New Rules for Missionaries

A very large percentage of the world’s Christian are getting fresh instructions on how not to proselytize. According to the World Council of Churches:

“Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct”, a five-page document on the conduct of mission “according to gospel principles”, was released during a public presentation on Tuesday 28 June at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

The recommendations regarding respectful behaviour on the part of missionaries, evangelists and other witnesses when sharing the Christian faith were issued following a five-year series of consultations among the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID) of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

The three bodies include Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and independent churches with a combined membership of some two billion people representing nearly 90 percent of the world’s Christians.

The document itself is available here as a pdf. Christian Century hits some of the high points, and Robert Evans at Reuters gives us a low down:

Christian missionaries have long been accused of offering money, food, or other goods to win converts in poor countries, either from other faiths or from rival churches. Tensions have also risen in recent decades as evangelical Protestants have stepped up efforts to convert Muslims, which is a capital offence in some Islamic countries. This also prompts retaliation against local Christians who do not seek converts.

Of course, none of this is binding. Jason Pitzl-Waters at the Wild Hunt points out that all of these are just recommendations. Even if they were published as law, I don’t think that the organizations involved have any real teeth, or really much clout in the average local church. Still, the document is progress of a sort, since it is a backhanded acknowledgement that such things have been going on.

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