ or partnerships to engage with new technologies and scientific advances, and to speak into the shaping of public policy with a voice that is biblical and relevant.
D) All local Christian communities to demonstrate respect for the unique dignity and sanctity of human life, by practical and holistic caring which integrates the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual aspects of our created humanity.
7. Truth and the public arenas
The interlocking arenas of Government, Business and Academia have a strong influence on the values of each nation and, in human terms, define the freedom of the Church.
A) We encourage Christ-followers to be actively engaged in these spheres, both in public service or private enterprise, in order to shape societal values and influence public debate. We encourage support for Christ-centred schools and universities that are committed to academic excellence and biblical truth.
B) Corruption is condemned in the Bible. It undermines economic development, distorts fair decision-making and destroys social cohesion. No nation is free of corruption. We invite Christians in the workplace, especially young entrepreneurs, to think creatively about how they can best stand against this scourge.
C) We encourage young Christian academics to consider a long-term career in the secular university, to (i) teach and (ii) develop their discipline from a biblical worldview, thereby to influence their subject field. We dare not neglect the Academy.
IIB. Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world
1. The peace that Christ made
Reconciliation to God is inseparable from reconciliation to one another. Christ, who is our peace, made peace through the cross, and preached peace to the divided world of Jew and Gentile. The unity of the people of God is both a fact (‘he made the two one’), and a mandate (‘make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’). God’s plan for the integration of the whole creation in Christ is modelled in the ethnic reconciliation of God’s new humanity. Such is the power of the gospel as promised to Abraham.
We affirm that whereas the Jewish people were not strangers to the covenants and promises of God, in the way that Paul describes the Gentiles, they still stand in need of reconciliation to God through the Messiah Jesus. There is no difference, said Paul, between Jew and Gentile in sin; neither is there any difference in salvation. Only in and through the cross can both have access to God the Father through the one Spirit.
A) We continue, therefore, strongly to affirm the need for the whole Church to share the good news of Jesus as Messiah, Lord and Saviour with Jewish people. And in the spirit of Romans 14-15, we urge Gentile believers to accept, encourage and pray for Messianic Jewish believers, in their witness among their own people.
Reconciliation to God and to one another is also the foundation and motivation for seeking the justice that God requires, without which, God says, there can be no peace. True and lasting reconciliation requires acknowledgment of past and present sin, repentance before God, confession to the injured one, and the seeking and receiving of forgiveness. It also includes commitment by the Church to seeking justice or reparation, where appropriate, for those who have been harmed by violence and oppression.
B) We long to see the worldwide Church of Christ, those who have been reconciled to God, living out our reconciliation with one another and committed to the task and struggle of biblical peace-making in the name of Christ.
2. Christ’s peace in ethnic conflict
Ethnic diversity is the gift and plan of God in creation. It has been spoiled by human sin and pride, resulting in confusion, strife, violence and war among nations. However, ethnic diversity will be preserved in the new creation, when people from every nation, tribe, people and language will gather as the redeemed people of God. We confess that we often fail to take ethnic identity seriously and to value it as the Bible does, in creation and redemption. We fail to respect the ethnic identity of others and ignore the deep wounds that such long-term disrespect causes.
A) We urge church pastors and leaders to teach biblical truth on ethnic diversity. We must positively affirm the ethnic identity of all church members. But we must also show how our ethnic loyalties are flawed by sin and teach believers that all our ethnic identities are subordinate to our redeemed identity as the new humanity in Christ through the cross.
We acknowledge with grief and shame the complicity of Christians in some of the most destructive contexts of ethnic violence and oppression, and the lamentable silence of large parts of the Church when such conflicts take place. Such contexts include the history and legacy of racism and black slavery; the holocaust against Jews; apartheid; ‘ethnic cleansing’; inter-Christian sectarian violence; decimation of indigenous populations; inter-religious, political and ethnic violence; Palestinian suffering; caste oppression; and tribal genocide. Christians who, by their action or inaction, add to the brokenness of the world, seriously undermine our witness to the gospel of peace. Therefore:
B) For the sake of the gospel, we lament, and call for repentance where Christians have participated in ethnic violence, injustice or oppression. We also call for repentance for the many times Christians have been complicit in such evils by silence, apathy or presumed neutrality, or by providing defective theological justification for these.
If the gospel is not deeply rooted in the context, challenging and transforming underlying worldviews and systems of injustice, then, when the evil day comes, Christian allegiance is discarded like an unwanted cloak and people revert to unregenerate loyalties and actions. Evangelizing without discipling, or revival without radical obedience to the commands of Christ, are not just deficient; they are dangerous.
We long for the day when the Church will be the world’s most visibly shining model of ethnic reconciliation and its most active advocate for conflict resolution.
Such aspiration, rooted in the gospel, calls us to:
C) Embrace the fullness of the reconciling power of the gospel and teach it accordingly. This includes a full biblical understanding of the atonement: that Jesus not only bore our sin on the cross to reconcile us to God, but destroyed our enmity, to reconcile us to one another.
