CATHOLICS, EVANGELICALS, AND
EVANGELIZATION IN LIGHT OF KOINONIA
(47) We now turn to issues of evangelization, proselytism,
and religious freedom to explore them in the context of a theology
of koinonia. In doing this we have learned from some of
the insights of other dialogues on these issues and have built
(48) Evangelicals and Catholics agree that every
Christian has the right and obligation to share and spread the
faith. "It is contrary to the message of Christ, to the ways of
God's grace and to the personal character of faith that any means
be used which would reduce or impede the freedom of a person to
make a basic Christian commitment" (B 34). Since evangelization
is a focus of this section, we can now indicate briefly how Catholics
and Evangelicals understand this responsibility.
A. Our Respective Views on Evangelization/Evangelism
A Catholic View
(49) Catholics view Evangelization in the context
of the one Mission of the Church. In this regard, "evangelization
is a complex process involving many elements as, for example,
a renewal of human nature, witness, public proclamation, wholehearted
acceptance of, and entrance into, the community of the church,
the adoption of the outward signs and of apostolic works" (EN
(50) "Evangelization will always contain, as the
foundation, the center and the apex of its whole dynamic power,
this explicit declaration: In Jesus Christ …salvation is offered
to every human person as the gift of the grace and mercy of God
Himself" (EN 27; cf. RM 44). It involves proclamation
of this good news, aiming at Christian conversion of men and women
(cf. RM 44-46). But it involves also efforts "to convert
both the individual consciences of men and their collective consciences,
all the attitudes in which they are engaged and, finally, their
lives and the whole environment which surrounds them" (EN
18). Thus "evangelization is to be achieved…in depth, going to
the very center and roots of life. The Gospel must impregnate
the culture and the whole way of life of man…" (EN 20).
Through inculturation the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in
different cultures, "transmits to them her own values, at the
same time taking the good elements that already exist in them
and renewing them from within" (RM 52; cf. EN 20).
(51) There is a diversity of activities in the Church's
one mission according to the different circumstances in which
it is carried out. Looking at today's world from the viewpoint
of evangelization, we can distinguish three situations. (a) People,
groups and socio-cultural contexts in which Christ and his Gospel
are not known. In such a context Catholics speak of mission ad
gentes. (b) Christian communities with adequate and solid
Ecclesial structures; they are fervent in their faith and in Christian
living, in which participation in the sacraments is basic (cf.
EN 47). In these communities the church carries out her
activities and pastoral care. ©) The intermediate situation,
for example, in countries with ancient Christian roots, where
entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the
faith. In this case what is needed is a new evangelization or
a "re-evangelization". The boundaries between these three "are
not clearly definable, and it is unthinkable to create barriers
between them or to put them into water-tight compartments" (RM
34). There is a growing interdependence which exists between
these various saving activities in the church.
An Evangelical View
(52) For Evangelicals, the heart and core of mission is
proclamation. However, it is the core, not the totality of the
Church mission within the divine Plan of redemption. The Lausanne
Covenant refers to this comprehensive mission as "evangelization"
(Lausanne, Introduction) and places it within a trinitarian
framework: "We affirm our belief in the one eternal God, Creator
(Is 40:28) and Lord of the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
(Mt 28:19), who governs all things according to the purpose of
his will (Eph 1:1). He has been sending forth a people for himself
(Acts 15:14), and sending his people back into the world (Jn 17:18)
to be his servants and witnesses, for the extension of his kingdom,
the building up of Christ's body, and the glory of his name (Eph
4:12)" (Lausanne 1).
(53) The Lausanne Covenant describes mission
in its most inclusive sense as "Christian presence in the world"
(Lausanne 4), which consists of "sacrificial service" and
entails a "deep and costly penetration of the world", and a permeation
of "non-Christian society" (Lausanne 6). Because followers
of Christ are engaged in the mission of the triune God, who is
"both the Creator and Judge of all", Christians "should share
his concern for justice" (Gen 18:25) and reconciliation throughout
human society and for the liberation of men and women from every
kind of oppression (Ps 45:7; Is 1:17). Because all human beings
are created in the image of God, "every person, regardless of
race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age (Lev 19:18;
Lk 6:27,35), has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she
should be respected and served, not exploited (Jas 3:9; Lausanne
5). When one is born again one is born into Christ's kingdom "and
must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness
(Mt 5:20; Mt 6:33) in the midst of an unrighteous world" (ibid).
