The complex accusation of sheep-stealing: proselytism and ethics.Thirteen years as a participant in the Vatican's dialogue with Pentecostalism has sensitized me to the complexity of proselytizing. Pentecostals, like many evangelicals, are evangelizers with a vengeance. Roman Catholics are evangelizers by exception and with reluctance. The cultural clash between these two ways of being Christian has generated much heat and little light. What is evangelization e·van·gel·ize
v. e·van·gel·ized, e·van·gel·iz·ing, e·van·gel·iz·es
1. To preach the gospel to.
2. To convert to Christianity.
To preach the gospel. to one person reeks of proselytizing to another. This issue has received far too little ethical scrutiny.
I. Defining the Terms and Locating the Issue
By "proselytizing" I mean an unethical encroachment on the spiritual center of another person or community. By "spiritual center" I mean that matrix of meanings, beliefs, and convictions that a person or community has put together over time. These are at the core of one's soul or identity and, therefore, of one's spiritual condition. The encroachment is unethical because it is uninvited un·in·vit·ed
Not welcome or wanted: uninvited guests.
not having been asked: uninvited guests
, intrusive, and disorienting, and it usually aims at a change in the ecclesia/allegiance of those encroached upon.
"Evangelizing" is the communication of a religious message that is intended by the evangelizer to be seriously weighed by the hearer so as radically to affect his or her spiritual center. Presuming a respect for the otherness of the other that is lacking in cases of proselytizing, the evangelizer's message is intended to reawaken Verb 1. reawaken - awaken once again
awaken, wake up, waken, rouse, wake, arouse - cause to become awake or conscious; "He was roused by the drunken men in the street"; "Please wake me at 6 AM." , replace, rearrange, or supplant the meanings, beliefs, or convictions by which the evangelized live. Like proselytism pros·e·ly·tism
1. The practice of proselytizing.
2. The state of being a proselyte.
pros , evangelization is also likely to have an uprooting effect, whether slight or profound - hence, the ethical implications of both forms of communication.
If it is true that one person's evangelization is another person's proselytism, it is necessary to seek objectivity about these contradictory perceptions. As with any moral or immoral act, three factors are involved: intention, object, and circumstances. Given the pejorative pejorative Medtalk Bad…real bad definition of the act of proselytism already elaborated above, proselytism would seldom if ever be the intention of the moral agent. However, intending to evangelize e·van·gel·ize
v. e·van·gel·ized, e·van·gel·iz·ing, e·van·gel·iz·es
1. To preach the gospel to.
2. To convert to Christianity.
To preach the gospel. is not a sufficient guarantee of a moral act. It will depend on the implicit or explicit understanding of the mission on which the evangelizers see themselves. Hence, the object might be to save the evangelized from the delusions of the whore of Babylon or to liberate them from the tyranny of the antichrist, etc. We will return to this matter of the object later. The third component of any moral act is the circumstances in which it is performed. Evangelization, for example, can be done with full knowledge of and communication with the leaders of the local church where evangelizing takes place. The Billy Graham Noun 1. Billy Graham - United States evangelical preacher famous as a mass evangelist (born in 1918)
Graham, William Franklin Graham Crusades are a case in point by comparison to evangelizing behind the backs of the local pastors.
Some clarity can be gained about proselytizing by viewing it from three different social locations: (a) From the side of the proselytizing agent. As above defined, proselytizing could hardly be the intention of the action. Rather, evangelization or handing on the Good News or bringing a person to Christ or witnessing to the Gospel would be some of the legitimate intentions behind the issue being examined here. (b) From the recipients of the act. They alone can say whether some degree of inviolability INVIOLABILITY. That which is not to be violated. The persons of ambassadors are inviolable. See Ambassador. or etiquette has been breached. If there has been some uninvited invasion of one's privacy in hopes of uprooting him or her from his or her present spiritual condition, we clearly are talking about an unethical act. In some cases, however, the net result of the alleged proselytizing can be a proselyte pros·e·lyte
A new convert to a doctrine or religion.
v. pros·e·lyt·ed, pros·e·lyt·ing, pros·e·lytes
To proselytize (a person).
v.intr. , which, in the earliest, positive sense of that term, is a convert, a person who can end up enormously grateful for "the intrusion" into his or her life with what was heretofore unknown Good News. (c) From the side of those who have pastoral responsibility for the "evangelized," that is, "proselytized." This is where the major issue seems to be, because it is from these quarters that many - maybe most - of the charges about proselytizing come.
