The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID) recently released (June 28) an historic document on the ethics of Christian mission – Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct. This document is in part a response to criticisms leveled at Christians by some religious communities. These leaders perceive that Christians sometimes use unethical methods in their attempts to do evangelism. In some case these objections have led to anti-conversion laws and violence, especially in Muslim areas. The three main world Christian bodies have responded to this problem with a thoughtful document that not only identifies the biblical call to continue to do evangelism but outlines specific ethical mandates related to the Gospel and how we proclaim it.
This document was launched in late June by statements of endorsement made by Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe (photo), Secretary General of the WEA, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC, and Cardinal Tauran of the PCID, at the headquarters of the WCC in Geneva, Switzerland. If you pray for the whole church, as I do every day, this news in itself should thrill you.
The document is the result of a five-year collaboration between the WEA, WCC and the Vatican. It is worth noting that together these three entities represent over 90 percent of the world’s total Christian population. This is the first document, with such broad approval, in the history of the Christian Church. (At least since 1054 A.D.)
Please read the last two sentences of my previous paragraph again. 90 percent of the world’s total Christian population is represented by this statement. And no document, and I do mean no document, like it has been issued in modern history.
There are three main parts to the Recommendations for Conduct. The first, “The Basis for Christian Mission,” lays out the biblical foundations for mission; it asserts that Jesus Christ is the example for Christians in witnessing to others; it outlines the church’s participation in God’s mission. It reflects the growing consensus of leaders around the world regarding the kingdom of God and the missional nature of the entire church.
The second section, “Principles,” outlines 12 principles that Christians are called to follow in witnessing of Christ in a manner consistent with the Gospel. These include:
- Acting in God’s love.
- Living with integrity, compassion and humility.
- Rejecting any form of violence.
- Offering genuine respect to all people.
The text concludes with six recommendations to all Christians, church bodies, mission organizations and agencies. These recommendations are:
- Study the document carefully.
- Build respect and trust with people of all religions.
- Strengthen religious identity and faith while at the same time deepening knowledge and understanding of different religions.
- Advocate justice and respect for the common good
- Call on governments and representatives to ensure religious freedom for all people.
- Pray for the well-being of neighbors, recognizing prayer is integral to the Christian life and of Christian mission.
Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the WEA spoke as a world representative for evangelicals by saying: “In some places dynamic public witness to Jesus Christ has been accompanied by misunderstanding and tension. This document is a valuable resource for church and ministry leaders for reflection and practice on how to best witness in ways faithful to the call of Christ and in line with the life and Spirit of Jesus.”
I am personally thrilled to see the WEA become a major contributor to both the process and the writing of such a major document. The WEA will translate the document into a number of languages which will be distributed to the national, regional and local alliances, as well as to seminaries, universities and colleges worldwide. This is amazingly good news.
The WEA further calls on evangelicals to study the document and examine how it can be applied and adapted to particular needs and in various contexts. The WEA leadership has expressed its hope that this document will stir up desire for greater Christian mission and evangelism in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you click here you can view Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe's speech made at the announcement of the document.
If you click here you can view the entire Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World document for yourself.
I believe we should all pray that this new document helps to bring about a new day for both ethical response to others and faithfulness to the proclamation of the gospel to the whole world. The truth is that this can only happen when missional-ecumenism becomes the norm, not the unusual stance, of the church.