(54) Although the mission of the triune God is as
broad as "God's cosmic purpose" (Lausanne 6) and therefore
calls God's people into this all-embracing mission, Evangelicals
are particularly concerned to keep proclamation front and center.
Accordingly, the Lausanne Covenant circumscribes "evangelism
itself" as "the proclamation of the historical, Biblical Christ
as Savior (1 Co 1:23; 2 Co 4:5) and Lord, with a view to persuading
people to come to him personally and to be reconciled to God"
(2 Co 5:11, 20; Lausanne 4). Moreover, Lausanne
forcefully asserts the primacy of evangelism as proclamation:
"In the Church's mission of sacrificial service evangelism is
primary". A subsequent World Evangelical Fellowship statement
again stresses the crucial role of evangelism. Yet, the document
does not treat evangelism "as a separate theme, because we see
it as an integral part of our total Christian response to human
need" (Mt 28:18-21; Consultation on the Church in Response
to Human Need. Wheaton, 1983, Introduction). Clearly, the
"Great Commission" is here seen as a call to holistic mission,
with at its center calling all people to believe in Jesus Christ.
B. Old Tensions in a New Context of Koinonia
(55) It is our common belief that God has sent the Holy
Spirit into the world to effect the reconciliation of the world
to God. Those to whom the Spirit is sent participate in this mission
of the Spirit. The heart of the mission of the Spirit is koinonia,
a communion of persons in the communion of God, the Father, the
Son, and Holy Spirit.
(56) The real koinonia we already share gives
rise to our mutual concern to view conjointly the issues of religious
freedom and proselytism that have divided us. We believe that
the two issues of religious liberty and proselytism must not be
treated as totally separable areas but must be firmly linked and
considered jointly as related concerns, seen in the context of
the meaning of evangelization and the possibility of common witness.
Evangelical and Catholic Christians can now recognize that they
share a real but imperfect communion with each other, and are
able to take modest steps toward a more complete communion in
Christ through the Holy Spirit. The interrelated components necessary
for increasing koinonia are repentance, conversion, and
commitment, in which we commit ourselves to the convergence that
has already begun in our life together.
(57) The first component is repentance, a
radical turning away from the habits of mind and heart that fall
short of God's purposes and design. Those purposes are that there
be a communion between persons and God, and between communities
whose unity is authored by the Spirit. God intends that the Church
be the main instrument for the koinonia of all peoples
in God. Therefore, the reconciliation of our Christian communities
(58) The second component for increasing koinonia
is conversion in which by faith we turn to God in Christ
and his saving message. Christian conversion itself is threefold:
moral, intellectual, and religious. In moral conversion we are
freed by grace to value what God values and obey what God demands.
In intellectual conversion we learn and embrace the truth. In
religious conversion we come to abide in the love of God.
(59) The third component that the Spirit enables
is a turning to one another in our commitment to proclaim
the Gospel. Catholics and Evangelicals are striving to learn how
to love one another in our efforts at evangelization. There are
signs of convergence on how we are to participate in the mission
of the Spirit in our sharing of the good news. Our two traditions
have insights into the contents of this inexhaustible source.
These insights need to be retained in the work of evangelization
that we undertake respectively, so as to complement and affirm
one another's efforts.
Repentance: From What Are We Turning?
(60) Catholics and Evangelicals are called to pray
for grace as we come to a better understanding of the will of
Christ, which our past relationships have not reflected (P 108).
Our divisions in the past have led to conflicts in evangelization.
But, at Manila, 1989, Evangelicals exhorted one
and unity are closely related in the New Testament. Jesus prayed
that his people's oneness might reflect his own oneness with
the Father, in order that the world might believe in him, and
Paul exhorted the Philippians to 'contend as one person for
the faith of the Gospel'. In contrast to this biblical vision,
we are ashamed of the suspicions and rivalries, the dogmatism
over non-essentials, the power-struggles and empire-building
which spoil our evangelistic witness" (Manila 9).
And Pope John Paul II, on behalf of Catholics, asked
God' forgiveness for sins against unity with the following prayer:
on the night before his Passion
your Son prayed for the unity of those
who believe in him:
in disobedience to his will, however,
believers have opposed one another, becoming divided,
and have mutually condemned one another and
fought against one another.