Several questions have to be dealt with by these pastoral figures. How pastorally effective have the complainants been with those whom they had supposed were already "evangelized"? Have the supposedly "stolen sheep" known and been nurtured in their faith? Are the negative judgments about the alleged proselytizing shared by that portion of one's "flock" that has been proselytized? If they have already transferred their ecclesial Ec`cle´si`al
a. 1. Ecclesiastical. allegiance to the perpetrators, the charges lose much of their sting. If they have not, do they share your judgment that an injustice has taken place? What is the nature of the loss the congregation has suffered by their acceptance of the message of the so-called proselytizers? This loss could be financial, or it could be a blow to the prior solidarity the congregation had known. The overall effect on the immediate culture of those who had been in a more unitary situation prior to the "encroachment" is the most serious issue, not the prestige of the denomination or the self-esteem or reputation of the deserted pastor. However, the prior cohesiveness of the affected units - spouse, family, clan, congregation, even neighborhood - cannot be the sole good cited, since Christianity itself from its inception has broken up such units by succeeding in having its adherents "leave father and mother," etc.
II. Rights and Pluralism
Further objectivity can take place by subjecting both the accusers and the accused to the test of rights, the right to religious freedom in particular. Proselytizing can be an accurate accusation irrespective of the intentions of the would-be evangelizer when the right of religious freedom has been violated. The most explicit treatment about the right of religious freedom by any church was that of Vatican II in its "Declaration on Religious Freedom" (Dignitatis humanae). In defining this right, the Council claimed it as something that all people have, namely, "to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals and 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 [one's] own beliefs."(1) The document does not address the issue of proselytizing as such, but any act that would encroach encroach v. to build a structure which is in whole or in part across the property line of another's real property. This may occur due to incorrect surveys, guesses or miscalculations by builders and/or owners when erecting a building. on the immunity that each is to enjoy would have to be considered to be such an act. In addition to the issue of the right of the individual, there is the right by extension of the community to be left intact without being riven rive
v. rived, riv·en also rived, riv·ing, rives
1. To rend or tear apart.
2. To break into pieces, as by a blow; cleave or split asunder.
3. by outside forces that preach "another gospel" than the one that has been appropriated by a given community and that has helped it to become the community it is.
There is a second issue that may be even more germane - that of the cultures within which the evangelization takes place. In modernity cultures are invariably in·var·i·a·ble
Not changing or subject to change; constant.
in·vari·a·bil pluralistic, but pluralism is a two-edged sword. The one edge of pluralism is consensual and constitutional. It mandates that there is to be no single, established "church" that determines the quality of public life. The second edge of pluralism is ideological. Interpreted ideologically, pluralism deteriorates into arrogance, into its own meaning-system, one that would dictate to all within its pale. Its mandate is to keep to oneself Verb 1. keep to oneself - shun the company of others; "The new student keeps to herself"
2. keep to oneself - withhold information; "I kept your little secret to myself all these years" whatever beliefs one has subscribed to, whatever values one holds clear, whatever convictions one has. It is intolerant of convictions that attempt to affect public life, which is seen as needing to be free of its citizens' personal beliefs and values in order to operate efficiently.
Obviously, ideological pluralism would be inimical inimical,
n a homeopathic remedy whose actions hinder, but do not counteract those of another. Also called
incompatible. to those with beliefs and a mission to promulgate To officially announce, to publish, to make known to the public; to formally announce a statute or a decision by a court. them. Consigning beliefs to the private lives of believers leaves a meaning-vacuum in public life, except, ironically, for this faith-silencing ideological pluralism itself, which deems citizens good insofar in·so·far
To such an extent.
