AND COMMON WITNESS
The Report from the Fourth Phase
of the International Dialogue 1990 - 1997
Between the Roman Catholic Church
and some Classical Pentecostal Churches
(1) This is a report from the participants of the fourth phase of the international Dialogue (1990-1997) between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and some classical Pentecostal denominations and leaders. The Dialogue began in 1972. The co-chairpersons in the fourth phase were the Rev. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., of Collegeville, Minnesota, USA, and the Rev. Justus du Plessis, of Faerie Glen, South Africa who was succeeded in 1992 by the Rev. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. of Pasadena, California, USA.
(2) The unity of the Church is a concern for Pentecostals and Catholics alike. The particular purpose of these discussions is to develop a climate of mutual respect and understanding in matters of faith and practice, to find points of genuine agreement as well as indicate areas in which further dialogue is required.
The goal is not structural unity, but rather the fostering of this respect and mutual understanding between the Catholic Church and classical Pentecostal groups.
(3) As we, the participants, have come to the task before us, we have done so as peers. Nevertheless, we have recognized that there is at least one important difference between the Catholic and the Pentecostal teams that bears mention. The Roman Catholic Church possesses that which may be described as official teaching on some of these topics, teaching that has been expressed in various authoritative texts such as the conciliar documents of Second Vatican Council and in papal encyclicals. The Pentecostals possess no comparable body of teaching which may serve as a resource for their position. The diversity of the Pentecostal Movement mitigates against a single position on certain topics. When the Pentecostal participants speak as a single voice throughout this document, then, they do so by gathering together what they believe to be the common consensus, held by the vast majority of Pentecostals worldwide.
(4) We, the participants, have sought to represent faithfully the positions held by our churches. However, we have made no decisions for the churches since we have no authority to make such decisions. The churches are free to accept or reject the report either in whole or in part. Yet as responsible persons, representing our traditions either officially or in some other way, we have come together over a period of years to study the issues of evangelization, proselytism, and common witness. In accordance with our understanding of the Gospel we are making proposals to our churches. We, the participants hereby submit our findings to our respective churches for review, evaluation, correction and reception.
(5) Since many Christians have seen the last decade of the second millennium as one in which to emphasize evangelization, and since significant tensions exist between Pentecostals and Catholics on this issue, it appeared appropriate to concentrate on this topic. The previous three phases focused on (1) the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Christian Initiation, and the Charisms, Scripture and Tradition and the Human Person and the Gifts (1972-1976), (2) Faith and Religious Experience, Speaking in Tongues, and the Role of Mary (1977-1982), and (3) koinonia (Christian Communion and Fellowship) (1985-1989).
(6) Specific themes which helped us reach our conclusions in this phase of the Dialogue included: The Meaning of Mission and Evangelization (1990, Emmetten, Switzerland); The Biblical and Systematic Foundation of Evangelization (1991, Venice, Italy); Evangelization and Culture (1992, Rocca di Papa, Italy); Evangelization and Social Justice (1993, Paris, France); Evangelization/Evangelism, Common Witness, and Proselytism (1994, Kappel am Albis, Switzerland), and Common Witness (1995, Brixen/Bressanone, Italy). The dialogue members convened once again in Brixen/Bressanone, Italy, in 1996 to examine a first draft of the Report of this Dialogue. They continued their drafting in Rome, Italy in June 1997. The Steering Committee was then authorized to make the final editorial decisions in keeping with the mind of the participants. This they did in Geneva, Switzerland in November, 1997.
(7) The procedure used throughout this phase included the discussion of papers presented by members of each side. Each team then asked the other to respond to a limited number of questions which arose from the discussions of the paper. These questions were designed to challenge participants to think creatively and substantively about the emerging issues. The substance of these discussions were recorded in most years in an "agreed account", which took note of areas of agreement or disagreement, areas of possible convergence, and topics which might need further study. These materials, together with continuing conversations, provided the basis for the final report.
(8) Both Pentecostals and Catholics recognize as an essential part of the mission of the Church the call to evangelize. As the two teams explored the topic together, they were encouraged by new perspectives, and they gained clarity on problematic issues. They hope that their work together points toward possibilities of cooperation in mission for the sake of the Gospel.
(9) Both the Catholic and the Pentecostal participants of the Dialogue have become increasingly aware of the scandal of a divided witness. It is a scandal when unbelievers are more aware of those things which separate these churches than those things they hold in common. It is a scandal, too, when Catholics and Pentecostals demonstrate a lack of love or trust by speaking negatively about one another or acting in ways that antagonize or exclude one another. Because of their divisions, Catholics and Pentecostals are unable to participate together at the table of the Lord. Furthermore, they make evident their division insofar as they proclaim the Lord's death in isolation from one another.