We urgently implore your forgiveness
and beseech the gift of a repentant heart,
so that all Christians, reconciled with you and with one another,
will be able, in one body and in one spirit,
to experience anew the joy of full communion.
We ask this through Christ our Lord."12
(61) Concerning "proselytism," it should
be pointed out that the understanding of the word has changed
considerably in recent years in some circles. In the Bible the
word proselyte was devoid of negative connotations. The term referred
to someone apart from Israel who, by belief in Yahweh and acceptance
of the law, became a member of the Jewish community. It carried
the positive meaning of being a convert to Judaism (Ex 12:48-49).
Christianity took over this positive and unobjectionable meaning
to describe a person who converted from paganism. Until the twentieth
century, mission work and proselytism were largely synonymous
and without objectionable connotations (B 32, 33). It is only
in the twentieth century that the term has come to be applied
to winning members from each (B 33), as an illicit form of evangelism
(P 90). At least, in some Evangelical circles proselytism is not
a pejorative term; in Catholic and most ecumenical circles it
is. The attempt to "win members from each other" (B 33) by unworthy
means is negative and pejorative proselytism. Members of our communions
have been guilty of proselytism in this negative sense. It should
(62) We affirm therefore "that the
following things should be avoided: offers to temporal or material
advantages...improper use of situations of distress... using political,
social and economic pressure as a means of obtaining conversion
... casting unjust and uncharitable suspicion on other denominations;
comparing the strengths and ideals of one community with the weakness
and practices of another community" (B 36). This issue of seeking
to win members from other churches has ecclesiologically and missiologically
significant consequences, which require further exploration.
(63) Unethical methods of evangelization
must be sharply distinguished from the legitimate act of persuasively
presenting the Gospel. If a Christian, after hearing a responsible
presentation of the Gospel, freely chooses to join a different
Christian community, it should not automatically be concluded
that such a transfer is the result of proselytism (P 93, 94).
(64) Catholic-Evangelical relations have been troubled
by the practice of seeking to evangelize people who are already
members of a church, which causes misunderstanding and resentment,
especially when Evangelicals seek to 'convert' baptized Catholics
away from the Roman Catholic Church. This is more than a verbal
conflict about different uses of terms like conversion, Christian,
and church. Evangelicals speak of 'nominal Christianity,' referring
to those who are Christians in name, but only marginally Christian
in reality, even if they have been baptized. Nominal Christians
are contrasted with converted believers, who can testify to a
living union with Christ, whose confession is biblical and whose
faith is active in love. This is a sharp distinction common among
Evangelicals, who see nominal Christians as needing to be won
to a personal relation with the Lord and Savior. Evangelicals
seek to evangelize nominal members of their own churches, as well
as of others; they see this activity as an authentic concern for
the Gospel, and not as a reprehensible kind of 'sheep-stealing'
(E sec. iii). Catholics also speak of 'evangelizing' such
people, although they refer to them as 'lapsed' or 'inactive'
rather than as 'nominal,' and still regard them as "Christian"
since they are baptized believers. They are understandably offended
whenever Evangelicals appear to regard all Roman Catholics as
nominal Christians, or whenever they base their evangelism on
a distorted view of Catholic teaching and practice.
(65) We agree that a distinction must be made between
one's estimate of the doctrines and practices of a church and
the judgment that bears on an individual's spiritual condition,
e.g. his or her relationship to Christ and to the Church.
(66) As to an individual's spiritual or religious
condition, whether a person is nominal, lapsed, inactive, or fallen
away, a negative judgment is suspect of being intrusive unless
the person to be evangelized is the source of that information.
The spiritual condition of a person is always a mystery. Listening
should be first, together with a benevolent presumption of charity,
and in all cases we may share our perception and experience of
the Good News only in a totally respectful attitude towards those
we seek to evangelize. This attitude should also be the case apart
from evangelization in all attempts at persuading brothers and
sisters in what we believe to be true.
(67) Evangelicals and Catholics are challenged to
repent of the practice of misrepresenting each other, either because
of laziness in study, or unwillingness to listen, prejudice, or
unethical judgments (E I). We repent of the culpable ignorance
that neglects readily accessible knowledge of the other's tradition
(P 93). We are keenly aware of the command: "Thou shall not bear
false witness against thy neighbor" (Ex 20:16).