Adv. 1. insofar - to the degree or extent that; "insofar as it can be ascertained, the horse lung is comparable to that of man"; "so far as it is reasonably practical he should practice as they are private about their religious convictions. Constitutional pluralism is another matter, however. It is the nonnegotiable non·ne·go·tia·ble
1. Difficult or impossible to settle by arbitration, mediation, or mutual concession: a nonnegotiable demand.
2. Nonmarketable. context within which evangelization would have to take place. To ignore this sociology is to offend the citizenry who have accepted this "separation of church and state
The context of constitutional pluralism has created a free market for the faiths and propelled the more evangelical of these to be good-news bringers to all persons. The evangelizer presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. acts because he or she perceives an absence of beliefs in the to-be-evangelized, a poverty of beliefs, beliefs not acted upon, or wrong beliefs, all of which entail a judgment about another's spiritual condition. They also entail a judgment about what beliefs are right, wrong, and/or inadequate. A judgment about a person's spiritual condition is an extremely delicate issue. It will avoid the Gospel prohibition of judgment ("Do not judge, so that you may not be judged," Mr. 7:1)(2) only if the judgment is not about the persons being evangelized but about their mistaken views or ignorance of religious matters and their "saving truths." The only way such a judgment could be made fairly would be if the person were well known to the would-be evangelizers or willingly and freely disclosed his or her spiritual condition or need to them.(3)
III. The Great Commission
Evangelizers evangelize from an implicit or explicit theology of mission. For most Christians the "great commission" ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Mt. 28:19) is the mandate that triggers the activity of evangelization. This mandate must be examined closely since it is so central to the motivation and sense of urgency of evangelizers. It would make a difference, then, if exegetes assess this "great commission" as almost certainly a Matthean composition rather than an actual event or something that came from Jesus' own lips. Most exegetes so regard it.(4) The arguments advanced by exegetes for holding this composition thesis are, first, its oddity, both within the Gospel itself and since none of the other Gospels has such a trinitarian statement or such an appearance by the Risen Christ. A second piece of evidence for a literary composition is the presence in this passage of an inclusio, "'the virgin shall conceive . . . and they shall name him Emmanuel'" (Mt. 1:23), which is completed in this passage by: '"And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (Mt. 28:20b).
Finally, the historical context of the text's fashioning is very revealing. Matthew's Gospel is addressed to Jewish Christians and was written at a time when the Jewish audiences, who would have been astonished initially in hearing the belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, had already made up their minds whether this was or was not so. Their decisions having been made, the new field for harvest would necessarily have been the gentiles, "the nations." Hence, the great commission would have been an exhortation put on the lips of Jesus so that the Christian communities addressed by Matthew, which were facing a deepening, irreparable division with the synagogue, could with impunity get on with gathering the gentiles into their communities. A final piece of evidence of construction is this very late mention of baptizing with a trinitarian formula, which reflects both the need and the ecclesial practice contemporary with the writing of Matthew rather than an event and mandate of the historical Jesus.
None of the above arguments is meant to suggest that the great commission was mistaken on Matthew's part or that no evangelism should be undertaken on its basis but only that it must take its place with other data rather than become the sole raison d'etre of evangelization or a theology of mission. What data? The manner in which Jesus approached or dealt with people, for starters. Why was he not a baptizer, furthermore? The profound reverence he had for "where a person was" is telling. While he called some to follow him and they left their nets and families, others he did not so call. To all he proclaimed the nearness of the reign of God, which entailed neither a change of venue nor a change of faith. With some he insisted that they remain with those with whom they already consorted - such as the Samaritan woman or the healed Gerasene demoniac. They were to share their Good News with those in their own communities. Of still others he demanded silence in the matter of his identity, after he had been Good News to them and they were avid to share it with others.
Granted, there is a complex exegetical ex·e·get·ic also ex·e·get·i·cal
Of or relating to exegesis; critically explanatory.
ex , historical, and christological issue with each of these instances; the only point I want to make is that Jesus himself is hardly a model of the great commission as it is ordinarily understood and acted on by many modern Christians. One of these complexities is the difference between seeking converts to the church and proclaiming the reign of God. It seems that Jesus' main concern in proclaiming this reign was with clearing out the underbrush of human accretions to the Torah that had rendered so many of his hearers unfree to follow their hearts and their consciences and to respond to God's movements within their desires and aspirations. Jesus freed his hearers to hear God's call to allow God to reign in their hearts.