(10) Touched by this divided witness, the participants of this Dialogue have experienced and expressed to one another their sorrow over this state of affairs. It is a sorrow which has, in part, moved them to search for ways in which these divisions might be resolved, following the Pauline exhortation to "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3).
I. MISSION AND EVANGELIZATION
(11) Both Pentecostals and Catholics believe that God has charged all Christians to announce the Gospel to all people, in obedience to the Great Commission given by Christ (cf. Mt 28:18-20). Proclaiming God's reconciliation of the world through Christ is central to the Church's faith, life and witness (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19).
(12) The mission and the task of evangelization — proclaiming "the name, teaching, life, promise, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God" (Evangelization in the Modern World , 22) — lies at the heart of the Catholic faith. Mission has been part of the life of the Church throughout the ages. Catholic women and men, especially those in religious orders, have gone to the ends of the earth proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity , 2 taught that "the Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit". Following in the path of the Council, both Paul VI and John Paul II in their teaching insist on the need to pursue a "New Evangelization".
(13) Pentecostals place special emphasis on the proclamation of Jesus as Saviour and Lord resulting in a personal, conscious acceptance and conversion of an individual; a "new birth" as in John 3:3. Pentecostals are also concerned to evangelize the world in these "last days" before Christ returns (cf. Acts 2:14-17; Joel 2:28-32;), making disciples as Jesus instructed in the Great Commission.
(14) Both Pentecostals and Catholics agree that "evangelization will... always contain — as the center and at the same time the summit of its dynamism — a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all humankind, as a gift of God's grace and mercy" (Evangelization in the Modern World, 27; cf. Eph 2:8; Rom 1:16). From this divine initiative arises the Church as an eschatological community, a koinonia. To the extent that Christians participate in this koinonia, they share deep bonds of unity in the Spirit even now despite divisions which continue. The eschatological nature of this koinonia, which fosters unity in diversity, serves as a prophetic sign toward divided humankind (cf. Jn 17:21).
(15) While Catholics and Pentecostals agree on the essential core of the Gospel, namely that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor 5:19), on occasion they differ in practice and language concerning the emphasis they give to certain aspects of evangelization.
Catholics tend to use the term to indicate proclamation of the Gospel toward the conversion of persons to Christ. They also acknowledge that evangelization is a complex process made up of various elements including "the renewal of humanity, witness, explicit proclamation, inner adherence, entry into the community, acceptance of signs, apostolic initiative" (Evangelization in the Modern World, 24). Pentecostals have used the terms evangelization and evangelism interchangeably to focus on the proclamation of the Gospel toward converting individuals to Christ, followed by their discipling to be effective witnesses for Christ among unbelievers and in society. In short, Pentecostals make a sharper distinction than Catholics between the proclamation of the Gospel to those they consider "unsaved" and the discipling of believers or promotion of Christian values in society. Today there is growing convergence between Catholics and Pentecostals in that both see the task as leading individuals to conversion, but also as the transformation of the cultures and the reconciliation of the nations.
(16) Catholics and Pentecostals are motivated to evangelize by love for Christ, obedience to the Great Commission, and the desire that unbelievers may receive the blessings of eternal life now and in the future. While Catholics and Pentecostals teach the Second Coming of Christ as the Blessed Hope of the Church, Pentecostals stress the urgency of proclamation because many believe in the imminence of that event. Furthermore, Pentecostals view the "baptism in the Spirit" as essential for every believer to receive empowerment for Christian witness (Acts 1:8). While Catholics and Pentecostals express a genuine desire to see the Lord add to the Church those who are being saved (cf. Acts 2:47), they also express concern over attitudes expressed by Christian evangelizers which are inconsistent with the central message of the Gospel, the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20), the Great Commandment (Mt 22:37-39), and the nature of the Church. For example, they are troubled when people are dealt with as though they were impersonal objects instead of being respected as individuals who have been created with dignity, in the image of God. They are also troubled when evangelization proceeds exclusively by strategies that aim at limiting the composition of congregations to one race, class, ethnic group, or other social groupings resulting in an intended and lasting segregation, which does harm to the nature of Christ's Church (cf. Rev 7:9;14:1-7). Continued growth, both qualitative and quantitative will demand more self-criticism and openness to the questions and insights of others in the Body of Christ.
