During lunch yesterday, I got a call from ABC Columbia to do a brief interview about the present conclave to select the next pope for the Roman Catholic Church. It was an enjoyable conversation about how the popes have been selected by the college of cardinals since 1379 and how this particular election is unique because of the resignation of Benedict XVI. I am amazed how ten of minutes of video footage can be spliced into short sound bites (assuring me that I have no future in journalism or politics).
When asked about what part of the world the next pope would come from, I related that the church would probably follow tradition and elect a leader from Europe. I hope I'm wrong though and it would be great if one of the non-Western front runners--two from Brazil, one from Ghana, and one from the Philippines--would be seriously considered. Why? Because the majority of the world's Christians--Catholic, Protestant, or Independent--are from the Global South or Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The leadership of the church ought to reflect these global realities.
As an evangelical Protestant, my prayer is that the leadership of our evangelical churches, denominations, missions, and seminaries would also reflect this majority world reality. But it means being deliberate. It means that North American and European leaders must be deliberately humble and seek to cultivate global leadership from the majority world and, then, we must trust them and follow their leadership. I was very encouraged to hear this week that Operation Mobilization has named Lawrence Tong of Singapore to be just the third international leader in its history. Of course, many new missions and churches are springing up organically in the non-Western world allowing us in the West to pray for, encourage, and appropriately partner in ministry.
In John 7:53-8:11, the famous account of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus offers great insight into God's mercy and justice. John records the Lord's famous verdict (v. 7-11):
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Preaching from this passage in the fifth century, Augustine (Tractates on the Gospel of John 33.6-7) helpfully comments on this tension between mercy and holiness and how we tend to love the first but are slow to embrace the second:
"Neither will I condemn you." What is this, 0 Lord? Do you therefore favor sins? Not so, evidently. Mark what follows: "Go and sin no more." Therefore the Lord did also condemn, but condemned sins, not the sinner. For if he was a patron of sin, he would say, Neither will I condemn you; go, live as you will; be secure in my deliverance, however much you will to sin. I will deliver you from all punishment even of hell, and from the tormentors of the infernal world. He did not say this. Let them pay attention, then, who love his gentleness in the Lord, and let them fear his truth.... The Lord is gentle, the Lord is long suffering, the Lord is full of pity; but the Lord is also just, the Lord is also true. He bestows on you an interval for correction, but you love the delay of judgment more than the amendment of your ways (cited in Oden and Elowsky, On the Way to the Cross: 40 Days with the Church Fathers. Kindle Location 640-643).
Where do we need mercy and forgiveness today? In what area of our lives must we, by the Spirit's enabling power, go and sin no more?
I'm excited that the Southeast Regional Evangelical Missiological Society meeting will begin tomorrow on our campus at CIU. Our theme is the "Family and Mission" and we are excited to have Dr. Jerry Rankin, former president of the International Mission Board, as our plenary speaker as well as 14 other papers and presentations. There is still time to register on-line HERE or by registering on site Friday. The updated schedule is below:
Friday, March 8
11:30a-1:15p, Packet pickup/late registration (Hoke Lobby)
1:30p, Welcome (Hoke Auditorium)
1:50-2:35p, Plenary Session (Hoke Auditorium)
Dr. Jerry Rankin (IMB/Zwemer Center), “The Family—An Asset to Fulfilling God's Mission”
2:45-3:25p, Session 1
David Cashin (Columbia International University), “Family issues in Preventable Missionary Attrition: An Overview.” (Fisher 206)
3:25-3:40p, Coffee Break (Fisher 1st floor)
3:45-4:25p, Session 2
Harvey Payne and Leah Herod (Columbia International University), “Understanding Fourth Culture Kids: What happens when you add the world of special needs to Third Culture Kids?” (Fisher 206)
4:30-5:10p, Session 3
Trevor and Katie Castor (Columbia International University), “Mission or family health? Our Journey in Mission” (Fisher 206)