One more element in this great commission bears closer scrutiny for evangelizing: the communal character of each of the ethne. If one goes back to Mt. 25 and its eschatological es·cha·tol·o·gy
1. The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind.
2. A belief or a doctrine concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second vision of the coming of the "Son of Man" in glory, one might surmise that the judgment will be of "nations" as nations and what they did for and to the last, lowest, least, and those who are left behind in their midst. If this is so, it would suggest that evangelization must not be done without taking account of the communalities that will be affected by it and the effect it will have on "'the least of these'" (Mt. 25:45) within or on the margins of those communalities. God saves people through their mutual bonds with one another, as Vatican II's Gaudium et spes Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, was one of the chief accomplishments of the Second Vatican Council. Approved by a vote of 2,307 to 75 of the bishops assembled at the council, and was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December would put it, and this "solidarity must be constantly increased until . . . brought to perfection."(5) What adds heft to this idea is implied in this eschatological scenario that envisions peoples qua peoples - each in their distinctiveness or uniqueness - as part of the new, definitive, final creation, depending on how they cared for the strays among them. In brief, the great commission of Mt. 28 must take its place with several other great commissions - for example, Mt. 25 - if one is to be true to the gospel.
IV. A Theology of Mission
A comprehensive theology of mission must address the issue of the theological character of faiths other than that of the evangelizers. If another faith or an interpretation of the Christian faith that is other than the evangelizer's is seen as wholly wanting in what is salvific sal·vif·ic
Having the intention or power to bring about salvation or redemption: "the doctrine that only a perfect male form can incarnate God fully and be salvific" Rita N. Brock. , this surely simplifies evangelizing greatly. There will then be an urgency about the communication of the saving truth that "we alone have." If evangelizers are more modest in their presumptions about how God might be saving people who are not Christian or who are not of the same mind about Christ, then their evangelization will be undertaken much more attentively to the other and how God might be dealing with him or her. Certainly, Jesus of Nazareth appears to have learned this to his amazement on a number of occasions. Newer theologies of Christian mission are beginning to develop reflections and understandings about the other faiths and how they might have salvific elements to them.
Once again my example is from Vatican II, this time in its Nostra aetate document (1965), which began to develop a theological position on non-Christian faiths. Its radically new attitude is one of appreciation of these faiths, seeing them as possessing some of the rays of truth that enlighten countless numbers of their adherents in matters moral and spiritual. The decree exhorts members of the Roman Catholic faith to acknowledge the religious dignity of these traditions and the effective means these faiths provide that enable their faithful people to achieve an integrity with "the spiritual and moral goods" that have accrued to them from their faiths.(6) Seeing other faiths in this light and advocating dialogue with those who adhere to them rather than evangelization of their adherents simpliciter SIMPLICITER. Simply, without ceremony; in a summary manner. began a whole new moment in the Catholic Church's self-understanding and practice both "on the missions" and "at home."
This new openness to seeing other faiths as effective in enabling their adherents to become people of religious integrity has caused seismic upheavals within Catholicism that have taken decades even to begin to absorb. The Vatican II document was succeeded a decade later by further, deeper probes into the subject in Pope Paul VI's Evangelii nuntiandi in 1975. He saw evangelization within a whole spectrum of complex issues, such as "the renewal of humanity, witness, explicit proclamation, inner adherence, entry into community, acceptance of signs, apostolic initiative."(7) Each of these headings deserves unpacking; suffice it to say here that, while "the great commission" is still very much in the mix, the other elements cited here are no less essential if evangelization is to avoid being charged with encroachment on another's spiritual center.
Roman Catholicism, as well as many of its counterparts in the Christian world, has become more aware of what Jesus spoke of when he observed that there are "other sheep that do not belong to this fold" (Jn. 10:16). Appreciating anew that God's ways are not our ways and God's thoughts not our thoughts, it seems that the future of evangelization must take into account that there are many who are winding their way toward the reign of God independently of Christian ministry. This contention does not reject the principle on which most Christian evangelization has operated that "outside of Christ there is no salvation." It simply grants that the christological boundaries of the mystery of Christ are more permeable and the movement of God's Spirit freer than most Christian traditions have heretofore imagined. Nor does this new appreciation deny the need for evangelization. It calls the actors to a greater sophistication so·phis·ti·cate
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.
2. and willingness to work within the mystery of God's many ways of being at work in our world. If the only thing the evangelizer needs to know about God's ways is that the unbaptized are the damned, then he or she knows too little to proceed without causing great offense.
