Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > PE-RC > Evangelization, Proselytism... (part V)


V. Proselytism
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1. Moving Towards a Common Position on Proselytism

  1. Since 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.

  2. The 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 other.

    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 Church.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. However, 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 are necessary.

  7. The 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.

  8. Conflict 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.

  9. Even 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.

  10. The 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.

  11. If 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 about.

  12. Instead 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.
2. Replacing Dissatisfaction with Hope
  1. 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 century.

  2. In 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.

  3. Today 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'.

  4. Further 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

  5. Pentecostals 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.

  6. The 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 Holy Spirit.

  7. While 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

  8. The 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.

  9. All 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. Eph 4:3).

  10. In 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.
3. Defining the Challenge
  1. 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."

  2. An 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.

  3. The 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.

  4. Attempts 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 community;

    — 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).

  5. All 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.

  6. At 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.

  7. For 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.

  8. Confusion 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.
4. Promoting Religious Freedom
  1. Mention 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.

  2. Religious 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 [1965]). 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.

  3. Religious 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.

  4. Historically, 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.

  5. Because 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).

  6. Catholics 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, 6).

  7. Religious 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, 1984-1988).13 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 [1996], 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.).
5. Resolving Conflicts in the Quest for Unity
  1. 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.

  2. These 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).

  3. The 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.

  4. We 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 real challenge.

  5. We 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 Cor 6:5).
6. Affirming Principles for Mutual Understanding
  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.

  2. 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.

  3. Pentecostals 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" (Eph 4:12b-13).

  4. Individual 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.

  5. In the light of these issues, we offer the following proposals to our communities:

    — to incorporate these principles in our own daily lives and ministries;

    — 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 issues.

  6. We 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.

  7. Without 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.


  1. Papers were 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).

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

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  5. See footnote 10 above.

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