FaithWorld

Christians issue code of conduct for spreading faith without fanning tensions

(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.”

U.S. Catholic bishops approve slight shifts in clerical sexual abuse policy

(Clergy abuse victims advocates protest near the courthouse before a hearing on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 14, 2011/Tim Shaffer)

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday approved slight revisions to their policy governing child sex abuse, saying the church would not tolerate offending priests. But critics said children were still vulnerable. After minimal debate, the bishops passed revisions to its decade-old Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which for the first time listed child pornography as equivalent to sexual abuse and cited the need to protect mentally disabled people from abuse.

The bishops voted 187 in favor of the revised charter, with five opposed and four bishops abstaining. A two-thirds vote was needed for approval.

Top Vatican expert on sexual abuse explains new Catholic guidelines

(Members of Survivors Voice Inc. protest at the Vatican in Rome October 31, 2010. The placard in Italian reads Chiesa senza Abusi ("Church without Abuses")/Max Rossi)

Mons. Charles Scicluna, the Justice Promoter in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and its top expert on clerical sexual abuse issues, gave the following interview to Reuters Television on Monday to explain the Roman Catholic Church’s new guidelines for dealing with priests accused of molesting children. The Vatican told bishops around the world earlier on Monday that they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse and cooperate with civil authorities to end the scandals that have  tarnished the Roman Catholic Church’s image around the world.

Scicluna, who hails from Malta, has been a key contributor to Vatican documents on sexual abuse.