A second theological theme needs to surface, one that has been largely overlooked in the literature on evangelization, namely, the role of the Spirit in evangelization. In Evangelii nuntiandi, Paul VI laid out the conditions for evangelization at the core of which the Spirit is the principal agent that operates in both evangelizers and evangelized. He was impressed by the gentleness of the action of the Spirit in this area. Evangelization and the growth of the church should take place only "in the consolation of the Spirit." Paul VI would have said that it is the Spirit who places on the lips of the evangelizer the words that will prove effective. It is also the Spirit who predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open to the reign that is proclaimed.
Indeed, Paul VI prioritized the matter by noting that, "while the Spirit of God has a preeminent place in the entire life of the Church, It is active above all in the mission of evangelization." The Spirit is the animating force behind an individual's being impelled to proclaim the gospel as well as causing the word of salvation to be accepted and understood. Even more surprising is the observation that the Spirit is "the goal of evangelization." The Spirit alone "brings into being the new creation, the new humanity at which evangelization must aim." The document comments that it is the Spirit "who produces the new unity in variety which evangelization tends to evoke in the Christian community."(8)
These contentions and insights are quite profound and, if taken seriously, would call for an evangelization that would be much freer about its results than we have hitherto imagined. Not only is it the case that, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17) but also that, where the Spirit of the Lord is operating in the activity of evangelization, the contours of the responses are not always going to conform to the expectations of the evangelizers. The Spirit, as the author and architect of the new humanity produced by evangelization, builds the People of God in ways that our earlier ecclesiologies could not have foreseen. This is again a comment about the intriguing, even bewildering be·wil·der
tr.v. be·wil·dered, be·wil·der·ing, be·wil·ders
1. To confuse or befuddle, especially with numerous conflicting situations, objects, or statements. See Synonyms at puzzle.
2. , difference that exists between the church and God's reign. There is, of course, a mutuality between them but not an identity. This nonidentity that was not clearly discerned till the last third of the twentieth century has led such Roman Catholic authorities as Paul VI to make statements about the theological significance of other faiths and about the "new unity in variety" the Spirit authors within Christianity.
Finally, it is to the Spirit that Paul VI attributed the critical, crucial "discernment of the signs of the times - God's signs - which evangelization uncovers in historical reality."(9) Without the discernment of these signs, we are too prone to try to pour new wine into old wineskins New Wine into Old Wineskins is a saying of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew . , Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Luke .
V. The Accusers and the Accused
Up to this point, I have stayed at the nonhistorical and, therefore, somewhat abstract level about proselytizing and have ignored much of the important historical and contemporary data that has become so problematic in the churches. The two major regions where this issue has been and still is festering are Russia and Latin America. They have this in common: An already established church is complaining of being harassed or at least significantly reduced in numbers by a number of "evangelizing proselytizers." The result, inter alia [Latin, Among other things.] A phrase used in Pleading to designate that a particular statute set out therein is only a part of the statute that is relevant to the facts of the lawsuit and not the entire statute. , is enormous resentment by the leadership of the established church, Orthodox in the former case and Roman Catholic in the latter.
In Latin America, according to Pedro Moreno of the Rutherford Institute, there are presently more "evangelicals" practicing their faith in Guatemala, Brazil, and Nicaragua than there are Roman Catholics, and, according to the Latin American Catholic Bishops Conference, some 8,000 Roman Catholics a day convert to other Christian bodies, most of them Pentecostal.(10) These statistics, whatever their accuracy, necessitate a greater realism about the image of Latin America as Catholic. Of the eighty-five percent who have called themselves Catholics, only seventy percent were baptized, and only fifteen percent are practicing their faith at present.
In Russia, the government, at the instigation INSTIGATION. The act by which one incites another to do something, as to injure a third person, or to commit some crime or misdemeanor, to commence a suit or to prosecute a criminal. Vide Accomplice. of the Russian Orthodox Church, banned all proselytism in September, 1997. Catholics and evangelicals for different reasons are a particular target of this new law. "If fully enforced, this measure will authorize the state to expel most Catholic priests and all Catholic monastic orders from Russia, close every Catholic education institution, ban every Catholic periodical and radio program and forbid Catholics to sell books or distribute tracts."(11) Totalitarianism is certainly one solution to "proselytizing."