(17) All Catholics are called to witness to the Good News. In practice, over the past few centuries, Catholic evangelization in non-Christian countries has often depended almost exclusively on clergy and religious orders. Most of them received a theological and spiritual formation which prepared them for this mission. In recent years, the Catholic Church has also encouraged lay participation in evangelization with the recognition that a proper preparation is necessary for this task (cf. Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 28-32).
(18) While in recent years Pentecostals have begun to place more attention on the formal training of lay people and clergy for ministry, Pentecostals have always emphasized that all believers should evangelize, whether formally trained or not, especially by sharing their personal testimony.
(19) Both sides understand evangelization as encompassing missionary proclamation to non-Christians, as well as outreach to those who once claimed to have accepted the Gospel, but who apparently live a life totally indifferent to the faith they have professed. We need to recognize the delicacy of making judgements as to whether other persons are in fact living indifferently or not.
(20) Catholics and Pentecostals both agree that the Holy Spirit prepares individuals and peoples for the reception of the Gospel, despite the fallen condition of humankind. While they believe that "ever since the creation of the world, the visible existence of God and his everlasting power have been clearly seen by the mind's understanding of created things" (Rom 1:20; cf. Psalm 19:1-4), their perspectives diverge over the existence and/or meaning of salvific elements found in non-Christian religions. Catholics and Pentecostals agree that those who are saved have been saved without exception through the death of Jesus Christ. Catholics do not deny that the Spirit may be at work in other religions "preparing the way for the Gospel" (cf. Evangelization in the Modern World, 53). Catholics also say, "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 16).
(21) Many Pentecostals on the other hand, like many of the early Christians, tend to point out the demonic elements in other religions. While Pentecostals acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, convincing people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (cf. Jn 16:8-11), they generally do not acknowledge the presence of salvific elements in non-Christian religions. Some Pentecostals would see a convergence towards the Catholic position above in that the Holy Spirit is at work in non-Christian religions, preparing individual hearts for an eventual exposure to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pentecostals and Catholics, however, together believe that there is only one Name whereby we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12). Both believe in the necessity of responding to the divine invitation to seek him and to find him (cf. Acts 17:27).
II. THE BIBLICAL AND SYSTEMATIC FOUNDATION
(22) Catholics and Pentecostals both point to the biblical foundation of evangelization of all people. From the very beginning it was promised to Abraham that through him all generations would be blessed (cf. Gen 17:1-8). God’s covenant with Abraham has a global significance (cf. Gen 22:18). The prophets show that Israel's election also has importance for all peoples in that they expected the gathering of all peoples at Mount Sion at the coming of the Messiah (cf. Is 23; 49:6-8; Joel 3:1-5). Jesus' ministry in his earthly life was focused on Israel, not excluding others in special cases (cf. Mt 15:21-28), but he came for the salvation of the whole world (cf. Jn 3:15-17; Mt 26:28). Paul emphasizes the universal and cosmic dimensions of Jesus' death and resurrection (cf. 2 Cor 5:19; Rom 8:21). Then, receiving the Spirit from the Father, Jesus pours out that same Spirit as the agent through whom the work of redemption is being carried out throughout the whole world until the end of time (cf. Acts 2: 33). Therefore, the biblical mandate for mission is grounded in the redemptive purpose of God.
(23) The content of the message of salvation is Jesus Christ himself, the way to reconciliation with the Father; he is the Good News (cf. Gal 1:16), which he entrusted to his disciples (cf. Mt 28:19f). The Holy Spirit, poured out on all people (cf. Acts 2:17; Joel 3:1), is to be understood as giving the inner dynamism of the process of evangelization and salvation. The transmission of the Christian faith consists in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: "we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard"(Acts 4:20). And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ and the Father which is the basis of fellowship among Christians (cf.1 Jn 1:1-4).
(24) Catholics and Pentecostals agree that the proclamation of Jesus Christ is necessary for the liberation of humanity from sin and the attainment of salvation, because all are subject to "the fall," all are "lost." This condition results in alienation from God and also in alienation from others. Deliverance from oppression and domination of "the principalities and powers," including exorcism in certain cases, is an important part of Gospel proclamation.
(25) In the process of salvation, God always takes the initiative through grace which frees human hearts to respond (Acts 2:37). He acts through the Word and through the exercise of "signs and wonders" according to his sovereign will (cf. 1 Cor 2:4; Rom 15:18f). The only role humans have in reconciliation with God is to respond positively and constantly in the power of the Holy Spirit to God's initiatives through Jesus Christ, who is the only Mediator (1 Tim 2:5) and the Head of the Church (Col 1:18).