(68) We repent of those forms of evangelization
prompted by competition and personal prestige, and of efforts
to make unjust or uncharitable reference to the beliefs or practices
of other religious communities in order to win adherents (E I,
p. 91, J 19). We repent of the use of similar means for retaining
adherents. We deplore competitive forms of evangelism that habitually
pit ourselves against other Christians (P 93) (cf. DH 4,
12; John Paul II, Tertio millennio adveniente 35). All
forms of evangelization should witness to the glory of God.
(69) We repent of unworthy forms of evangelization
which aim at pressuring people to change their church affiliation
in ways that dishonor the Gospel, and by methods which compromise
rather than enhance the freedom of the believer and the truth
of the Gospel (B 31).
(70) Thus agreeing, we commit ourselves to seeking
a "newness of attitudes" in our understanding of each other's
intentions (cf. Eph 4:23, UR 7).
Conversion: To What Are We Turning?
a. Growing in Koinonia
(71) The bonds of koinonia, which separated
Christians already share, imply further responsibilities toward
one another. Each must be concerned about the welfare and the
integrity of the other. The bonds of koinonia imply that
Christians in established churches protect the civil rights of
the other Christians to free speech, press and assembly. At the
same time, the bonds of koinonia imply that the other Christians
respect the rights, integrity and history of Christians in established
churches. Tensions can be reduced if Christians engaged in mission
communicate with one another and seek to witness together as far
as possible, rather than compete with one another.
(72) Central to our understanding of religious conversion
is our belief and experience that "the love of God has been poured
out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given
to us" (Rom 5:5). "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves
the child." (1 Jn 5:1). Our failures in loving one another are
the scandal that calls into question whether we have allowed this
love to come into our hearts without obstruction. Since Evangelicals
believe their church to be catholic, and Catholics believe their
church to be evangelical, it would seem that our future task is
to recognize better the aspects that each of us emphasizes in
the others' view as well.
(73) Evangelicals agree with Catholics, that the
goal of evangelization is koinonia with the triune God
and one another. One enters into this koinonia through
conversion to Christ by the Spirit within the proclaiming, caring
community of faith which witnesses to the Reign of God. Catholics
agree with Evangelicals, that all Christians of whatever communion
can have a living personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and
Savior. On the basis of our real but imperfect communion we ask
God to give us the grace to recommit ourselves to having a living
personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior and deepening
our relationship to one another.
b. Religious Liberty
(74) We grow in koinonia when we support
one another and acknowledge one another's freedom. Religious freedom
is not only a civil right but one of the principles, together
with that of mutual respect, that guide relationships among members
of the Body of Christ and, indeed, with the entire human family
(P 99). We have been called to work together to promote freedom
of conscience for all persons, and to defend civil guarantees
for freedom of assembly, speech and press. Recognizing that we
have often failed to respect these liberties in the past, Catholics
and Evangelicals affirm the right of all persons to pursue that
truth and to witness to that truth (J 15, P 104). We affirm the
right of persons freely to adopt or change their religious community
without duress. We deplore every attempt to impose beliefs or
to manipulate others in the name of religion (J 15, P 102). Evangelicals
can concur with the position of the Second Vatican Council on
religious freedom, namely that all "are to be immune from coercion
on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human
power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be
forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is
anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own
beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association
with others, within due limits" (DH 2; cf. B 40).
(75) In the person of Pope John Paul II the Catholic
Church has recognized and apologized for the violations of justice
and charity for which its members have been responsible in the
course of history.13
Today it seeks to protect the religious liberty of all persons
and their communities. At the same time, it is committed to spreading
the message of the Gospel to all without proselytism or reliance
on the state.
(76) While religious liberty has been a rallying
point for Evangelicals from the earliest period, they have been
called from their sectarianism to greater mutual respect and increased
co-operation in mission by the catholic spirit of John Wesley,
the revivals of the nineteenth century, and the challenges of
world mission. Interdenominational, world-wide fellowship and
co-operation in mission have been served by the Evangelical Alliance.
The Alliance has always been concerned about religious liberty,
indeed, as early as 1872 lobbying on behalf of oppressed Catholics
According to the Manila Manifesto (1989):
Christians earnestly desire freedom of religion
for all people, not just freedom for Christianity. In predominantly
Christian countries, Christians are at the forefront of those
who demand freedom for religious minorities. In predominantly
non-Christian countries, therefore, Christians are asking for
themselves no more than they demand for others in similar circumstances.