This move of the Russian Orthodox Church has enabled the state to do its bidding in order to gain a new degree of control. It has stymied some of the more promising initiatives that have developed in the field of ecumenism ecumenism
Movement toward unity or cooperation among the Christian churches. The first major step in the direction of ecumenism was the International Missionary Conference of 1910, a gathering of Protestants. . A "theology of sister churches," for example, began developing as early as 1962. In 1967 Pope Paul VI Pope Paul VI (Latin: Paulus PP. VI; Italian: Paolo VI), born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini (September 26, 1897 – August 6, 1978), reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 1963 to 1978. spoke enthusiastically about this development, declaring that "after long years of disputes and differences of opinion, and through the grace of God, our Churches once more recognize each other as Sister Churches despite the difficulties which arose between us in former times."(12) Uniatism (a partial union of Eastern Churches with the See of Rome, which entailed a break with the former's "mother churches") was admitted by Roman Catholicism to be an inadequate and outdated ecclesiology ec·cle·si·ol·o·gy
1. The branch of theology that is concerned with the nature, constitution, and functions of a church.
2. The study of ecclesiastical architecture and ornamentation. of return to Rome.(13) It is now seen as having been a wrong-headed way to bring about the kind of unity that sibling churches could and should enjoy. Ironically, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the freeing of Russia and the ambient nations from the hegemony of the Soviet (so-called) Union, has proven to be the undoing of these promising ecclesial weavings.
VI. Applicable Principles of Christian Ethics
Without getting mired in the maze of accusations and counter-accusations about proselytism that continue to erupt, especially in these two parts of the world, let me conclude with several principles from Christian ethics that seem to be the most apropos ap·ro·pos
Being at once opportune and to the point. See Synonyms at relevant.
1. At an appropriate time; opportunely.
2. in this matter of proselytizing. They are my own rendering of the ideas that have emerged from different ecclesial sources for the guidance of Christians in future relations with one another and with non-Christians. It is clear that evangelization and a theology of mission and the ethics necessary to carry these off must all be part of the mix if there is going to be a future free of religious and inter-Christian strife, even scandal.
The first of these principles, which is also a commandment and a commission, is to "love one another" (Jn. 15:12). This commission has a position of greater eminence in the Gospels than the so-called great commission. It should be evident that there is no true evangelization where love is lacking, in particular love for all the parties who are affected by evangelization. Where love is, the Spirit is; where the Spirit is, there is growth in Christ, not to mention growth in truth and freedom. Where the Spirit is not, there will be an unwillingness to know the already judged party, to know the truth of the place and its ecclesial history, to know the community and what is best for it, to foresee how it will be affected by the projected evangelization. Where the Spirit is not, there is an unwillingness to cooperate with the leadership of the place or with its would-be evangelizers. Cardinal Cassidy, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity origins are associated with the Second Vatican Council.
Pope John XXIII wanted the Catholic Church to engage in the contemporary ecumenical movement. , expressed this principle wryly at an informal meeting with those of us who were members of the Catholic/Pentecostal Dialogue: "The Lord has not given his evangelists a dispensation DISPENSATION. A relaxation of law for the benefit or advantage of an individual. In the United States, no power exists, except in the legislature, to dispense with law, and then it is not so much a dispensation as a change of the law. from the commandment to love one another."
A second principle is more anthropological than theological. Anthropologically, it seems to be endemic to the way we are as human beings to promote with others what we ourselves have come to understand as true and good, commending our findings to them simply because we consider them to be for their own good, with a minimum of self-regard, it is hoped. What kind of world would we live in if this natural process of commending the good and the true to others, as we understand these, were to cease or, worse, come to be seen as an offense against civility? Pari passu with this universal human proclivity pro·cliv·i·ty
n. pl. pro·cliv·i·ties
A natural propensity or inclination; predisposition. See Synonyms at predilection.
