More than 60 people who are committed to following Jesus and hold a high view of children and Scripture, including theologians, practitioners, and church leaders, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, gathered in Quito, Ecuador to explore the implications of the Cape Town Commitment Call to Action on behalf of children at risk.
Here is a draft summary summary of the consultation. The full paper will be available later in 2015
In preparing for the Consultation on Children at Risk, the planning committee drew on three key themes or starting points and established four objectives for the Consultation.
1. Children at Risk and The Lausanne Movement’s vision to call the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.
What would it mean for children at risk to be meaningfully incorporated at every level of this vision? It requires that children be included as recipients of ministry (mission to children), that we advocate on their behalf in venues where they have little to no voice of influence (mission for children) and that we integrate them as meaningful participants from the local to global levels (mission with children). The Church must see children as strategic, indispensable and fully integrated into the missio Dei (mission of God).
2. The Cape Town Commitment (CTC) declares “our love for the Whole Gospel, as God’s glorious good news in Christ for every dimension of his creation, for it has all been ravaged by sin and evil.”
The CTC is shaped in the language of love, portraying a God of love who calls his followers to be the people of his love. It is a language that children not only understand but also which challenges us to learn from them. In order to thrive, children must feel secure in the knowledge that they are perfectly loved, find self-worth in knowing that they are valued, and have significance in knowing that there is purpose and meaning in living. Yet millions of children around the world are suffering and waiting to experience genuine love and care. We, as the Body of Christ, have never been in a better place to fulfil the great commandment to love, nurture and value children.
The Cape Town Commitment (CTC) includes children as part of the poor, enslaved, and oppressed, and they do make up a substantial proportion of that population. Children also have a section dedicated to them (CTC II:D:5 ) in which we are enjoined to:
“A) Take children seriously, through fresh biblical and theological enquiry that reflects on God’s love and purpose for them and through them, and by rediscovering the profound significance for theology and mission of Jesus’ provocative action in placing ‘a child in the midst’.
B) Seek to train people and provide resources to meet the needs of children worldwide, wherever possible working with their families and communities, in the conviction that holistic ministry to and through each next generation of children and young people is a vital component of world mission.
C) Expose, resist, and take action against all abuse of children, including violence, exploitation, slavery, trafficking, prostitution, gender and ethnic discrimination, commercial targeting, and wilful neglect.”
For those of us who have prayed for this to come to pass, the commitment calls for a pause for celebration and profound thanks to God and to all who worked to make this happen!
3. Children at Risk Released for Mission: A Biblical Model for Church Action.
In our biblical and theological reflection, we intentionally took a high view of children at risk and a high view of Scripture. The biblical reflections were based upon the story of young Samuel (I Sam 1-3), expanding upon the following principles:
• Children are to be holistically nurtured throughout childhood;
• Children are to be active participants in worship and service to God;
• Children can be called by God and hear his voice;
• God uses whom he will, including those on the margins of life; and
• The supreme story of history and life is God’s and we are to envision and empower children as participants in that greater Story.
In order to understand children at risk as complex human beings, we need first to define the term. This is the definition we used as a starting point:
Children at risk are persons under 18, including the unborn, who experience an intense and/or chronic risk factor, or a combination of risk factors in personal, environmental and/or relational domains that prevent them from pursuing and fulfilling their God-given potential.
Also included in the document was call to action.
A Call to Action
We humbly commit ourselves to be part of the Whole Church that takes the Whole Gospel to the Whole World through ministry:
- To children at risk
- For children at risk, and
- With children at risk
The disciples were challenged by Jesus to enter the Kingdom as a little child: we must be prepared to do likewise. This does not involve a minor adjustment of our attitudes and behaviours, but a fundamental rethink of our motivations, methods and ministries, to bring them in line with the values of the Kingdom of God as modelled by Jesus. This is an ongoing conversion, and it always involves humility.
- We will seek God’s heart through individual and communal prayer and study of the Scriptures, seeking to honour the triune God in our lives, witness and ministries, and seeking to honour the dignity of the child, particularly the child at risk, praying and working to end the exploitation and destruction of children and childhood.
- We will engage in prayerful theological reflection and learn from children by rediscovering the place of play and surprise in our theology.
- We will actively seek and encourage children at risk to take their place as vulnerable agents in the missio Dei, promoting their participation in church and civic life in ways that are age appropriate, listening to them and – as far as lies within our power – we will ensure their voice is heard in our wider communities. We will welcome them as co-workers within the Kingdom of God. We will invite children to be more directly involved in our processes.
- We will continue to explore and develop the theological foundations for ministries to children at risk, relying upon our sisters and brothers in seminaries and theological institutions to lead the way. We will encourage these leaders and scholars to consider how the seminaries can be a prophetic voice to the churches with respect to children at risk, and how they can help set the agenda and priorities for churches in their denominations/ We will encourage them to work with practitioners and children, and to develop and use networks to convince more seminaries and institutions of the importance of children in the missio Dei.
- We will foster a continuing learning exchange within the Church community of practical ministry models that have proved effective; we will promote networking and collaboration among local churches and communities to implement these models.
- We will emphasise the central role of the church as one of God’s chosen instruments for the holistic development and restoration for children and adolescents and we will seek to strengthen educational programmes to include the values of justice, peace and love in the kingdom of God.
- We will emphasise the central role of the family as one of God’s chosen instruments for the holistic development and nurture and children and adults alike. We will seek to support all families, but especially those where children are particularly at risk. When families are in jeopardy we will take what measures we can to promote healing, forgiveness and restoration.
- We will denounce injustices against children’s dignity and integrity in word and action and we will be part of the transformation of the systems that promote such injustices. In particular we will oppose all personal and systemic forms of violence against children. This will involve us engaging with systems and structures through advocacy, campaigns, education, politics etc. and seeking to build alliances with like-minded individuals and groups, as well as government and policy makers, for the benefit of children at risk.
- We will look for and identify risk factors for abuse, including spiritual abuse and the commodification of children, at different levels (individual, relational, community, and social). We will strengthen positive, biblical models of spirituality among the children in our midst. We should be guided by the Ephesian call to parents to not exasperate their children (Eph. 6:4), and cultivate a theology of participation that rises above the levels of manipulation, decoration, or tokenism.
- We will promote best practice in child protection, striving for the highest standards in all we do and promoting such standards through our lives, ministries and circles of influence.
- We will speak out in favour of the unborn child. Millions of children become at risk long before they see the first day of their lives through poverty, disease, evil and the lack of educational, health and medical interventions.
- We will not overlook the vulnerability of the boy child whilst still maintaining and developing an awareness of the vulnerability of the girl child. There are hundreds of NGOs dedicated to rescuing and helping girls and young women who have been sexually exploited and trafficked yet there are only a handful who focus on boys and young men. Girls can portrayed as vulnerabile and lacking in resilience, and boys portrayed as all resilience and no vulnerability, yet the reality is that both genders are vulnerable and both have sometimes surprisingly strong powers of resilience.
- We will consider the structures within the Lausanne Movement, including other issue groups across the Lausanne community that will be most effective at facilitating the mobilization and equipping of local churches around the world for mission with all children and youth.
- We will seek to promote similar action points in the constituencies of which we are a part.
We are aware that these Action points are general in nature but they can be developed into much more specific, detailed and measureable Action Plans. We will develop such Plans and we call upon other individuals, organisations, networks and Churches to do the same.
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