(26) The ordinary context in which salvation is worked out is the Church, the community of believers. Koinonia is to be lived out for the mutual enrichment of the members of the body (1 Cor 12: 26), which in turn makes it possible for the Church to become a servant, gift, and sign to the world. Acknowledging this and acting accordingly would counteract individualism and total independence of individual communities on the one hand and the tendency toward sterile formalism in personal and institutional life on the other.
(27) The life of koinonia is empowered by the Holy Spirit; in recent times many have experienced that power through "the baptism in the Holy Spirit." This presence of the Spirit has been shown in a fresh activity of biblical charisms, or gifts, (cf. 1 Cor 12:8-11) reminding all Christians to be open to charisms as the Spirit gives to everyone individually, whether these gifts are more or less noticeable. Some of the charisms are given more for personal edification (cf.1 Cor 14:4a), while some provide service to others, and some especially are given to confirm evangelization (cf. Mk 16:15-20). All of them are intended to help build up the koinonia.
III. EVANGELIZATION AND CULTURE
(28) Both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize the complexity of the relationship between Church and culture. The faith community evangelizes through its proclamation and through its common life: this means that our proclamation and our Christian lifestyle are always embodied in a specific culture. We accept that there is considerable good in cultures, notwithstanding the fact of humanity’s fall from grace. Pentecostals emphasize the changing of individuals who when formed into a body of believers bring change into the culture from within. Catholics emphasize that culture itself in its human institutions and enterprises can also be transformed by the Gospel.
(29) Pentecostals and Catholics agree that when the Gospel is introduced into a dominant non-Christian culture, a twofold attitude is required. On the one hand, we have to respect, affirm and support the positive elements in it, elements which will have prepared the people in advance for the reception of the Gospel or which are good in themselves. On the other hand, we may have to try to transform this non-Christian culture from within. To do this the local people may be in a better position than foreign missionaries who may be tempted to impose their own culture as a substitute for the Gospel.
(30) Pentecostals and Catholics also agree that both evangelizers and evangelized need to realize that neither operate in a cultural vacuum. Evangelizers act unjustly toward peoples and cultures if they import political, economic or social ideologies alongside the Gospel. The evangelized, too, must be aware of their own culture and religious history and discern how their response to evangelizers is faithful to the Gospel as embodied in their own religious history and culture.
(31) Pentecostals point out that in recent years an intentional and concentrated focus on "unreached peoples" has arisen. Some Evangelical Christian and Pentecostal movements have targeted the parts of the globe roughly fitting with the longitude/latitude configuration (the 10/40 window) for a significant emphasis of missionary personnel and finances. The 10/40 window includes regions in which the Gospel has never historically made significant inroads and shows Pentecostal consciousness that the so-called "unreached people" have been neglected.
(32) Pentecostals in this Dialogue wish to observe that in some cultural contexts, such as in Africa, or Asia, or even Latin America, Pentecostals have actively and successfully engaged in mission without the benefit of any formal training on issues related to the inculturation of the Gospel. They have actually communicated their Christian spirituality, worship, and forms of evangelization through their local cultures. Pentecostals believe that this process has been facilitated by their emphasis upon the freedom of the Holy Spirit, with their consequent openness to the diversity of forms of expression in the worship and praise of God (e.g. their recognition of dance as a genuine form of spiritual worship). Their missionary work has been effective because they have a missionary model based on the recognition that all members of the community have been given the gifts or charisms of the Spirit necessary to share the full message of the Gospel.
(33) Catholics not only see the need to evangelize persons, but also see the need to evangelize cultures, for example through educational institutions. Furthermore, they have often evangelized through aesthetics embodying religious values. However, the ultimate focus of evangelization is the person. Catholics acknowledge instances of shortcomings in their evangelization, for instance, by insufficient Christian initiation and discipleship formation and by not always bringing parishioners to a personal faith commitment. Shortcomings, however, can often be better understood if concrete conditions, such as poverty, illiteracy, a shortage of ministers and the structures of oppression are known.
(34) Both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize that the great social changes in Western society result in secularization processes and consequently a decline in religious practice. We deplore and condemn this secularization process, especially when these attitudes become part of a political agenda which promotes a value-free society in the name of tolerance and liberalism. To deplore and condemn are not enough. More positively, as Christians, we have to understand these new challenges and help our people to find new ways and insights to face them in light of Christian values. The fact is that many people face new challenges without guidelines in the fields of religion and ethics.