D) Adopt the lifestyle of reconciliation. In practical terms this is demonstrated when Christians:
forgive persecutors, while having courage to challenge injustice on behalf of others;
give aid and offer hospitality to neighbours ‘on the other side’ of a conflict, taking initiatives to cross barriers to seek reconciliation;
continue to witness to Christ in violent contexts; and are willing to suffer, and even to die, rather than take part in acts of destruction or revenge;
engage in the long-term healing of wounds after conflict, making the Church a safe place of refuge and healing for all, including former enemies.
E) Be a beacon and bearer of hope. We bear witness to God who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. It is solely in the name of Christ, and in the victory of his cross and resurrection, that we have authority to confront the demonic powers of evil that aggravate human conflict, and have power to minister his reconciling love and peace.
3. Christ’s peace for the poor and oppressed
The biblical foundation for our commitment to seeking justice and shalom for the oppressed and the poor, is summarized in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7(c). On that basis, we long for more effective Christian action on:
Slavery and human trafficking
There are more people all around the world in slavery today (an estimated 27 million) than 200 years ago when Wilberforce fought to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. In India alone there are an estimated 15 million bonded children. The caste system oppresses low caste groups and excludes Dalits. But sadly the Christian Church itself is infected in many places with the same forms of discrimination. The concerted voice of the global Church must be raised in protest against what is in effect one of the world’s oldest systems of slavery. But if such global advocacy is to have any authenticity, the Church must reject all inequality and discrimination within itself.
Migration on an unprecedented scale in today’s world, for a variety of reasons, has led to human trafficking on every continent, the widespread enslavement of women and children in the sex trade, and the abuse of children through enforced labour or military conscription.
A) Let us rise up as the Church worldwide to fight the evil of human trafficking, and to speak and act prophetically to ‘set the prisoners free’. This must include addressing the social, economic and political factors that feed the trade. The world’s slaves call out to the global Church of Christ, ‘Free our children. Free our women. Be our voice. Show us the new society that Jesus promised.’
We embrace the witness of the whole Bible, as it shows us God’s desire both for systemic economic justice and for personal compassion, respect and generosity towards the poor and needy. We rejoice that this extensive biblical teaching has become more integrated into our mission strategy and practice, as it was for the early Church and the Apostle Paul.
Accordingly, let us:
B) Recognize the great opportunity that the Millennium Development Goals have presented for the local and global Church. We call on churches to advocate for them before governments, and to participate in efforts to achieve them, such as the Micah Challenge.
C) Have courage to declare that the world cannot address, let alone solve, the problem of poverty without also challenging excessive wealth and greed. The gospel challenges the idolatry of rampant consumerism. We are called, as those who serve God and not mammon, to recognize that greed perpetuates poverty, and to renounce it. At the same time, we rejoice that the gospel includes the rich in its call to repentance, and invites them to join the fellowship of those transformed by forgiving grace.
4. Christ’s peace for people with disabilities
People with disabilities form one of the largest minority groups in the world, estimated to exceed 600 million. The majority of these live in the least developed countries, and are among the poorest of the poor. Although physical or mental impairment is a part of their daily experience, most are also disabled by social attitudes, injustice and lack of access to resources. Serving people with disabilities does not stop with medical care or social provision; it involves fighting alongside them, those who care for them and their families, for inclusion and equality, both in society and in the Church. God calls us to mutual friendship, respect, love, and justice.
A) Let us rise up as Christians worldwide to reject cultural stereotypes, for as the Apostle Paul commented, ‘we no longer regard anyone from a human point of view.’ Made in the image of God, we all have gifts God can use in his service. We commit both to minister to people with disabilities, and to receive the ministry they have to give.
B) We encourage church and mission leaders to think not only of mission among those with a disability, but to recognize, affirm and facilitate the missional calling of believers with disabilities themselves as part of the Body of Christ.
C) We are grieved that so many people with disabilities are told that their impairment is due to personal sin, lack of faith or unwillingness to be healed. We deny that the Bible teaches this as a universal truth. Such false teaching is pastorally insensitive and spiritually disabling; it adds the burden of guilt and frustrated hopes to the other barriers that people with disabilities face.
D) We commit ourselves to make our churches places of inclusion and equality for people with disabilities and to stand alongside them in resisting prejudice and in advocating for their needs in wider society.
5. Christ’s peace for people living with HIV
HIV and AIDS constitute a major crisis in many nations. Millions are infected with HIV, including many in our churches, and millions of children are orphaned by AIDS. God is calling us to show his deep love and compassion to all those infected and affected and to make every effort to save lives. We believe that the teachings and example of Jesus, as well as the transforming power of his cross and resurrection, are central to the holistic gospel response to HIV and AIDS that our world so urgently needs.
A) We reject and denounce all condemnation, hostility, stigma, and discrimination against those living with HIV and AIDS. Such things are a sin and a disgrace within the body of Christ. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; we have been saved only by grace, and we should be slow to judge, quick to restore and forgive. We also recognize with grief and compassion that very many people become infected with HIV through no fault of their own, and often through caring for others.
