1. Moving Towards a Common Position on Proselytism
1972 members of this Dialogue have committed themselves to address
the issue of proselytism. That this discussion has at last begun
is a sign of the growing trust and maturation of Pentecostal-Catholic
relations. Both teams in this International Roman Catholic-Pentecostal
Dialogue entered into a conversation on this topic with a number
of misgivings. It is difficult enough to address this subject
as an abstract object of study. But Catholic-Pentecostal relationships
in many parts of the world have been troubled at times with
accusations of insensitivity to the presence of long-standing
Christian communities, charges of proselytism, and counter charges
of persecution. Some people, in both traditions, have made it
clear that they do not want Catholics and Pentecostals to speak
to one another. Others have made it clear that they did not
even want the topic of proselytism itself addressed. Both the
Catholic and the Pentecostal teams debated within themselves,
and then together, the wisdom of undertaking such a discussion
in the light of possible repercussions on our mutual and growing
relationship. Indeed, even the Dialogue itself could suffer,
we feared. In spite of these significant concerns, we decided
that the urgency of the situation and the need to proclaim the
Gospel in a credible manner demanded a beginning to this discussion.
members of the Dialogue observed that proselytism exists, in
large part, because Pentecostals and Catholics do not have a
common understanding of the Church. To give one illustration,
they do not agree on the relationship between the church, on
one hand, and baptism as an expression of living faith, on the
Nonetheless in our previous discussions we have expressed
the ways in which we perceive the bonds between us that already
exist. Catholics, for example, hold that everyone who believes
in the name of the Lord Jesus and is properly baptized (cf.
Perspectives on koinonia, 54) is joined in a certain true
manner to the body of Christ which is the Church. For Pentecostals,
"the foundation of unity is a common faith and experience
of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through the Holy Spirit.
This implies that to the extent that Pentecostals recognize
that Roman Catholics have this common faith in and experience
of Jesus as Lord, they share a real though imperfect koinonia
with them" (Perspectives on koinonia, 55). This
is true even though each has different understandings of the
Still members of the Dialogue think that Pentecostals and Catholics
already agree on critical point of faith. Recognition of this
fact makes it possible for each of our communities to act in
ways that do not impede the growth of the other. Lack of mutual
recognition, however, has led at times to dismissive charges
and countercharges (e.g. "sects," "unbelievers,"
"syncretists," etc.) and actions and counteractions
(e.g. unilateral decisions for the good of one community, often
at the expense of the other community) by members of both communities.
These charges and actions have detracted from the ability of
Catholics and Pentecostals to witness credibly before the world
to the reconciling power of God through Jesus Christ.
A primary example of such a conflict may be found in the tensions
which exist between Christians who are not in fellowship with
one another. It is not our purpose in this document to give
priority to the interests of one particular Church over those
of another. While in the example given in the following paragraphs,
the Catholic Church is described as the long-established Church
and the Pentecostals as the newcomers, such as may be the case
in any given European country, there are instances such as in
the case of Northeast Zimbabwe in which Pentecostals may be
described as the long-established Church and the Catholics as
newcomers. In the use of our example, our concern is merely
to illustrate, in concrete terms, the tensions which may arise
with respect to mission in a given region between two such churches.
Catholics, for instance, may have preached the Gospel and established
churches in a region centuries ago. Through the centuries these
churches have played an important role in the lives of the people
of that region. The role which the church has played has extended
far beyond the walls of the congregation, permeating every aspect
of the culture of the people from art, to music, to social institutions,
to festivals and other public celebrations. The lives of the
people flow easily between church and the wider culture because
the church has impacted the culture in a major way.
there is another side to this. Often the earlier Christianization
of a given culture by Catholicism takes for granted that it
remains permeated by faith. As with an individual, so also with
a culture, critique by the Word and on-going transformation
time and investment in the church by devout Catholics have been
significant in many cultures. Sometimes their attempt to live
the life of faith has come at a great price -- persecution,
even martyrdom. Actively embracing the challenges of living
and transforming the society to which the Gospel has been brought
is no small feat. The faithful have struggled to maintain the
Gospel, even at times when the society has not wanted to hear
it. The local church has rejoiced when the Gospel has taken
root, and sorrowed when it has failed to do so. In other words,
evangelization is an on-going need for any culture.