(35) For example, over the past thirty years, technological and scientific innovations have radically changed the concrete conditions in which human beings are born and die in the "Western world." Progress in medicine far more than philosophical ideology has influenced our way of seeing the beginning and end of human life. In former times, procreation and the birth of a child depended much more on "chance," and consequently parents placed their trust in Divine Providence in this matter. Today an increasing ability to regulate birth allows a child to be "planned." Well before birth, through the pictures we see, we know whether the child is a boy or a girl. Further, the birth of a child takes place in a medical environment, far from the family home.
(36) In the same way, at the other end of existence, no society before has ever seen such longevity, such a high proportion of elderly people. And none has taken death away from the family environment to such an extent: some 70 % of all people in western societies die in a hospital, in a medical and technical environment. Such far reaching changes require that we actively engage in these challenges and learn as a Christian community how to respond to them in our preaching, our liturgy and our service. In a way, we have to reformulate the everlasting message of salvation in a convincing way for contemporary men and women and not simply repeat it in antiquated language.
IV. EVANGELIZATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
(37) Since our traditions have approached the linkages between these two subjects in such different ways we have decided to have each side elaborate the connection in its own way before we show our convergences and differences.
(38) Pentecostal churches believe that they have been called by God in the "last days" (Acts 2:17) to be Christ-like witnesses in the power of the Spirit. One of the major contributions of Pentecostals to other Christian communities is an understanding of the Church as a Spirit-filled missionary movement which not only founds communities but also cultivates them, while the Holy Spirit empowers them with the charisms.
(39) Pentecostals have sometimes been accused of emphasizing evangelization to the exclusion of helping people in their practical needs. The sense of urgency which Pentecostals have concerning witness and salvation of the lost, like that of the early church, is not inconsistent with love and care for one another and for others. There are many examples of their sacrificial care throughout the world. The hope in the imminent coming of the Lord has sustained Pentecostals during persecution, harassment, imprisonment, and martyrdom during this century. They have consistently taught that the Church must be ready for the coming of the Lord by means of faithful witness and holy living. They have taught that all will have to give account to the righteous Judge for those things which have been done or left undone.
(40) Pentecostals have a great concern for the eternal salvation of the soul, but also for the present welfare of the body as is readily apparent on the high priority they give to the doctrine of divine healing. In addition, they have had a real concern for the social as well as for the spiritual welfare of their members, especially in the third world. Theologically, the rebirth of a person by the Spirit is the anticipation of the transformation of the cosmos (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Rom 8:21). This is why conversion and incorporation into the community of faith cannot be seen apart from the transformation of society. The person filled by the Spirit of God is impelled by that same Spirit to cooperate with God in the work of evangelism and social action in the anticipation of the new creation.
(41) With their increasing numerical strength and upward social mobility, Pentecostal communities are now confronted by greater challenges for the kinds of social justice and human rights concerns which the Catholic dialogue partners rightfully voice. Pentecostals continue to believe that intense hope has been and will continue to be necessary for endurance, healing and engagement of the forces - both social and spiritual - which oppress and violate people.
(42) If it seems to Catholics that Pentecostals have reflected too little on problems related to social structures, Pentecostals suggest that social conditions under which they existed during early stages of their corporate experience be kept in mind. They had no access to structures of power by which they could influence public policy directly. This has meant that:
A. Most Pentecostals do not give priority to systematic reflection on problems related to social structures. They place more attention on the ways people experience those problems in their own lives and communities.
B. Pentecostalism, for the most part, has not existed until recently among "well educated" people who are able to reflect more systematically on structural dimensions of social justice.
C. Pentecostals do not read the New Testament as placing high priority on structural change; rather they read it as emphasizing personal conversion and commitment to the communities of faith, and through that process they effect social change.
(43) The perceived lack of stress on structural change does not, however, imply a lack of interest in social issues. Pentecostal conversion, while being personal, is not simply an individual experience, but also a communal one. In the life of the community, Pentecostals have found a new sense of dignity and purpose in life. Their solidarity creates affective ties, giving them a sense of equality. These communities have functioned as social alternatives that protest against the oppressive structures of the society at large. Along with some social critics, Pentecostals have discovered that effective social change often takes place at the communal and micro-structural level, not at the macro-structural level.
(44) Pentecostals have continued to speak and act on behalf of those victimized by abortion, pornography, violence, oppression, etc. They have been concerned with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and providing emergency disaster relief. They have expanded their educational efforts and have begun to address issues of social-structural evil more explicitly. They are discovering their responsibility for those structures and their ability to influence them for good. This awareness was particularly fostered in situations of political and economic oppression.
