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July 2014: Signing the Covenant

Caption to this photo handed out by the Congress News Center: "Dr. Billy Graham, right, and Anglican Bishop Jack Dain are the first to sign the Lausanne Covenant at the closing exercises of the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. Graham and Dain are honorary and executive chairmen of the congress, respectively. Participants were then given the opportunity to add their names. The covenant affirms basic beliefs of evangelical Christians and calls upon Christians the world over to plan and work together to complete the task of world evangelization this century."
     

July 2014 marks the anniversary of a major event in 20th century Evangelical Christianity. Forty years ago this month the International Congress on World Evangelization was held in Lausanne, Switzerland,
July 16-25. The Congress was the result of the planning and dreams of many Christians around the world, but the major impetus (and most of the funding) had come from Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Rev. Graham served as Honorary Chairman.

The purpose of the Congress was to reaffirm the Biblical meaning of Christian evangelism and the specific meaning of proclaiming the Gospel in the modern world. It was the starting point for many regional meetings, movements and ministries, including the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

Perhaps the most important result of the Congress was the creation of the Lausanne Covenant. This was a statement of the Christian Gospel and its proclamation in the contemporary world. Many integral topics were covered, including the social responsibility of the Christian, the place of the church, the relationship of evangelism to culture.

The Covenant ended with this statement, "Therefore, in the light of this our faith and our resolve, we enter into a solemn covenant with God and with each other, to pray, to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the whole world. We call upon others to join us. May God help us by his grace and for his glory to be faithful to this our covenant! Amen, Alleluia!"

Rather than a creed or treaty to be signed in mass by representatives of churches and institutions, the Covenant was intended to be signed by individuals to indicate their agreement with and commitment to the vision of evangelism it proclaimed. Some 2,300 attendees of the Congress signed it, including Billy Graham. It has since been accepted by many Evangelicals around the world as the best contemporary definition of the Great Commission. It is not unusual for Christian groups in various parts of the world to use it as their statement of faith.

At the bottom of this page is a detail from Billy Graham's signed copy of the Covenant. This is apparently not the one he signed in the photo above, but one signed the next day. As Graham wrote in his memoirs, "Throughout my ministry, I have resisted, as a matter of principle, signing manifestos or documents or petitions of any sort; they can be the cause of unforeseen problems and misunderstandings. My only exception, as I recall, was the Lausanne Covenant."

Above: The signature line from Billy Graham's personal signed copy of the Covenant. Notice that this copy was signed a day after the official signing pictured above. Perhaps because of the importance of the occasion, he signed as "William Graham".

To see the complete document, click here.

(From Collection 15, Folder OS14)
 
 
Card signed by attendees pf the conference who wished to show their agreement with the Covenant. It is probably these cards that Rev. Graham and Bishop Dain are signing in the photo above.
 
Links to other formats in which the first copies of the Covenant were printed

To read the complete text of the Lausanne Covenant at the LCWE web site, click here.

John Stott was the chair of the committee which both drew up the draft of the Covenant and put it in its final form after receiving comments from the attendees of the Congress. He was probably the most influential contributor to the document. To listen to his explanation of the Covenant to the Congress (including his humorous introduction), click here.

For additional documents and recordings from the Congress, click here and here.

Click here to go to the Lausanne Committee's site for the 40th anniversary. Many of the photos, documents and videos on the site came from the BGC Archives.

To learn more about the Archives' collection of documents from the Congress, itself, see the guide to Collection 53.

To learn more about the Archives' collection of documents from the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE), which carries on the work of the Congress, see the guide to Collection 46.
 

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Last Revised: 7/01/14
Expiration: indefinite

© Wheaton College 2014