Eleanor and Wayne Chiu Associate Professor (Theological Studies)
Director of Center for Faith and Public Values
The 1974 L ausanne Covenant i s a declaration of faith that was agreed upon during the first International Congress of World Evangelism in Lausanne, and is also the most influential statement of faith in modern evangelicalism. The conference brought together 2,700 evangelical church leaders from more than 150 countries that solemnly confessed their faith before God, and committed themselves to obeying the commission of Christ and to the task of world evangelization. 43 years later, one of its sections on “Christian Social Responsibility” is still powerful and resonating today:
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all people. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression... Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ... The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.1
The Covenant reminds us that there is an unconflatable yet inseparable relationship between evangelism and social care. Both of these are necessary expressions of Christian love toward neighbors and submission to Christ, an undeniable responsibility for believers on earth. This is where CGST came in and established the “Center for Faith and Public Values” in 2012, in order that we can join force with fellow brothers and sisters to reflect upon and explore how Christians fulfill their social responsibility with love in this tumultuous and ever-changing generation.
As we look around our global and local situations, there is no doubt our world is being upended and in the midst of tremendous changes. The post-World War II international political order and value has already come to its demise, when it is severely tested by the concept of “Our Country First”, the slogan of which is being sung loud and clear all over the world. In the meantime, our own society has undergone the largest scale of civil rights movement since the handover to China. Hong Kong’s democracy dreams were shattered, while the relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China has reached a state of deadlock. Not only did we lose our grip on the societal vision that we had been fighting for in the last thirty years, our hearts agonized over the gradual collapse of our local culture and core values. At this critical moment where we re-establish our public values, the civil society absolutely needs to engage in more sincere dialogues and collaborations. Unfortunately, the civil society has been increasingly divided and torn apart by various controversial issues, making rational discussions even more difficult.
While we are being pushed by the challenges of this era to step out of our past comfort zones, it could actually be seen as a precious opportunity, where we can once again humble ourselves before God, and seriously examine and refresh our testimony as a church among our neighbors. History tells us that Christian faith can demonstrate its vitality and resilience even amid the most turbulent and chaotic times. In fact, during the immediate post-war years when Hong Kong experienced some of its most difficult times, Christian churches have made tremendous contributions to the city’s culture, education, medical health and social welfare system. We deeply believe that on one hand, Christian faith and traditions that encompass rich and abundant spiritual resources can lead us to explore, establish and maintain good public values with the civil society; and on the other hand, the message of love and hope can eliminate fear, suspicion and hatred, and help build a bridge of true communications.
Looking forward, by offering activities in a wide variety of formats, including theology forums, theological education by extension courses, academic panel discussions, public lectures and even the internet platform, the “Center for Faith & Public Values” hopes to discuss with brothers and sisters how to respond to the needs and challenges of our times with the Gospel faith, and express our social care and responsibility. There is an immense need for dialogue, mutual learning and collaboration with groups of different talents and burdens, especially in this highly diversified civil society. We earnestly pray for the grace and guidance of God, that we will take the commandment of loving our neighbor seriously, and will work together to establish public values and a life full of honesty, benevolence, righteousness and mercy.
1. John Stott, ed., Making Christ Known: Historic Mission Documents from the Lausanne Movement 1974-1989 (Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1996), pp. 5-55, especially p.25. https://www.lausanne.org/content/ covenant/lausanne-covenant