(45) From their earliest existence, Pentecostals have been active in missionary endeavors in the so-called "Two/Thirds" world. The churches established there have opposed social evils from the pulpit and on an interpersonal level in the oral fashion typical of the non-literary culture of Pentecostals. This concerns evils such as the Caste-system in India, polygamy in Africa and the Pacific and genital mutilation in some African countries. Here exists a difficulty of perception. For older, more literary publics, only what is written and documented is perceived as having real existence. Pentecostals have begun to document work being done on these kinds of social issues in which they may have participated for many years.
(46) In recent years and in various parts of the world, there have been a number of attempts to formulate Pentecostal social ethics which address the issues of structural change. Some Pentecostals have used the category of the new creation/Kingdom of God with its characteristics of justice and peace to develop criteria for structural change. This has been connected with passages such as Luke 4:16-18 which demands the liberation of the oppressed in the power of the Spirit. Other Pentecostals speak more in terms of principalities and powers, of demonic forces which are present in the structures of the oppressive systems (cf. Eph 6:12; Col 2:13-15), that need to be fought with prayer and prophetic denunciation.
(47) But even prior to these efforts, Pentecostals sometimes consciously, but usually unconsciously, have long used a number of significant theological criteria for taking social responsibility. More specifically, the ongoing narrative or story of Pentecostal communities has functioned to move people from their experience of the biblical witness to serious and often successful attempts to solve social problems. Likewise, ethical concerns about matters of justice and peace have developed in Pentecostal communities as they have correlated specific biblical injunctions with the reading of the Bible as a whole.
(48) In summary, the emphasis Pentecostals place on personal evangelism and incorporation into Christian communities as a means of cultivating, pursuing, and even propagating social structures may differ in method or emphasis from other Christian communities. Certainly as these relatively young churches continue to grow and mature, they will need to grow also in their capacity to address social issues on the societal level from their own perspective and identity. Nevertheless, up to this point these emphases in Pentecostal ministry have not been without impact, and not just in terms of generating and supporting acts of mercy. All this being said, however, we would anticipate that the Pentecostal style of engaging in justice will continue to differ from that of other Christian traditions.
2. Catholic Reflections on Evangelization and Social Justice
(49) Catholics tend to view the questions of societal change, church and state relationships, and human rights, from the perspective of a complex and rich Catholic social teaching which is more than a century old in its development. It has its roots in the Scriptures, reached its highpoint at Vatican II, and continues on in the Pontificate of John Paul II. For example, two of these documents from Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World and the Decree on Religious Liberty put the Catholic Church on record as representing legitimate pluralism, religious liberty, and the rights of people to be politically and civilly self-determining. It furthermore holds that they have socio-economic rights. It sees the human person as the inviolable subject of these rights, which include religious liberty. Human freedom is the condition not only of civil liberty, but is fundamental to accepting the Gospel in the first place.
(50) The Synod of Bishops of 1971, which focused on the question of justice, spoke of the way in which the quest for justice is an important part of the mission of the Church in these words: "Action on behalf of justice and the transformation of society is integral to the mission of the Church and the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation" (Justice in the World, Introduction).
(51) All believers are called by God to engage in works of charity and to strive for social justice. According to the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People of Vatican II, the laity, within the church as a whole, led by the light of the Gospel and according to the mind of Christ, are called to renew the temporal order as their own special obligation (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 7). The Decree points to the need to change unjust structures, stating that "the demands of justice should first be satisfied. Not only the effects but also the causes of various ills must be removed. Help should be given in such a way that recipients may gradually be freed from dependence on others and become self-sufficient" (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 8).
(52) The transforming power of the Gospel on individuals, communities, and society is the grace of God, especially as mediated through Word and Sacraments. It is in the prayer of the Church, (i.e., in the Eucharist, in the other sacraments, as well as in the daily prayer of the people) that we are united to the transforming prayer of Christ. He taught us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom (Mt 6:10), which by its very nature is God's gift and work. We do not construct the Kingdom but rather ask for it, welcome it, and rejoice in its growth within us. Prayer empowers us, in fact, demands that we strive for just and loving relationships among people, in family, in community, and in society. These are all included in Christ's redemptive work.
(53) Any account of modern Catholicism's efforts in these matters of evangelization, education and social justice would be incomplete if it did not mention men's and women's religious communities. Many of these religious congregations view their doing works of justice and faith as intrinsic to their particular calling. Many of their members live out this vision at great sacrifice--even of their lives.
(54) To speak of the "Kingdom of God" is to speak of the ultimate will of God for the whole of creation. The symbol of the Kingdom conveys not only what we hope for but also a sense of urgency about our present responsibilities to be about the work of justice and the ministry of reconciliation between individuals, social classes and racial and ethnic groups. It also furnishes criteria for promoting social well-being on personal, communal, and structural levels.
