Lausanne: Joys and Challenges

There are two days remaining in this one week global congress on world evangelization. It has been a very full and challenging experience. I wanted to come and be part of the Canadian delegation to this third Lausanne congress for several reasons. For some time I have been sensing that in light of the reality of globalization God was wanting to prepare me to participate in a more global level in the conversation around the intersection of faith and sexuality. I would be the first to admit, however, that despite Canada being very multi-cultural and affording me the opportunity to engage with people from very diverse ethnic backgrounds, I have little to no cross-cultural experience. Coming to South Africa to spend two weeks in not only the African context but also connecting with 5,000 delegates and guests from countries all over the world would give me a crash course in listening to and learning to relate. In this cross-cultural setting, the normal complexity surrounding the conversations on faith and sexuality become staggeringly complicated. On one end of the spectrum, you have nations where the context is very gay-positive and often simultaneously quite post-Christian. On the other end of the spectrum, you have nations that are pervasively homophobic and often simultaneously living in the midst of a strong Christendom paradigm. Fostering conversation with the hope of dialogue in such a diverse context is extraordinarily difficult.

However, at this congress, there are a series of presentations and dialogue sessions around sexuality. And that is the second reason I wanted to come to South Africa. All of the sessions are being led by Exodus leaders from different world regions. When I first heard about this I had some concerns that this was the only paradigm being presented. I wanted to be present to observe how the presentations were handled and to listen to how people from very different contexts responded and interacted.

The other reasons I wanted to be at Lausanne were connected to my heart for the church in general and my desire for us to live in the fullness of our calling (see my previous post and my 8th Letter for more on that). It is reported that Augustine said, “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.” For me, there is an enduring love for the Body of Christ – even as I grieve for the ways the church stumbles, struggles and sometimes wounds more than she heals. I truly wanted to hear how the Body of Christ was serving and bringing shalom into some of the most challenging contexts in the world.

In my orientation to be a table group leader (we are seated in tables of 6 for the morning sessions of Biblical study and presentations), the leaders challenged us with the reality that we would come with expectations that either would not be