[Latin pr , there is the fact that, as Vatican II declared in Ad gentes, its decree on the Church's missionary activity, that the "Church is missionary by [its] very nature."(14) If our faith is the pearl of great price Pearl of Great Price may refer to:
A third principle is common witness. "Unity in witness and witness in unity. This is the will of Christ for his people," is how the 1970 document of the Joint Working Group, which included Roman Catholics, of the World Council of Churches' Common Witness and Proselytism begins.(15) Common witness, if adopted, is an idea that would revolutionize relations between and among Christian denominations. Its rationale is hardly radical, since to be in Christ is already to have entered into the unity Christ gives and intends. He is that unity. Therefore, to bear witness together to his gospel is an expression of that already real unity that has begun with our having been baptized into Christ. This W.C.C. document defines common witness as "the witness the churches, even while separated, bear together, especially by joint efforts, by manifesting before men whatever divine gifts of truth and life they already share in common."(16) It notes further that "missionary action should be carried out in an ecumenical spirit which takes into consideration the priority of the announcement of the Gospel to non-Christians."(17) Among its many wise recommendations, the following two stand out:
To avoid causes of tension between churches because of the free exercise of the right of every person to choose his or her ecclesial allegiance, and if necessary, to change it in obedience to conscience, it is vital that this free choice should be exercised in full knowledge of what is involved and, if possible, after counsel with the pastors of the two churches concerned.
Second, "that the church which has lost a member should . . . examine its conscience as to how it has done its duty of bringing the Gospel to that person" and ask itself whether it might have been "content that the person in question should remain a nominal and official member of (the former) community."(18)
A fourth principle has to do with negative judgment of another person or of a Christian body. It is far too easy to slide from a theological disagreement about ecclesiology, missiology Missiology, or mission science, is the area of practical theology which investigates the mandate, message and work of the Christian missionary. Missiology is a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural reflexion on all aspects of the propagation of the Christian faith, embracing , evangelization, pneumatology pneu·ma·tol·o·gy
1. The doctrine or study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the belief in spirits intervening between humans and God.
2. The Christian doctrine of the Holy Ghost. , soteriology so·te·ri·ol·o·gy
The theological doctrine of salvation as effected by Jesus.
[Greek st , etc., to a moral indictment of the individual or the body with whom there is this disagreement. Judgment exonerates one from having to listen to the already judged party. Whatever the judged party does is likely to be interpreted through a dark lens that sees integrity wanting in them; it is likely to see insincerity in·sin·cere
Not sincere; hypocritical.
insin·cerely adv. where it is unlikely or to see self-interest, dishonesty, a desire for getting or retaining power, competition, indolence about evangelization, pastoral malfeasance The commission of an act that is unequivocally illegal or completely wrongful.
Malfeasance is a comprehensive term used in both civil and Criminal Law to describe any act that is wrongful. , etc. Labels are the cheapest form of judgment. For example, "sect" or "rapacious wolves" or "sheep-stealing" or "nominal" as descriptions of a person's or group's Christian faith are some of the well-known instances of this. If moral judgments are withheld, parties at odds with one another can at least come to understand one another without necessarily having to come to agreement. If moral judgment is operating at the threshold At the Threshold, whose son Lil E. Tee won the 1992 Kentucky Derby for W. Cal Partee, died March 23 of a stroke at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in West Lafayette, Ind. The 21-year-old stallion stood at Wayne Houston's Stoney Creek Horse Farm near Mooreland, Ind. of a dialogue, the dialogue will never succeed. The judging party or parties will simply await the chance to unfurl their list of long-harbored grudges. Evangelization needs very few rules to follow when the church of those being evangelized has been judged morally bankrupt, deluded, or illegitimate. Evangelizers' zeal knows no bounds - or it is held to the most primitive forms of etiquette - when they are saving souls from such an immoral situation.
The final two principles are repentance and forgiveness. There is no Christian body without sin in this matter of unethical forms of evangelization. I will mention only the Catholics since, having been around the longest, they would be most in need of repentance. The Crusades, the forced conversion of the Teutons and the Slavs, the Inquisition, the forms of evangelization used in the early years of Spain's and Portugal's "Christianization" of Latin America - these are just a few historical instances of the immoral promotion of the Catholic faith. Happily, the historical beginnings of the understanding of human rights emerged from the last of these sad historical atrocities committed in the name of proclaiming the gospel or insuring its purity. The Dominicans, Bartolome de las Cases and Francisco de Vitoria, began to articulate for the first time the inviolable dignity of the human being qua human being and how this calls for both noninterference from others in order for the person to realize his or her dignity and the obligation of others, including the state, to assist in this realization.
