The First Athens Congress on World Missions
From the sanctuary of the Greek Evangelical Church in downtown Athens, Greece, just across the street from the Arch of Hadrian, the First Athens Congress on World Missions convened on August 20th, 21st, and 22nd. With over 100 delegates from 17 different countries present, Dr. Ralph Winter and other innovative missions leaders led the representatives toward specific plans regarding crucial new mission developments between now and 1984.
The Congress was highlighted by a sunrise message from Don Richardson, author of Peace Child, on Mars Hill. Standing where the apostle Paul stood centuries before as he spoke to the Athenians concerning their "unknown God", Don spoke to the Congress delegates on how redemptive analogies could be used in similar ways in many cultures.
Out of this gathering emerged two catalytic efforts. One, The Athens Proclamation, observes that "the threshold of a new era in World Evangelization" has been reached and declares the intention of all of the delegates to commit themselves to five imperatives to complete the task of reaching out across the remaining cultural frontiers.
The other, The Athens Fellowship, is the community of delegates formed by those who signed the proclamation. This fellowship invites others to join who share the same purpose.
In order to realize the fivefold commitment of the proclamation, the representatives tentatively plan to meet again in Pasadena, California in 1980, and again in Athens in 1981. In analyzing the Proclamation, we might conclude that these meetings will serve three objectives:
- they will help create awareness among Christians around the world of the plight of the Hidden Peoples;
- they will facilitate new thoughts and ideas on new strategies to reach the Hidden Peoples; and
- they will facilitate international cooperation and aid the mobilization of necessary resources. For the Athens Congress, the goal of "a church for every people by the year 2000" is becoming a reality.