Edinburgh ’80: The Roots of a Movement
Over lunch at GCOWE '95, Patrick Johnstone recalls how the AD2000 vision was birthed: ,"In 1980, the World Consultation on Frontier Missions (better known as Edinburgh '80) convened the most international gathering of mission leaders to date (1/3 from outside of the U.S. and Europe) to consider the peculiar challenge of finishing the missionary task of penetrating unreached peoples.
"I was moderating the session at Edinburgh when a Swedish missionary named Erik Stadell asked for the microphone and began declaring the conference theme,'A Church for Every People by the Year 2000.' He repeated it over and over, as a rallying cry, and many of us began feeling very uncomfortable." The vision was then so unknown, so audacious, that these assembled leaders were unprepared to respond.
"When Eric finally yielded the microphone, I broke the tension with the words, 'That wasn't on the program.' Everyone laughed, and afterward I remember Sam Wilson telling me how grateful he was for the way I had handled things"
Despite the unplanned event, Johnstone recalls of the moment, "Delegates concluded the consultation with the conviction that this vision was from God. One article flowing from the 1980 meeting stated that it had achieved its goals 'sufficiently to create and fan a flame of fellowship around, and focus more purposefully and meaningfully on the official watchword given, we believe, by the Lord: "A church for every people by the year 2000."' Johnstone himself concludes his recollection, "The AD2000 vision was birthed at Edinburgh '80."
In his forward to the officially distributed history of the AD2000 Movement, Thy Kingdom Come by Ralph Winter, Dr. Thomas Wang states, "I was a plenary speaker at Edinburgh, 1980 when the possibility of 'A Church for Every People by the Year 2000' was first proposed and embraced by a major gathering of leaders from around the world. That conference altered the course of my life, and the lives of many others." At GCOWE '95, Wang noted that "Edinburgh '80 is where the vision got started. Those 200 leaders gathered in Edinburgh started the movement, which we have simply built upon."
Many of the leaders significant today in the international AD2000 and Beyond Movement participated in the 1980 consultation. Panya Baba, like Thomas Wang, was one of the five initiators of GCOWE I and is now on the AD2000 Movement board of directors. He, too, was a major contributor at Edinburgh '80, as were George Verwer and Patrick Johnstone. Also speaking at GCOWE '95 was Edinburgh '80 delegate David Bryant. The mission executives at Edinburgh returned to their home countries to spread the vision of "A Church for Every Person by the Year 2000."
Although he wasn't present at Edinburgh '80, Luis Bush noted at a GCOWE '95 press conference, "The Edinburgh '80 consultation was a very significant milestone in the development of the vision of 'A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by AD2000.' Those 200 participants represented the seed, in a sense, of what has become more of a fruitful tree that has developed over the years since that time. There are in fact a number of major contributing tributaries into this river which is called AD2000 today. Consultations are one of those major tributaries, and within those consultations the 1980 consultation played a very important role.