There would seem to be no obvious reason why complementarian leaders would be excluded from the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization held last fall in Pattaya, Thailand, and sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE).
The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) has as its central
theme “The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”
Thus, there would seem to be no obvious reason why complementarian leaders
would be excluded from LCWE’s 2004 Forum for World Evangelization held last fall
in Pattaya, Thailand, where nearly 2,000 Christian leaders from around the world
met to discuss issues facing world evangelism.
But that is precisely what happened.
Participants–broken up into “issue groups”–examined 31 issues, ranging from
prayer in evangelism, evangelization of children, redeeming the arts, and
reaching the youth generation, to confronting racial conflict, the exclusivity
of Christ, and post-9/11 mission realities.
But it was “Issue 24” and its group that grabbed the attention of
complementarian groups such as The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Issue 24 dealt with “Empowering women and men to utilize their gifts together
for the spread of the Gospel.”
The groups themselves were composed of 30-70 topic experts, theologians,
pastors, researchers, educators, and evangelists, as well as denominational
leaders, laypersons, mission agencies and prayer movements. The issue groups
were charged with developing an action plan to answer individual issues in local
churches, through denominations, and within various “focused” ministries.
Though Issue 24 fell under an innocuous title, a closer examination of the
focus group that considered it revealed a trend surprising for an organization
committed to “the whole church:” All the leaders for the group looking at Issue
24 were staunch egalitarians.
The group’s convener was Mimi Haddad, president for the evangelical feminist
group Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). Co-conveners were Juliet Thomas of
Women’s Prayer Network and Lorry Lutz, a consultant for Global Action Women’s
Network. The group’s facilitator was Nanci Hogan of Youth With a Mission (YWAM)
in the United Kingdom, an organization that is openly egalitarian.
While empowering both men and women to use their gifts together for the
spread of the Gospel is by no means a violation of biblical gender roles, one of
the expected outcomes of Issue 24 exposes an agenda of a more sociopolitical
The fourth of four “expected outcomes,” according to the forum website, was
to “Suggest ways that women can be freed from the various bondages placed upon
them so they can effectively use their gifts in the proclamation of the
What those “various bondages” entail is not known, but the issue group’s
stacked deck suggests at least one answer, says Randy Stinson, executive
director for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).
“The fact that no representative from CBMW was asked to participate only
underscores the appearance of an egalitarian agenda,” Stinson said. “The problem
is that usually this type of activity happens below the radar and the broader
evangelical community never knows it happened. I’m just glad we were able to
find out in time to rectify the inequity.”
None of the four “expected outcomes” speak to the issue of men and
evangelism, only women and the use of their gifts. Stinson points out that men
are far more prone to abdicate their responsibility within the church when it
comes to evangelism or any other type of Christian responsibility. Men often
need more aggressive prodding to fulfill their roles within the church and home,
“Why would the topic of men be completely left out of a group concerned about
gender issues and evangelism?” Stinson said.
“It does not make sense. Statistics show over and over that it is men who are
in danger of being left behind when it comes to evangelism. We are not saying
that the committee should focus on men only, but should at least acknowledge
that there are many shortcomings when it comes to men and evangelism.”
The Lausanne movement is an outgrowth of a 1974 International Congress in
Lausanne, Switzerland, convened by Billy Graham. At that meeting, several
thousand participants from 150 countries signed the Lausanne Covenant that aimed
at being “more intentional about world evangelization.”
Lausanne’s stated vision is to energize churches, mission agencies, networks
and individuals “to respond with vigor and courage to the cause of world
evangelization.” The Lausanne Covenant’s central theme is, “The Whole Church
Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”
Up to now, there has been no reason to doubt the accuracy of Lausanne’s
unifying theme. However, Stinson wonders why the whole church was not included
in Issue Group 24. If the inclusion of all evangelical viewpoints is part of
Lausanne’s mission–a mission all evangelicals unequivocally share–why was the
complementarian voice shut out in this case?
Doug Birdsall admits that this should not have happened.
Birdsall was installed in October as International Chairman of LCWE during
the global forum. An ordained minister in the conservative Presbyterian Church
in America (PCA), Birdsall serves as director of the J. Christy Wilson Center
for World Missions at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. LCWE father Billy Graham was
instrumental in founding Gordon-Conwell.
Lausanne’s new leader is also a complementarian. He had not yet joined LCWE’s
leadership when the global forum’s issue groups were determined and was
surprised to learn of the egalitarian-only approach to Issue 24. Birdsall
learned of the group’s makeup through an interview with Gender-News.com.