erupts when another community of Christians enters into the
life of an already religiously-impacted community and begins
to evangelize without due consideration of the price that has
been paid for witness to the Gospel by believers who have preceded
them. Difficulties arise when there is no acknowledgment of
the significant role which the church plays in all aspects of
the lives of those who are citizens of this region. This conflict
comes about because the two Christian communities are separated
and have not recognized the legitimacy of one another as members
of the one Body of Christ. They have been separated from one
another. They have not spoken with one another. Certain assumptions
have been made by each about the other. Judgements have taken
place without proper consultation between them.
if the motives of newcomers are irreproachable with respect
to the welfare of the people in this region, including a genuine
concern to see that the citizens of the region have really heard
the Gospel, their method of entry into the region often contributes
to misunderstanding and conflict, and perhaps even to a violent
response. Courtesy would seem to call for some communication
with the leaders of the older church by the new evangelizers.
Without this, the older church and culture are easily violated.
The people and church leaders in some of these areas have often
been offended by what they see as disrespect or disregard of
pastoral activities that have been exercised for a long time.
It is easy to see why serious tensions might arise.
conflicts which have occurred between us demonstrate clearly
the problem which disunity creates even for well-intentioned
Christians. Disunity isolates us from one another. It leads
to suspicion between us. It contributes to a lack of mutual
understanding, even to an unwillingness for us to try to understand
each other. And all of these things have resulted in a general
state of hostility between us in which we even question the
Christian authenticity of each other. Our different readings
of the Gospel reached in our isolated states have led to doctrinal
differences which have only further contributed to the question
of whether or not the other truly proclaims the Gospel.
each perceives the other through the lens of this disunity the
result is all too often that one sees the other as an adversary
to its own mission and may, therefore, feel the need to place
impediments in the way of the other. There may be public denunciations,
even persecution, of one another. Both sides have suffered,
Pentecostals in particular since they have usually been the
minority But the main tragedy, and on this both the Catholic
and Pentecostal teams agree, is that the conflict resulting
from the disunity of Christians always "scandalizes the
world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the
Gospel to every creature" (Decree on Ecumenism,
1). What needs to be faced honestly, and examined with great
care, are the reasons behind these conflicts. What we both desire
is the pure preaching of the Gospel. Most of our conflicts would
diminish if we agreed that this is what evangelization is all
of conflict, can we not converse with one another, pray with
one another, try to cooperate with one another instead of clashing
with one another? In effect, we need to look for ways in which
Christians can seek the unity to which Christ calls his disciples
(cf. John 17:21) starting with basic respect for one another,
learning to love one another.
Replacing Dissatisfaction with Hope
By the fourth century church and state were deeply involved
in the life of each other. Since then both have occasionally
resorted to coercion to assure political-religious homogeneity
in society. This has been expressed in the repression of heresy
(inquisition) and of other religions (the expulsion of Jews
and Muslims from various European countries). The same concern
shaped the principle cuius regio, eius religio ("all
citizens must accept the religion of their ruler") which
was enforced in Europe, especially during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. The process by which churches and states
moved, first, to religious toleration and then to religious
freedom only began in the late eighteenth century and did not
become more or less universal in the West until the mid-twentieth
this historical context, Catholics are well aware that attempts
at Christianization have often been attached to political and
economic expansion (e.g., Latin America) and that sometimes
pressure and violence have been used. They also acknowledge
that prior to Vatican II, Catholic doctrine has been reluctant
to support full religious freedom in civil law.
Catholics and Pentecostals condemn coercive and violent methods.