3. Our Common Views Regarding Faith and Justice
(55) Pentecostals and Catholics agree that the Word of God is the foundation of both evangelization and social justice.
(56) In the Old Testament there is a strong insistence that the people whom God has freed should live justly (e.g. Jer 21:12 and 22:3; Amos 5:7-12; 8:4-6; Mic 6:12). One OT passage about justice, in particular (namely Is 61:1-3), is quoted by Jesus to characterize His own proclamation (Lk 4:18-21). The fact that we find in the Gospel both the Great Commission to evangelize the nations (Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-18) and the Great Commandment to love God and one's neighbor (Mt 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-34; Lk10:27-28) suggests that there is a continuum between the two.
(57) Koinonia as lived by the early Christians (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37) had social implications. Their communities did not act from a concept of social justice. The concern they showed for the poor, widows, and strangers was not seen as an entirely separate activity, but rather as an extension of their worship.
(58) We agree that:
- evangelization and love for one's neighbor are intrinsically connected and that basic to this love is active work toward social justice;
- even as we engage in evangelization, we need to give due attention to the social welfare of our neighbor.
- both Pentecostals and Catholics need to resist reductionism, anthropocentrism, and politicization of Christ or the Gospel; and the privatization of the Kingdom and individualization of society. Here we see a point of strong convergence.
(59) Clearly, any striving for social justice in which our faith communities engage needs to be rooted in the life of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father, who blessed the creation and called it good, commands us to look for justice for our neighbor, particularly orphans, widows, and foreigners (Jer 22:3-5).
God the Son, the Redeemer, who accomplished the work of salvation for the whole world, calls us to imitate His compassionate ministry of preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, healing the sick and feeding the hungry (Lk 4:16-21). In fact, He identifies himself with them (Mt 25:31-46).
God the Spirit, who gives life, empowers us to witness to the world - in word and deed (Acts 1:8). Life in the Holy Spirit, energizes Christians to engage in evangelization and to work for justice in society. Transformed people are compelled by the Spirit, the Creator and Sanctifier, to transform the world in the light of the in-breaking Kingdom of God.
4. Things We Have Learned Together: Perceptions and Convergences
(60) Pentecostals and Catholics exhibit strengths and weaknesses in their understanding and practice of evangelization and social justice. Pentecostals believe that Catholics do not appreciate the social impact of Pentecostal ministry. Though Pentecostals may lack a formal social doctrine, Pentecostal evangelization has arguably a powerful social impact on individuals, on family life and the whole community.
(61) We have come to realize that Pentecostals and Catholics have much to bring to one another with regard to social justice. While Catholics believe in the importance of personal faith, they also put great emphasis on the power of the Gospel to change societal structures. Pentecostals, on the other hand, have traditionally pursued social change at the individual and communal levels. Catholics wonder whether the Pentecostal theology of evangelization leaves them ill-equipped for engaging in social justice. Pentecostals believe that Catholics should take more seriously the importance of personal and communal transformation for promoting societal change.
(62) Catholics realize that in some predominantly Catholic regions of the world there are places where the Gospel does not always appear to be effectively proclaimed and/or lived out in daily life.
(63) Pentecostals believe that Catholics tend to minimize the impact of the power of the Holy Spirit when it brings concrete changes on the level of the individual, family and community. Pentecostals realize that in the past they were often not sufficiently aware of the implications of the Gospel for social systems.
(64) Pentecostals and Catholics agree that the regrettable division among Christians is a counter-witness to the credibility of the Gospel and a hindrance to the effectiveness of promoting justice in the world. Some non-Christians have used this division as a sign of God's favoring of their own particular faith.
(65) In the work of evangelization and social justice, we believe, as we have said above, that our communities are currently undergoing a form of convergence. While the Catholic Church is in a process of renewal in evangelization and pastoral formation, Pentecostals are growing in an awareness of their responsibilities in the matter of structures and social systems.
(66) Pentecostals and Catholics believe Jesus Christ to be the Lord of the Kingdom He came to proclaim, and in our preaching and understanding, the Kingdom of God and social justice should not be separated. Churches should strive to be faithful to the demands of the Kingdom of God. Scandal is given when the churches, in their social and historical existence, grow slack in pursuing the divine purposes of the Kingdom.
(67) We differ in our emphases on the sources of evil, specifically, as to what extent they are human, natural, and/or supernatural origin. We also differ in the ways in which to recognize and deal with them. This is an area in which both traditions have much to learn from one another. We see the need to explore together the theological nature of power and its appropriate or inappropriate mediations. We need to ask how our spiritualities explicitly or implicitly empower people to bear witness in evangelization and social justice.
