August 29, 2007
For Immediate Release
“Towards an Ethical Approach to Conversion - Christian Witness in a Multi-religious World”
Consultation held in Toulouse, France, 9 – 12 August 2007
The World Evangelical Alliance, together with Pentecostals from the United States were invited by the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), to participate in a consultation entitled "Towards an Ethical Approach to Conversion - Christian Witness in a Multi-religious World" held in Toulouse, France, 9 to 12 August 2007. Three delegates represented the WEA: Richard Howell from India, Thomas Schirrmacher from Germany and John Langlois from the UK.
Due to significant media coverage of this event we felt it was important to clarify for our membership our involvement in it.
The consultation was one of a series of three. The first was held in Italy last year between representatives of Christian churches and representatives of other faiths. This second consultation was a consultation solely between representatives of the Christian churches to provide input into the eventual Code. It was useful for evangelicals to have had input into the process. The draft code will now be prepared and then presented for discussion at the third and final consultation next year. Therefore no one has committed to any Code yet. It has not yet been drafted.
The consultation arises from allegations that have been leveled in recent years at Christians by members of other faiths that Christians are using unethical methods of conversion to Christianity. Amongst the allegations are that Christians seek to convert through education at Christian schools and medical work at Christian hospitals and clinics.
The participants at the consultation rejected all such allegations and maintained that help and compassion for the poor and needy, including medical and educational work, is intrinsic in the Gospel and cannot be compromised.
The participants declared that the spreading of the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ alone is the central core of the Gospel and all Christians have the right to assert the claims of the Gospel even if persecution ensues.
It was acknowledged by a number of delegates that in the past some Christians had fallen short of the principles set out in scripture but these were far and few between. Those opposed to the Gospel appeared to target the relatively few instances which fell short of acceptable.
Once the code has been drafted it will be reviewed by the WEA International Council, International Leadership Team, Theological Commission, Religious Liberty Commission and Mission Commission. After reflection by these WEA entities we will then determine if it is appropriate for us to adopt and recommend such a code to our members.
The WEA is pleased to stand united with all sections of the Christian church in maintaining our rights, and indeed our duty, to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Churches in other traditions acknowledge that it is evangelicals who are bearing the brunt of persecution through their active evangelism, as a result of which the numbers of evangelical Christians are growing strongly in many countries. We are grateful to those of other Christian traditions who are standing with us to assert our God-ordained right to evangelise a needy world, which is lost without Christ.
A transcript of the Consultation will be available on the WEA website next week.