Nevertheless, all too often, aggressiveness still characterizes
our interaction. Words have become the new weapons. Catholics
are affronted when some Pentecostals assume that they are not
even Christians, when they speak disrespectfully of the Catholic
Church and its leaders or when Pentecostals lead Catholic members
into newly established Pentecostal fellowships. Pentecostals
are affronted when some Catholics in some parts of the world
view them as rapacious wolves', when they are ridiculed
as panderetas o aleluyas' (tambourines or alleluias),
or when they are indiscriminately classified as sects'.
proof of the fact that neither Catholics nor Pentecostals are
satisfied with the state of division which exists between them
can be seen in their own discussions of proselytism. An initial
working definition of proselytism is that it is a disrespectful,
insensitive and uncharitable effort to transfer the allegiance
of a Christian from one ecclesial body to another. Actions have
already been taken by several traditions which reveal that they
believe that "proselytism" is something to be condemned.10
did not participate directly in the development of those documents,
but Pentecostals have also demonstrated their concern over proselytism,
on a more limited scale. They have enacted various bylaws, adopted
statements on ministerial ethics, and developed other guidelines
which provide leadership to their ministers on issues such as
how close together congregations can be planted, what permissions
need to be obtained from other pastors in the area in which
a new work is being planted, and what type of relationship a
minister must maintain when working within the parish of another
minister of the same denomination, or within a district that
is not his or her own. These bylaws, codes of ethics, and other
guidelines have been developed to resist any temptation which
one minister might have to proselytize (cf. 2 Cor 10:16).
These guidelines work because there is mutual recognition between
those who are subject to them.
early writings of Pentecostals reveal a number of rich and fertile
visions of unity among Christians, even if at times they were
triumphalistic. Among them was the vision of Charles F. Parham
who viewed himself as called by the Holy Spirit to serve as
an "apostle of unity." Another was repeatedly published
by the African-American pastor William J. Seymour of the famous
Azusa Street Mission, in the Apostolic Faith, that the
movement stood for. "...Christian unity everywhere."
The ministers of the Assemblies of God, in their organizational
meeting of April 1914 went so far as to state that they opposed
the establishment of "unscriptural lines of fellowship
or dis-fellowship" since such lines stood counter to Jesus'
desire for unity as expressed in John 17:21. A number of other
early Pentecostal leaders shared these sentiments also, and
read this impulse toward unity as one which was birthed by the
some Pentecostal bodies, especially some indigenous groups in
Latin America and Africa, have retained their original visions
for unity, most Pentecostals around the world have chosen to
pursue more limited visions of unity This has happened due to
a number of factors. Fundamentalists outside Pentecostalism
publicly criticized existing Pentecostal cooperation with many
other Christians as inconsistent with biblical teaching. The
adoption by some Pentecostals of certain eschatological interpretations
popular among Fundamentalists and Evangelicals led to growing
suspicion of the modern movements toward unity among Protestants.
Peer pressure which suggested that Pentecostals would be granted
acceptance as full members of the Evangelical community if they
would cut existing ties with certain other Christians, further
compromised the original visions of unity11.
Many Pentecostals also withdrew their support of larger movements
toward unity when they believed that their own priorities were
not being taken seriously. Vestiges of these original visions
of unity are still to be found among the published statements
which outline the raison d'être of many Pentecostal
organizations including the Pentecostal World Conference.12
Pentecostal members of this Dialogue lament the impact of the
factors which have led to the loss of the original visions of
unity. They would like to challenge Pentecostals to look once
again at their roots that they might rediscover the richness
of their earliest call to facilitate unity between all Christians,
by internalizing anew the role the Holy Spirit has presumably
played in the birth of these deep yearnings.
members of this Dialogue also wish to encourage Pentecostals
to share their visions of greater Christian unity with other
Christians. In turn, we urge the latter to bring their own visions
of unity to the discussion. In this way, we believe that together
we can "discover the unfathomable riches of the truth"
thereby deepening our own understanding of what we believe the
Holy Spirit has caused to emerge within us. We are all called
to be stewards of this precious gift of unity which we already
enjoy and to which we yet aspire in the bond of peace (cf.
the light of these realities which have contributed to our own
coming together for dialogue, the members of both teams felt
keenly the need to acknowledge that neither Catholics nor Pentecostals
have fulfilled sufficiently the demands of the Gospel to love
one another. While the past cannot be undone and is not even
wholly retrievable, we must make every effort to know and express
it as accurately as possible.
