The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held its opening celebration on Sunday, gathering some 4,000 delegates from nearly 200 nations to plot the course of global mission for the next decade.
The first gathering of its kind in over 20 years, the eight-day conference is themed "God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19) and is focused on bearing witness to Christ and all in every region of the world and every sphere of society.
"The theme is beautiful and the theme is powerful," said Anglican Archbishop Henry Orombi, chair of the Africa Host Committee, during the opening ceremony. "'Only God in Christ who can reconcile the world to Himself' - nothing else and no one else can do it. Only God who is able to build a bridge for us to walk on, vertically from Him to us, horizontally from you to me, that's the sign of the cross."
"May the mighty spirit of God enrich your life and empower you and give you a new vision for the 21st century," Orombi said.
Dr. Billy Graham, who pioneered the first Lausanne Congresses in 1974, also gave his personal greetings, urging them in a letter to consider both the changes that have occurred in the last 30 years and the unchanging truths of the Gospel and Christ's mandate for global discipleship.
"I pray that during your time in Cape Town the Holy Spirit will not only continue what has been done in previous congresses but that He will increase your burden for a lost and dying world that calls you to rededicate yourself to the priority and urgency of evangelism," Graham's letters said.
While the gathering is primarily evangelical, a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) is also present at Cape Town 2010. The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, addressed participants, saying that Christians are "called to be reconciled so that the world will know that God reconciles the world to himself in Christ."
"The needs of the world for reconciliation with God, with one another as human beings and with nature, these needs are too big for a divided church," he said.
Cape Town 2010 is the third gathering of the Lausanne Movement and is the largest meeting of its kind for world-wide Christian evangelism. Notably, this year's gathering is being held during the centenary year of the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh – a meeting that Cape Town organizers cite as an inspiration.