In the summer of 2011, the most diverse group of Christians ever to be gathered found their way to Cape Town, South Africa for the Fourth Lausaunne World Congress. More than 4,000 men and women gathered to talk about community and faith and to explore the shape of Christian life in the 21st century. Imagine the logistical and cultural nightmares. For any who have sat in a stuffy conference room wading through a session on diversity or multiculturalism— or for those who have laughed through the ridiculous diversity training scenes portrayed on NBC’s The Office–, you can imagine that it would have taken more than the same old, “every body’s equal” speech. You will know that for an epic world congress or even for the diversifying liberal arts campus, we need a whole new vision for global community.
In his opening speech, Executive Director of Lasaunne stressed the importance of authentic community and the formation of hearts. Imagining the multi-leveled challenges in our world day, he suggested that, “authentic community is a precondition of authentic prophetic witness in our world.” And for authentic community, he knows that we need hearts formed with “integrity, humility, simplicity—as bridge builders and peacemakers.” He also brought up the idea of an “international gift exchange.”
Despite the idea sounding like a nice little diverse Christmas Party, Birsdall had something more epic in mind. He envisioned a world, full of communities, full of individuals who are willing to share their glory with one another in a dance of mutual service. He envisioned a globe where former colonists and former colonized will work together each giving out from the gold of their cultural and personal strengths. He envisioned a place where historical minorities and historical majority peoples could both lead and follow one another into bright futures, co-forged with the arms of brotherhood. It all sounds nice. But you, like me, are probably thinking: man, this guy has no clue what it’s like in my community. We have a long way to go. Or, you may be simply wondering: how does this all pertain to me in my cozy North Atlantic town? What do you think?