The big news around Atlantic City last month was the impending opening of the first of several huge gambling casinos that are expected to revitalize the area’s ailing economy. Virtually unnoticed was an important religious consultation held in adjacent Ventnor. Amid surroundings and names made popular by the game Monopoly, 170 participants from forty denominations and twenty-three countries took on the world’s ills. At times they seemed intent on dismantling and replacing political and economic systems that create and perpetuate suffering, injustice, and social evils. For nearly four days they attempted to come to grips with the question stated in the conference theme: “Liberation, Development, Evangelization: Must We Choose in Mission?”
The consultation was the fifth and last in a series on “The Future of the Missionary Enterprise.” It was held at the independent Overseas Ministries Study Center, which sponsored the event jointly with several Protestant, Roman Catholic, and ecumenical groups.
The keynote address by Uruguayan Methodist Emilio Castro, director of the World Council of Churches’ Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, offered an answer. Speaking on the topic, “Towards a Liberating Evangelism: Beyond Polarizations,” he stated that “there is a growing consensus among Christians on the reciprocity between evangelism and Christian service, between proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and participation in human liberation.” To support his contention he quoted from the evangelical-drafted Lausanne Covenant of 1974 and the conclusions reached at a meeting of Orthodox theologians meeting in Bucharest that same year. He also referred to documents from the Bangkok and Nairobi WCC assemblies and a Vatican encyclical. ...1
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