Since LCWE is non-denominational and broadly evangelical, Birdsall said next
time he would want to make sure both sides of the issue were fairly represented.
“By calling it to my attention, you are doing the right thing,” he told the
interviewer. “I am not trying at all to shift the blame but just to say that now
that I am aware of it when it presents itself again, I would say, absolutely, we
must include both sides.”
Birdsall rightly said he would not bring a complementarian agenda to LCWE but
agreed with CBMW leadership that both sides should be heard in discussing gender
issues as they relate to world evangelization.
“That (complementarianism) is not going to be the main issue that is going to
define my leadership but it is not going to be an issue I am going to ignore
either,” Birdsall said. “I do believe God has called men and women and I don’t
think that has been a primary focus of Lausanne, but Lausanne has included women
who have played major roles in the cause of world evangelization.”
Robyn Claydon and husband Doug chose the participants who led the individual
issue groups. Robyn Claydon is the founder of the Lausanne Women’s Network and
is also an egalitarian, Birdsall said. Claydon, who lives in Australia, did not
respond to an interview request by Gender-News.com.
Claydon is the author of two books–Doors are for Walking Through and
Keep Walking. On Lausanne’s website, Claydon explains her role at LCWE as
ministering to women on world evangelization. Claydon says her role includes
“preaching in churches,” along with speaking in conferences, leading seminars,
and meeting one-on-one with women in countries where Christian faith is
While Birdsall said he did not know whether the egalitarian-only drift of
Issue 24 was intentional, it appears that the group’s makeup reflected Claydon’s
view on the gender question. The driving issue at LCWE is how to best proclaim
the Gospel to the nations and not gender roles, he said. Birdsall wants to see
LCWE to reflect all of evangelicalism to the degree that is possible.
“It would not be accurate to say a complementarian has been chosen (as
International Chairman of LCWE),” Birdsall said. “The person who was chosen
happens to be a complementarian. It would not be an accurate representation of
the thinking (of Lausanne as a whole). That was never part of the discussion. It
just so happens that is my position.
“I would say in my own situation, I am not defined by being an egalitarian or
a complementarian, though I do believe in (male) headship…I think it is a very
thin line, actually. I look at what some complementarians say and I think it can
be harsh. I think it can be accurate theologically, but unloving and kind of a
“I can look at other egalitarians who I wouldn’t agree with quite the way
they write out their statement but I like the way they practice serving one
another. I see some egalitarians where I think they’ve got it backwards in terms
of theology and practice and I see some complementarians who are exemplary….My
pattern is how does Christ want me as a man to lead my family?” he said. “How
does He want me to love and raise my children? We have always worked off the
principle of servant leadership in tenderness.”
Roger Parrott, Belhaven College president and USA president for LCWE, said
the exclusion of the complementarian viewpoint from the global forum was an
oversight that should have been corrected.
“To have you (complementarian representatives) was certainly an oversight,”
Parrott said. “I didn’t know about it and frankly, I am disappointed with that.
We want to give groups the flexibility to speak to the whole church. So, to
exclude a group is not what we wanted…If we had known about it, we would have
Lausanne will not hold another event until 2006 when it will sponsor a
younger leaders conference. A third major conference on world evangelism is in
the works for 2010.
In the vein of President Bush’s education slogan, LCWE’s goal for future
events might well be “no view left behind;” Birdsall says he wants to make
certain that future meetings reflect the theological breadth of evangelicalism.
The new leader of LCWE extended a personal invitation to CBMW for future
“That is a very firm commitment I have,” Birdsall said. “I have said to the
leadership team that I want for the participation to represent the demographic
and theological breadth of the evangelical movement.
“(To CBMW) I say to you, ‘welcome.’ My arms are extended to you as brother(s)
in Christ and as a [group that] shares a commitment to the Great Commission and
world evangelization…I can tell you that you are not excluded from the
leadership of the movement (LCWE) as a whole.”
“CBMW is grateful for Birdsall’s leadership but does not expect him or the
committee to have a complementarian agenda,” Stinson said.
“We also do not bemoan the involvement of representatives from CBE. We are
glad to have a place at the table to further evangelism around the world. Those
who would intentionally exclude us have put their personal agenda ahead of the
broader intention of the LCWE and I am thankful that this seems to have been
brought to an end.”
For more information on Lausanne, please see:
Lausanne Covenant: http://www.gospelcom.net/lcwe/statements/covenant.html
Lausanne history: http://www.gospelcom.net/lcwe/history.htm
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