FaithWorld

Christians issue code of conduct for spreading faith without fanning tensions

June 28, 2011

(Evangelical pastor Marcos Pereira da Silva embraces a prisoner as his missionaries stand by at the 52nd Police Station jail in Nova Iguacu, near Rio de Janeiro, which they visited on October 29, 2009 to evangelize prisoners/Ricardo Moraes )

A coalition representing most Christian churches around the world launched a rule book on Tuesday for spreading their faith that aims to reduce tensions among themselves and with followers of other faiths. The pioneering code of conduct, under negotiation for five years, was unveiled by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which together claim to represent over 90 percent of Christianity.

It reaffirms their right to seek converts but also urges them to abandon “inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means”, saying that such behaviour “betrays the Gospel and may cause suffering to others”. Click here for the PDF text of the guidelines.

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.

“In spite of our divisions, we Christians have the duty to proclaim our faith without any compromise,” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s department for interfaith dialogue. “Christian witness is facing new challenges which are putting accepted practices in question and are weakening our well-established ways of doing things. In a word, the situation is requiring Christian communities to consider, in a new way, how best to proclaim the Christian faith.”

“As our shared history has taught us, a lack of prudence and respect for others, leading to inappropriate means of proclamation of Good News, unavaoidably brings religious tensions, even violence, and the loss of human life,” he added.

WEA Secretary General Geoff Tunnicliffe said the code, entitled “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World,” would be “a great resource” for Christians lobbying against anti-conversion laws passed in countries such as India. “Missionary zeal, as a sign of obedience to the gospel of Jesus, has always been a cornerstone of belief for evangelicals and so it is a special privilege to have the opportunity to work with these colleagues on such a document,” he said. “It is our hope that with this text we will learn together to practice our obedience better – to witness more and to be more faithful to Christ in our witnessing.”

In recent years, there have been increasing attacks on local Christian churches seen as the focus for conversion activity — in Pakistan, Egypt, India, Indonesia and other countries — in which many Christian believers have died.

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