Defining the Challenge
The term "proselytism" is not found in the Bible,
but the term "proselyte" is. It is originally derived
from the Old Testament vocabulary relating to those strangers
and sojourners who moved into Israel, believed in Yahweh, and
accepted the entire Torah (e.g. Ex 12:48-49). This term carried
a positive meaning, i.e., to become a convert to Judaism. In
the New Testament, proselytes were present in Jerusalem on the
day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:11), and at least one of
them was chosen to serve the widows (cf. Acts 6:5). But
in recent times, "proselytism," as used within Christian
circles, has come to carry a negative meaning associated with
an illicit form of "evangelism."
issue between Catholics and Pentecostals that relates to the
problem of proselytism concerns the way a living faith is perceived
in the life of an individual Christian or in a community. Through
dialogue we have learned that Pentecostals and Catholics may
have different ideas about who is "unchurched," different
understandings of how living in a deeply Christian culture can
root the Christian faith in someone's life. They may have different
ideas of how to assess whether, or in what way, pastoral needs
are being met in a Christian community or in a person's life.
They may have different ways of interpreting whether or not
a person can be considered an evangelized Christian.
Dialogue has taught us that because of these differences there
is a continual need to learn from one another so as to deepen
mutual knowledge and understanding of each others' doctrinal
traditions, pastoral practices and convictions. We need to learn
to respect the integrity and rights of the other so as to avoid
judgements that create unnecessary conflict in regard to evangelization
and obstacles to the spreading of the Gospel, in addition to
those already caused by our divisions.
to define proselytism reveal a broad range of activities and
actions that are not easily interpreted. These tend to be identified
and evaluated differently by the parties involved. In spite
of these difficulties, we have concluded that both for Catholics
and for Pentecostals, proselytism is an unethical activity that
comes in many forms. Some of these would be:
all ways of promoting our own community of faith that are
intellectually dishonest, such as contrasting an ideal presentation
of our own community with the weaknesses of another Christian
all intellectual laziness and culpable ignorance that neglect
readily accessible knowledge of the other's tradition;
every wilful misrepresentation of the beliefs and practices
of other Christian communities;
every form of force, coercion, compulsion, mockery or intimidation
of a personal, psychological, physical, moral, social, economic,
religious or political nature;
every form of cajolery or manipulation, including the exaggeration
of biblical promises,
because these distortions do not respect the dignity of persons
and their freedom to make their own choices; .
every abuse of mass media in a way that is disrespectful of
another faith and manipulative of the audience;
all unwarranted judgements or acts which raise suspicions
about the sincerity of others;
all competitive evangelization focused against other Christian
bodies (cf. Rom 15:20).
Christians have the right to bear witness to the Gospel before
all people, including other Christians. Such witness may legitimately
involve the persuasive proclamation of the Gospel in such
a way as to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ or to commit
themselves more deeply to Him within the context of their
own church. The legitimate proclamation of the Gospel will
bear the marks of Christian love (cf. 1 Cor 13). It
will never seek its own selfish ends by using the opportunity
to speak against or in any way denigrate another Christian
community, or to suggest or encourage a change in someone's
Christian affiliation. Both the Pentecostal and Catholic members
of this Dialogue view as proselytism such selfish actions
as an illegitimate use of persuasive power. Proselytism must
be sharply distinguished from the legitimate act of persuasively
presenting the Gospel. Proselytism must be avoided.
the same time we acknowledge that if a Christian, after hearing
a legitimate 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.
the most part, people hear the preaching of the Gospel within
their own particular church where their own spiritual needs
are also met. It may also happen, on a given occasion, that
members of different Christian communities help to organize
an evangelistic campaign, in which they also participate.
The primary aim of such an evangelistic campaign should always
be the proclamation of the Gospel. We believe that the Reverend
Billy Graham has provided an important model in this regard.
