World Consultation on Frontier Missions
Two hundred seventy delegates from mission agencies around the world gathered at Edinburgh, Scotland, October 27 November 1, in what was history's second world level conference to be composed of official delegates from mission boards, mission agencies, and mission societies.
Called the "World Consultation on Frontier Missions", this meeting of mission professionals followedbeautifully on the heels of the Consultation on World Evangelism in Pattaya, Thailand last June. In Thailand, 800 evangelical leaders from all over the world gathered under the question "How Shall They Hear?"
Thailand brought together outstanding evangelical leadership, the opinion makers, including a wide spectrum of pastors, denominational officials, evangelists, and evangelism specialists, as well as a number of mission leaders. All of the non Christians of the world, including nominal Christians, were the concern of the conference.
At Edinburgh, the focus was narrower: concentrating exclusively on frontier missions those populations where there is not yet any church at all. The meeting was composed of delegates sent by mission agencies.
The 270 people who participated represented at least 194 different mission structures from more than 35 countries. One hundred and two people present came from Third World countries, some of them being Western mission executives coming back from the field; but 88 of the delegates were Asian, African, and Latin American citizens representing 33 percent of the registrants at the consultation and representing 57 different Third World mission societies.
The largest delegation in proportion to the size of the country represented was the group of 40 from the United Kingdam, although Korea ran a close second. By contrast, the U.S.A. with a population four times as large, had only 84 participants. From Asia came 69, Europe outside of the U.K. 35, Africa 24, Latin America 9, and Canada 3.
The earlier meeting in 1910 was larger in the number of people present, but was nowhere nearly as representative since not a single non Western agency was represented (the only three known to exist at that time were left out by accident).
At Edinburgh 1980, three out of the four major plenary addresses in the morning sessions consisted of technical papers which were assigned to Third World mission leaders. The largest Third World agencies present having about 100 or more missionaries were the Evangelical Missionary Society of Nigeria, the Friends Missionary Prayer Band of India, the Indonesian Missionary Fellowship, and an Evangelical missionary group (A.M.E.N.) of Peru.
Ralph Winter challenges mission leaders with frontier vision. Evening meetings were open to the public, and the city's "Assembly Rooms" on George Street were usually filled to the last row of the balcony as the program of the conference dipped to a slightly more popular mood. Afternoon sessions consisted of a large number of task forces devoted to technical aspects of missionary outreach to the world's hidden peoples defined as those people groups where as yet there is no indigenous evangelizing church a category estimated to number 16,750. This focus gives meaning to the conference theme, "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000."Before leaving Edinburgh, the Consultation voted into existence an "International Catalyst Committee" charged with exploring the time and place for another similar meeting, and acting as a clearing house for the developing plans of the world's mission agencies to penetrate the last frontiers.
A highlight of the meeting was the unveiling, for the first time, of an index merging references to the unreached peoples from the files of World Vision's MARC, Gospel Recording's extensive files, and the Wyciffe's "Ethnologue." This index alone runs 2,700 pages, covering 168,000 items, mainly different languages and people names, many of them referring to the same populations. At the conference, delegates could walk away with 12 celluloid cards containing the entire index for just $12.
The project was rushed to completion in time for the meeting by Allan Starling of Gospel Recordings, using the computer facilities of the U.S. Center for World Mission and World Vision, International. The "Peoplesfile" microfiche cards can be obtained from the U . S. Center for World Mission for $12.
For the benefit of later, scholarly reflection, the entire proceedings were both audio taped and video taped.
A novel addition to the excitement of the conference was a sister consultation composed of 180 students from all over the world the International Student Consultation on Frontier Missions which overlapped the plenary sessions of the WCFM, but had a day and a half of additional sessions both before and after the main consultation as well as separate meetings every afternoon.The young people adopted the same consultation goal, "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000"; and demonstrated a zeal, a vision, and a competence which bodes well for world mission leadership and specifically for the goal defined for the year 2000.
Edinburgh weather was mild and dry, providing a beautiful backdrop to what was a highly inspirational, but also determinedly businesslike meeting of mission professionals, dedicated to cooperation with the larger sphere of Christian leaders which had gathered in the middle of the year in Thailand. Probable no year in this century, since 1910, has provided more hope and meaning to the world church for the cause of world evangelization.