B) We long that all pastors should set an example of sexual chastity and faithfulness, as Paul commanded, and teach clearly and often that marriage is the exclusive place for sexual union. This is needed not only because it is the clear teaching of the Bible, but also because the prevalence of concurrent sexual partnerships outside marriage is a major factor in the rapid spread of HIV in the most affected countries.
C) Let us, as the Church worldwide, rise to this challenge in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us stand together with our brothers and sisters in areas hardest hit by HIV and AIDS, through practical support, compassionate care (including care of widows and orphans), social and political advocacy, education programmes (particularly those that empower women), and effective prevention strategies appropriate to the local context. We commit ourselves to such urgent and prophetic action as part of the integral mission of the Church.
6. Christ’s peace for his suffering creation
Our biblical mandate in relation to God’s creation is provided in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7 (a). All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God’s good creation. We are authorized to exercise godly dominion in using it for the sake of human welfare and needs, for example in farming, fishing, mining, energy generation, engineering, construction, trade, medicine. As we do so, we are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation.
We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.
We encourage Christians worldwide to:
A) Adopt lifestyles that renounce habits of consumption that are destructive or polluting;
B) Exert legitimate means to persuade governments to put moral imperatives above political expediency on issues of environmental destruction and potential climate change;
C) Recognize and encourage the missional calling both of (i) Christians who engage in the proper use of the earth’s resources for human need and welfare through agriculture, industry and medicine, and (ii) Christians who engage in the protection and restoration of the earth’s habitats and species through conservation and advocacy. Both share the same goal for both serve the same Creator, Provider and Redeemer.
IIC. Living the love of Christ among people of other faiths
1. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ includes persons of other faiths
In view of the affirmations made in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7 (d), we respond to our high calling as disciples of Jesus Christ to see people of other faiths as our neighbours in the biblical sense. They are human beings created in God’s image, whom God loves and for whose sins Christ died. We strive not only to see them as neighbours, but to obey Christ’s teaching by being neighbours to them. We are called to be gentle, but not naïve; to be discerning and not gullible; to be alert to whatever threats we may face, but not ruled by fear.
We are called to share good news in evangelism, but not to engage in unworthy proselytizing. Evangelism, which includes persuasive rational argument following the example of the Apostle Paul, is ‘to make an honest and open statement of the gospel which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it. We wish to be sensitive to those of other faiths, and we reject any approach that seeks to force conversion on them.’ Proselytizing, by contrast, is the attempt to compel others to become ‘one of us’, to ‘accept our religion’, or indeed to ‘join our denomination’.
A) We commit ourselves to be scrupulously ethical in all our evangelism. Our witness is to be marked by ‘gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.’ We therefore reject any form of witness that is coercive, unethical, deceptive, or disrespectful.
B) In the name of the God of love, we repent of our failure to seek friendships with people of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious backgrounds. In the spirit of Jesus, we will take initiatives to show love, goodwill and hospitality to them.
C) In the name of the God of truth, we (i) refuse to promote lies and caricatures about other faiths, and (ii) denounce and resist the racist prejudice, hatred and fear incited in popular media and political rhetoric.
D) In the name of the God of peace, we reject the path of violence and revenge in all our dealings with people of other faiths, even when violently attacked.
E) We affirm the proper place for dialogue with people of other faiths, just as Paul engaged in debate with Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue and public arenas. As a legitimate part of our Christian mission, such dialogue combines confidence in the uniqueness of Christ and in the truth of the gospel with respectful listening to others.
2. The love of Christ calls us to suffer and sometimes to die for the gospel
Suffering may be necessary in our missionary engagement as witnesses to Christ, as it was for his apostles and the Old Testament prophets. Being willing to suffer is an acid test for the genuineness of our mission. God can use suffering, persecution and martyrdom to advance his mission. ‘Martyrdom is a form of witness which Christ has promised especially to honour.’ Many Christians living in comfort and prosperity need to hear again the call of Christ to be willing to suffer for him. For many other believers live in the midst of such suffering as the cost of bearing witness to Jesus Christ in a hostile religious culture. They may have seen loved ones martyred, or endured torture or persecution because of their faithful obedience, yet continue to love those who have so harmed them.
A) We hear and remember with tears and prayer the testimonies of those who suffer for the gospel. We pray for grace and courage, along with them, to ‘love our enemies’ as Christ commanded us. We pray that the gospel may bear fruit in places that are so hostile to its messengers. As we rightly grieve for those who suffer, we remember the infinite grief God feels over those who resist and reject his love, his gospel and his servants. We long for them to repent and be forgiven and find the joy of being reconciled to God.
3. Love in action embodies and commends the gospel of grace
‘We are the aroma of Christ.’ Our calling is to live and serve among people of other faiths in a way that is so saturated with the fragrance of God’s grace that they smell Christ, that they come to taste and see that God is good. By such embodied love, we are to make the gospel attractive in every cultural and religious setting. When Christians love people of other faiths through lives of love and acts of service, they embody the transforming grace of God.
In cultures of ‘honour’, where shame and vengeance are allied with religious legalism, ‘grace’ is an alien concept. In these contexts, God’s vulnerable, self-sacrificing love is not something to be debated; it is considered too foreign, even repulsive. Here, grace is an acquired taste, over a