Respecting the ecclesial affiliation of the participants,
he organizes such campaigns only after he has sought the support
and agreement of the churches in the area, including Catholics
and Pentecostals. When those who are already part of a Christian
community respond to his call to commit themselves more deeply
to Christ, the pastoral resources from their own church are
immediately made available to help them in their renewed commitment.
Thus, proselytism is avoided. The churches involved receive
the respect and regard they deserve, illustrating the results
of communication and cooperation, demonstrating a measure
of real, visible unity.
has resulted when the terms "proselytism" and "evangelism"
have been used as though they were synonyms. This confusion
has impacted the civil realm. Some countries, for instance,
have passed so-called "anti-proselytism" laws which
prohibit or greatly restrict any kind of Christian evangelism
or missionary activity. We deplore this.
Promoting Religious Freedom
Conflicts in the Quest for Unity
of these anti-proselytism laws introduces us to the complex
matter of religious freedom. There is general agreement that
religious liberty is a civil right. For Christians there is
also the religious freedom they are to accord to one another
as brothers and sisters in Christ, and to all human beings since
they are made in the image and likeness of God.
freedom! is promoted by both secular society, for example, in
statements from the United Nations (cf. United Nations Declaration
on Human Rights, 1948; UN Declaration on the Elimination
of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religious
Belief, 25 November 1981, Art. 1.1) and by the church (e.g.
Declaration on Religious Liberty, Vatican II ).
Pentecostals and Catholics are in full agreement in the support
of religious freedom, whether it is seen as a civil right or
as one of the principles that should guide their relationships
with each other.
freedom as a civil right is very complex in the way it is pursued
and resisted in the endlessly varied political situations that
have church related to state and state to church. Catholics
and Pentecostals need to stand as one in respecting and promoting
this civil right for all peoples and for one another.
Pentecostals have not enacted broadly representative resolutions
on the subject of religious freedom largely because of their
minority status in the societies where they have functioned.
They have recently, however, joined with other Christians when
issues of religious freedom have been at stake. They have also
led efforts to end persecution or to promote legislation towards
religious freedom, especially in countries where in the past
the rights of their Pentecostal sisters and brothers have been
violated (e.g. Italy, and a number of Latin American countries).
It is clear, therefore, that they believe that the state has
a legitimate role in guaranteeing religious freedom.
of these convictions, members of the Dialogue reject:
all violations of religious freedom and all forms of religious
intolerance as well as every attempt to impose belief and
practices on others or to manipulate or coerce others in the
name of religion;
inequality in civil treatment of religious bodies, although,
we affirm , as Vatican II affirmed, that in exercising their
rights individuals and social groups "are bound by the
moral law to have regard to the rights of others, to their
own duties toward others and for the common good of all"
(Declaration on Religious Liberty, 7).
believe that the state is obliged to give effective protection
to the religious liberty of all citizens by just laws and other
suitable means, and to ensure favorable conditions for fostering
religious life (cf. Declaration on Religious Liberty,
freedom has also been the subject of significant ecumenical
dialogue (e.g. Summons to Witness to Christ in Today's World:
A Report on the Baptist-Roman Catholic International Conversations,
A statement that is even more comprehensive in scope is that
of the Joint Working Group between the Catholic Church and the
World Council of Churches. With them we agree that "religious
freedom affirms the right of all persons to pursue the truth
and witness to the truth according to their conscience. It includes
the freedom to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and
the freedom of Christians to witness to their faith in him by
word and deed" (Joint Working Group, The Challenge of
Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness , 15).
Religious freedom includes the freedom to embrace a religion
or to change one's religion without any coercion which would
impair such freedom (cf. ibid.).