The freedom to 'profess, practice and propagate' religion, as
defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
could and should surely be a reciprocally granted right (Manila
greatly regret any unworthy witness of which followers of Jesus
may have been guilty (Manila 12.2).
(77) Religious freedom is a right which flows from
the very dignity of the person as known through the revealed Word
of God: it is grounded in the creation of all human beings in
the image and likeness of God (P 98). Civil authorities have an
obligation to respect and to protect this right (cf. DH 2).
For Catholics this view was formally adopted at Vatican II in
the Declaration on Religious Freedom. Evangelicals at Lausanne
1974, Manila 1989 and Amsterdam 2000 affirmed a
(78) Evangelicals and Roman Catholics differ
somewhat in the theological and anthropological rationale for
this position. Catholic social thought bases rights' theory on
natural law. It sees human rights as legitimate moral claims that
are God-given; free moral agents have a corresponding responsibility
to act in the light of those claims. Revelation is seen to complement
this understanding of rights. In evangelical teaching, primacy
belongs to the divine right over conscience, the Lord's immediate
claim on each individual; human rights, then, are viewed not only
in creational light but also against the backdrop of the human
fall into sin. The history of sin makes the mandate for rights
all the more important. God continues to pursue fallen creatures
in the unfolding history of grace. Catholics and Evangelicals
agree that human rights should be interpreted and exercised within
the framework of Scripture teaching and of rigorous moral reasoning.
Due regard must be had for the needs of others, for duties towards
other parties, and for the common good (P 102, DH 7). Human
rights language, also, must guard against being turned into narcissism,
self-assertiveness and ideology.
Turning to One Another: The Challenge of Common Witness
(79) What remains as a hope and a challenge is the
prospect of our common witness. We see the communities of faith,
to which we belong, as set apart and anointed for mission. We
are concerned about the growing secularization of the world and
efforts to marginalize Christian values. It is urgent that our
evangelization be ever more effective. Is it not also urgent that
Christians witness together? In this sense the Second Vatican
Council called Catholics to cooperate with other Christians in
the extent that their beliefs are common, they can make before
the nations a common profession of faith in God and in Jesus
Christ. They can collaborate in social and in technical projects
as well as in cultural and religious ones. Let them work together
especially for the sake of Christ, their common Lord. Let His
Name be the bond that unites them!" (AG 15).
The core of evangelization is the apostolic faith
that is found in the word of God, the creeds, and is reflected
in biblical interpretations and the doctrinal consensus of the
patristic age. The possibility of Evangelicals and Catholics giving
common witness lies in the fact that despite their disagreements,
they share much of the Christian faith. We rejoice, for example,
that we can confess together the Apostles' Creed as a summary
of biblical faith.
(80) While acknowledging the divergences, which
remain between us, we are discerning a convergence between our
two communions regarding the need and possibilities of common
The Amsterdam Declaration 2000 urged Evangelicals:
pray and work for unity in truth among all true believers in
Jesus and to co-operate as fully as possible in evangelism with
other brothers and sisters in Christ so that the whole church
may take the whole Gospel to the whole world" (Amsterdam
Pope John Paul II asks,
indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without
at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation
between Christians?" (UUS 98).
Therefore, to the extent conscience and the clear
recognition of agreement and disagreement allows, we commit ourselves
to common witness.
(81) We conclude this report by joining together
in a spirit of humility, putting our work, with whatever strengths
and limitations it may have, in the hands of God. Our hope is
that these efforts will be for the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all
we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within
us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout
all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Eph 3:20-21).
Cf. John Paul
II, "Universal Prayer for Forgiveness, III. Confession of
the sins which have harmed the unity of the Body of Christ",
during the Liturgy of First Sunday of Lent, St. Peter's Basilica,
(Vatican City, March 12, 2000). See: Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City, Information
Service 103 (2000/I-II) p. 56
Cf. John Paul
II, "Universal Prayer for Forgiveness, e) Confession of sins
committed in actions against love, peace, the rights of peoples
and respect for cultures and religions", Vatican City, March
Cf. I. Randall
and D. Hilborn, One Body in Christ: The History and Significance
of the Evangelical Alliance, (Carlisle, 2001) p. 98.