John Wood (Biola University/IMB), “The Church in China: Ready to Finish the Task of Missions within Their Own Country and Beyond” (Fisher 203)
5:15-5:55p, Session 4
Gwen Broucek (South America Mission), “Intercultural Missionary Marriages” (Fisher 206)
Rachel Wood (Biola University/IMB), “Together With God: Strategic Training for Missionary Women” (Fisher 203)
6:00-7:00p, Dinner (note: CIU cafeteria ends serving at 6:30p)
Saturday, March 9
8:30-9:10a, Session 5
Kayla Wilson (Liberty University), “A Holistic Approach to Cross-Cultural Education” (Fisher 206)
Chris Little (Columbia International University), “Business as Mission (BAM) Under Scrutiny” (Fisher 203)
9:15-9:55a, Session 6
Jere Phillips (Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary), “Managing Stress Effectively on the Mission Field” (Fisher 206)
Ed Smither (Columbia International University), “Bible translation in the early church: the Syriac, Latin, and Armenian Scriptures explored through missiological lenses” (Fisher 203)
9:55a-10:10a, Coffee Break (Fisher 1st floor)
10:15-10:55a, Session 7
Becky Magnuson (Columbia International University), “Member Care for Finishers: Life and Career Concerns” (Fisher 206)
Andrew McFarland (Asbury Theological Seminary), “The Family Life of William Carey” (Fisher 203)
11:00-11:40a, Session 8
Bill Rogers (CRU/Columbia International University) “Sexual Addiction in Missionary Personnel: Is There Hope?” (Fisher 206)
11:40a-12:00p, Closing Comments (Fisher 103)
The weekend, March 8-9 at CIU, we are privileged to host the Southeast Regional meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society. I will be giving a paper entitled "Bible translation in the early church: the Syriac, Latin, and Armenian Scriptures explored through missiological lenses," which is part of a chapter of a book I'm working on on early Christian mission. I've posted the abstract below:
With nearly 2000 of the world’s 6900 language groups still without Scripture, organizations like Wycliffe labor to bring the Word of God to every cultural group in the world. Though Wycliffe has been instrumental in accelerating the pace of Bible translation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the value of translating Scripture was also evident in early Christian mission. In fact, because the Gospels and New Testament were composed and circulated in common (koine) Greek, as opposed to Aramaic or even classical Greek, it can be argued that the New Testament Scriptures are translations in a sense and they testify to the missional nature of the faith. Referring specifically to the four Gospels, Irvin and Sundquist have helpfully summarized, “Crucial for the transmission of this memory [of Jesus] was the composition of books we call Gospels.”
Lamin Sanneh, a leading scholar of global Christian history, has referred to this core value of the Christian faith—making Scripture available in the heart languages of the world’s cultures—as the vernacular principle. Identifying Christianity as a “vernacular translation movement,” Sanneh asserts that the “vintage mark” of the faith was that it has been a movement of “mission by translation.” Sanneh continues, “Mission as translation affirms the missio Dei [mission of God] as the hidden force for its work. It is the missio Dei that allowed translation to enlarge the boundaries of the proclamation.” With the Gospel moving across social and cultural boundaries, Sanneh further adds that translating into local languages served to clarify the gospel message within a given people group. He writes, “Scriptural translation rested on the assumption that the vernacular has a primary affinity with the gospel, the point being conceded by the adoption of indigenous terms and concepts for the central categories of the Bible.” In short, Christian mission in the early church and later periods has been facilitated by Bible translation.
In this paper, I will explore evidence for the vernacular principle at work in the early church by narrating briefly the key accounts of Bible translation. While mention has already been made of the significance of the koine Greek New Testament, we will focus on the translation of Scripture into Syriac, Latin, and Armenian with an eye toward their missional significance.
 Sanneh, Translating the Message, 1.
 Irvin and Sundquist, History of the World Christian Movement, 50.
 Sanneh, Translating the Message, 7, 29.
 Sanneh, Translating the Message, 31, 82.
 Sanneh, Translating the Message, 166.
(Pictured above: a facsimile of the Book of Kells (c. 800) on the Isle of Iona, Scotland taken during my trip there last Spring. This was an illustrated edition of the Latin Gospels completed by the Columban monks at Iona.)