Principles for Mutual Understanding
Conflicts among Christian groups are not unusual. Difficulties
experienced by Protestant missionary movements of the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries highlighted the need to resolve tensions
among denominations. It became obvious that divisions were obstacles
to the preaching of the Gospel. These concerns led to the first
World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1910,
at which an international body of Protestants and Anglicans
assembled to discuss ways to cooperate rather than compete in
mission. This conference led to other movements for Christian
cooperation. As we approach the end of the century virtually
all major Christian families, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox,
Pentecostal, and Protestant, are now involved in efforts to
find ways to work together, to overcome misunderstandings, and
to resolve doctrinal differences, so that these will no longer
be obstacles to the proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
concerns have implications for Pentecostals and Catholics where
conflict arises from mission activities. Two points need to
be kept in mind. On the one hand, we affirm that the principles
of religious freedom are basic for evangelization. On the other
hand, divided Christians have real responsibilities for one
another because of the bonds of koinonia they already
share (cf. Perspectives on koinonia, 54-55). In facing
conflicts, the right to religious freedom must be seen in relationship
to the responsibility to respond to Christ's call for the unity
of his disciples. Christ calls Christians to live their freedom.
At the same time, He calls Christians to unity "so that
the world may believe" (John 17:21).
call of the Lord of the Church cannot be ignored. It is reinforced
by the Apostle Paul who exhorted the Ephesians to make "every
effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
(Eph 4:3) for "there is one body, and one spirit... one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all"
(Eph 4:4-5). Christians, who have been reconciled to God and
entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2
Cor 5:18), need to be reconciled with each other in order to
carry out their ministry effectively Ongoing division jeopardizes
the impact of the Gospel.
realize that some of our readers will think that our conclusions
are idealistic. We do not agree. We recognize that not everyone
has had the same experience and the same opportunity that we
have had to work together, to pray together, and to team from
one another. We have come to recognize, in a fresh way, that
with God all things are possible to those who believe (cf.
Mark 9:23). The Scriptures teach us that Christ calls us and
the apostle invites us to unity (cf. John 17:21; Eph
4:3). The patterns of our relationships in the past have not
reflected this call. We engaged in this dialogue because of
what we understand is the will of Christ which our past relationships
have not reflected. Our efforts are intended as a contribution
to re-thinking the lack of conformity between Pentecostal/Catholic
relationships and the call of Christ. We commend our findings
to our readers recognizing that some will find them to be a
look forward to the day when leaders within our two communities
will be able to pray together, develop mutual trust, and deal
with tensions which arise. Through our theological dialogue,
now 25 years old, we have gained a deeper understanding of the
meaning of faith in Christ and a mutual respect for one another.
We covet for our leaders these same gifts and believe such relationships
might yield greater sensitivity on issues of mutual concern.
The relationship might even yield a code of ecclesial etiquette
to help prevent difficulties from arising.
All of this seems possible and desirable. Are we not, as believers,
being prepared for a future in which we will be judges not only
of the world but also of the angels? (cf. 1 Cor 6:2-3).
Would it not be a sign of contradiction if we had to hand over
our present disputes to the judgement of the world? But this
is what is happening when we arrive at impasses. "Can it
be," Paul asks, "that there is no one among you wise
enough to decide between one believer and another?" (1
The discussion on the nature of proselytism leads very quickly
into practical matters. Even if Pentecostals and Catholics explicitly
or implicitly denounce proselytism, many people may need practical
guidance on how to live up to this commitment. The members of
the Dialogue have agreed upon the following principles which
seek to express the spirit of Christian love as it is portrayed
in Scripture (cf. 1 Cor 13). They submit these principles
for consideration by their respective churches.
The deep and true source of any Christian witness is the commandment
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind and you shall
love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37 and 39; cf.
Lev 19:18; Deut 6:5). Christian witness brings glory to God.
It is nourished by the conviction that it is the Holy Spirit
whose grace and light brings about the response of faith. It
respects the free will and dignity of those to whom it is given,
whether or not they wish to accept.
and Catholics affirm the presence and power of the Gospel in
Christian communities outside of their own traditions. Pentecostals
believe that all Christians of whatever denomination, can have
a living personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Catholics believe that only in their own visible communion "the
fullness of the means of salvation can be attained." But
they also believe that "some, even very many, of the significant
elements and endowments which together go to build up and give
life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries
of the Catholic Church" (Decree on Ecumenism, 3).
