Christian Groups Agree on Rules for Missionary Work

Guide Addresses Exploiting Poverty, Healing Ministry

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GENEVA, Switzerland, JUNE 30, 2011 ( The Vatican’s council on interreligious dialogue and two other organizations, which together represent some 90% of the planet’s Christians, have culminated a five-year study with a joint document on appropriate missionary conduct.

A press release today from the World Council of Churches announced the publication of “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct.”

The five-page document is the fruit of five years of dialogue between the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

“Mission belongs to the very being of the church,” the document begins by affirming. “Proclaiming the word of God and witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian. At the same time, it is necessary to do so according to gospel principles, with full respect and love for all human beings.”

The statement goes on to include 12 principles, which specify points such as: “Acts of service, such as providing education, health care, relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements, including financial incentives and rewards, in their acts of service.”

Another principle regards healing ministry: “As an integral part of their witness to the gospel, Christians exercise ministries of healing. They are called to exercise discernment as they carry out these ministries, fully respecting human dignity and ensuring that the vulnerability of people and their need for healing are not exploited.”

Reject nothing true, holy

The document makes five concrete recommendations, under the titles of study, build, encourage, cooperate, call and pray.

“Encourage” is elucidated with an invitation to Christians to “strengthen their own religious identity and faith while deepening their knowledge and understanding of different religions, and to do so also taking into account the perspectives of the adherents of those religions. Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions.”

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke of Christian leaders’ duty to “propose a greater vision of dialogue.”

He reminded that to “reject nothing that is true and holy in each religion,” is a Catholic principle.

Meetings involving the WCC, PCID and WEA that led to the formulation of “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World” were held at Lariano, Italy, in 2006, Toulouse, France, in 2007 and Bangkok, Thailand, this January.

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