The other side of this same principle is the need to forgive those who have defamed, coerced, or denied the human right of religious freedom, either by making the profession of their faith a crime or by sundering communities with adventitious ADVENTITIOUS, adventitius. From advenio; what comes incidentally; us adventitia bona, goods that, fall to a man otherwise than by inheritance; or adventitia dos, a dowry or portion given by some other friend beside the parent. , disruptive "evangelization." The list of offenses to be forgiven in this matter is endless and known all too well by all who have worked in fields where proselytization or the accusation of proselytism has been rife. If there is a refusal to forgive the offending party, there will continue to be violence in varying degrees done to one another in the name of proclaiming Christ. All Christians lose in this situation, because a fragmented Christ is not credible to the one seeking to know whether Christ is Good News or just another instance of the human problems of judgment and hostility and self-interest.
In short, although it is right to spend much time on theological ecumenism, it is wrong to assume that there is a common agreement on what constitutes ethical behavior in this matter of the promotion of our respective faiths. There are serious ethical issues in this matter of evangelization that call for the full and immediate attention of all people of good will - especially those of us who make claims about the unity of the body of the Christ we follow. The fact that proselytism has not been a major issue for the relationships we Christians of the mainline North American North American
named after North America.
North American blastomycosis
see North American blastomycosis.
North American cattle tick
see boophilusannulatus. churches have with one another may be attributable to our succumbing to ideological pluralism rather than a tribute to our virtue. Our evangelical and pentecostal brothers and sisters are a reminder that virtue always stands in the middle between the two extremes of a privatized, silent faith and of an offensive, proselytizing faith.
John C. Haughey, S.J. Loyola University Chicago Beginnings and expansions
Founded in 1870 as the St Ignatius College on Chicago's West Side. In 1908 the School of Law was established as the first of the professional programs. , Il
1 Dignitatis humanae, #2, in Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : America Press, Association Press, and Herder and Herder, 1966), p. 679.
2 All biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, released in 1989, is a thorough revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV).
There are three editions of the NRSV:
3 This comment, of course, applies only to micro or interpersonal evangelization. When the evangelizing context is macro, i.e., a scheduled event, presumably the attending persons are free to be there or not to be there. In such situations, the stated delicatesse about judgment does not apply. We will return to this issue of judgment below.
4 See, e.g., Daniel Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew The Gospel of Matthew is a synoptic gospel in the New Testament, one of four canonical gospels. It narrates an account of the life and ministry of Jesus. It describes his genealogy, his miraculous birth and childhood, his baptism and temptation, his ministry of healing and (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), pp. 414-416.
5 Gaudium et spes, #32, in Abbott, Documents, p. 231.
6 Nostra aetate, #2, in Abbott, Documents, p. 663.
7 Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Washington, DC: Publications of the U.S. Catholic Conference, 1976), #24.
8 The quotations in this and the preceding paragraph are taken from ibid., #75.
10 Pedro C. Moreno, "Rapture and Renewal in Latin America," First Things, no. 74 (June/July, 1997), p. 31.
11 L. Uzzell, The Catholic World Report, November, 1997, p. 19.
12 Pro Oriente no. 176, p. 117.
13 Ibid., no. 10, p. 16.
14 Ad gentes, #2, in Abbott, Documents, p. 585.
15 Information Service, no. 14 (1971), p. 18, #1.
16 Common Witness, #6.
17 Ibid., #28.
The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism seeks a director for this national center for the promotion of ecumenism and interfaith relations in Canada. He or she will help to redefine the mandate and role of the organization in cooperation with its Board of Directors and staff. The candidate should be Christian, bilingual (English and French), experienced in non-profit-organization management, knowledgeable of and experienced in ecumenism, and have a university-level theological formation. The director is expected to exercise an open, collegial col·le·gi·al
a. Characterized by or having power and authority vested equally among colleagues: "He . . . style with the ten-person staff team and to ensure continuation of the commitment to publish the Centre's internationally distributed quarterly journal.
Qualified candidates should send a curriculum vitae curriculum vitae CV, resume Medical practice A formal listing of a person's professional education, objectives, work history, including location and dates of service at a particular hospital, health care facility, university, the role filled at the time of service, prior to January 31, 1999, to the Search Committee, Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, c/o Christian Direction, Inc., Room 602, 455 St. Antoine West, Montreal, QU, H2Z 1J1, Canada.