It is the responsibility of all Christians to proclaim the Gospel
to all who have not repented, believed, and submitted their
lives to the Lordship of Christ. It is imperative for every
Christian to speak "the truth in love" (Eph 4:15)
about all Christian communities. We affirm the obligation to
portray the beliefs and practices of other Christian communities
accurately, honestly and charitably, and wherever possible,
in cooperative efforts with them. We pray and work "for
building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the
unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to
maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ"
Christians have the right and responsibility to proclaim the
Gospel boldly (Acts 4:13, 29; Eph 6:19) and persuasively (cf.
Acts 17:3; Rom 1:14). All people have the right to hear the
Gospel preached in their own "language" in a culturally
sensitive fashion. The Good News of Jesus Christ addresses the
whole person, including his or her behavioral, cognitive, and
experiential dimensions. We also affirm responsible use of modern
technology as a legitimate means to communicate the Gospel.
the light of these issues, we offer the following proposals
to our communities:
to incorporate these principles in our own daily lives and
to pursue contacts with Christian leaders for consideration
of these issues;
to conduct our preaching, teaching, and pastoral ministry
in the light of these principles;
to invite scholarly and professional societies at all levels
to discuss this document;
to incorporate these insights into the various programs for
educators, ministerial students and other church workers;
to encourage the development of relationships of mutual understanding
and respect which will enable us to work together on these
encourage prayer for and with each other. Above all, we pray
that Pentecostals and Catholics will be open to the Holy Spirit
who will convince the hearts of all Christians of the urgency,
and the biblical imperative of these concerns.
a doubt, proselytism is a sensitive issue among Pentecostals
and Catholics, but we believe that through open and honest dialogue
and docility to the Spirit, we can respond to the challenge
before us. This may not always be easy, but the love of Christ
compels us to deal with "a humility and gentleness, with
patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort
to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
(Eph 4:3). It is only then that we will give credible witness
to Christ in a world which urgently needs to hear the Good News.
presented by Rev. Karl Müller, svd of St. Augustin, Germany
(Proselytism, Common Witness and Evangelization) and
by Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. (Assemblies of God), Fuller Theological
Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA (Evangelization, Proselytizing
and Common Witness: A Pentecostal Perspective).
On the Catholic
side, the theme has been addressed in several international
bilateral dialogues in which the Roman Catholic Church has
been involved, namely with Evangelicals (The Evangelical-Roman
Catholic Dialogue on Mission, 1977-1984: A Report, Information
Service [IS] 60 (1986/I-II) 71-97; with Baptists (Summons
To Witness to Christ in Today's World: A Report of the Baptist-Roman
Catholic International Conversations, 1984-1988, IS 72
(1990/I) 5-14); with the Orthodox (Uniatism: Method of
Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion,
1993, IS 83 (1993/II) 96-99). On the multilateral level,
the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church
and the World Council of Churches has recently published a
study document entitled The Challenge of Proselytism and
the Calling to Common Witness, 1996, IS 91 (1996/I-II)
77-83. In so doing, Catholics, like many Protestant and Orthodox
groups, have expressed the desire to condemn all proselytism.
Cecil M. Robeck,
Jr., "The Assemblies of God and Ecumenical Cooperation,
1920-1965," in Wonsuk Ma and Robert P. Menzies, eds.
Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W.
Menzies, JPT Supplement Series 11 (Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 1997) 107-150.
In its May
21-29, 1949 meeting in Paris, the Executive Committee of the
World Pentecostal Conference (now called Pentecostal
World Conference), unanimously adopted a two-page "Manifesto
and Declaration" in which it outlined its "common
purpose and objective." Included as point 6b was the
following: "To demonstrate to the world the essential
unity of Spirit baptized believers fulfilling the prayer
of the Lord Jesus Christ: That all may be one' John
17:21." This action was subsequently announced by
the Conference Secretary David J. Du Plessis, in a report
titled "World Pentecost holds its Third International
Conference," which appeared in H. W. Greenway, ed., World
Pentecostal Conference 1952 (no city: The British Pentecostal
Fellowship, 1952) page 6. A copy of the original "Manifesto
and Declaration" is on file in the Archives of David
du Plessis Center for Christian Spirituality at Fuller Theological
Seminary, Pasadena, CA 91182, USA.