1. Moving Towards a Common Position on Proselytism
(68) 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.
(69) 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.
(70) Still members of the Dialogue think that Pentecostals and Catholics already agree on critical points 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.
(71) 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.
(72) 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.
(73) 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.
(74) 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.
(75) 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. Judgments have taken place without proper consultation between them.
(76) Even if the motives of the 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.
(77) 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.
(78) 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.
(79) 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. Jn 17:21) starting with basic respect for one another, learning to love one another.
2. Replacing Dissatisfaction with Hope
(80) 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.
(81) 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.
(82) 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'.
(83) 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.
(84) 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.
(85) 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 disfellowship" 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.
(86) 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 unity. 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.
(87) 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.
(88) 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).
(89) 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
(90) 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."
(91) 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.
(92) 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 judgments 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.
(93) 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:
(94) 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.
(95) 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.
(96) 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.
(97) 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
(98) 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.
(99) 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 ). 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.
(100) 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.
(101) 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.
(102) Because of these convictions, members of the Dialogue reject:
(103) 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).
(104) 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). 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 , 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
(105) 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.
(106) 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" (Jn 17:21).
(107) 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.
(108) 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 learn 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. Jn 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.
(109) 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 judgment 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
(110) 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.
(111) 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.
(112) 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).
(113) 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.
(114) In the light of these issues, we offer the following proposals to our communities:
(115) 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.
(116) 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.
VI. COMMON WITNESS
(117) Jesus Christ is the unique witness to the Father, and the Spirit comes from the Father to witness to Jesus Christ. Therefore, witness which belongs to the nature of the Christian life, is an imperative of the Great Commission and is an ideal for which we strive. In different ways, both Pentecostals and Catholics base their witness on Matthew 28. Both consider the Pentecost event as central to their Christian faith. In the biblical sense witness is the unique testimony of the apostles and disciples to what they have seen and heard (1 Jn 1:1-4). Witness is rooted in the apostles' experience of Jesus who is the image of the Father sent in the power of the Spirit to return all to the source, the Father. Disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel (Acts 1:8; 4:20).
(118) Common witness means standing together and sharing together in witness to our common faith. Common witness can be experienced through joint participation in worship, in prayer, in the performance of good works in Jesus' name and especially in evangelization. True common witness is not engaged in for any narrow, strategic denominational benefit. Rather, it is concerned solely for the glory of God, for the good of the whole church and the good of humankind.
(119) Common witness requires personal inward conversion, a renewal of heart and mind. This enables all to hear the Word of God anew and to listen again to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Purification of our own hearts and minds and the renewal of our respective communities help make common witness a possibility. One sign that this purification has taken place is that in the process of growing mutual understanding and trust, our stereotypes of one another diminish. In other words, we change, but the change is not compromise.
(120) Once mutual trust as persons and reciprocal respect for each others' traditions has been established, then some limited measure of common witness is possible. Are there any precedents? There are innumerable precedents from all over the world. For example when a Pentecostal leader was murdered in Iran in 1995 the eulogy was preached by a Catholic priest. In Berlin the Classical Pentecostals are members of the association of churches and cooperate in its activities. In Munich a Benedictine monastery provided a Pentecostal pastor just starting his ecumenical ministry with meeting rooms in the center of the city. In the United States a Pentecostal invited a Catholic priest to give a retreat for ministers. A Pentecostal leader was invited to preach in the Catholic Cathedral in Los Angeles. The revivals of Billy Graham have long enjoyed both Pentecostal and Catholic participation. In Chile, some Pentecostal leaders participate together with Catholics, Orthodox and other Protestants in the Fraternidad Ecumenica. Pentecostals and Catholics charismatics have for some time now participated together in many ways, including planning such significant international conferences as those held in Jerusalem, Singapore, Bern, Brighton, Port Dickson (Malaysia), Kansas City, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Orlando.
(121) Pentecostals and Catholics are still at the beginnings of their relationship and their search for mutual understanding. Some are only now exploring ways of giving common witness. Others do not want to give common witness. As members of the Dialogue we believe that a limited common witness is already possible because in many ways a vital spiritual unity exists between us, a real though imperfect communion (Perspectives on koinonia 54-55). We already have communion in the grace of Jesus Christ. We both believe in the centrality of Scripture. We proclaim together that there is no evangelization unless the name, teaching and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is proclaimed (cf. Evangelization in the Modern World). We share a common belief in the Fatherhood of God; the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Messiah, Savior, and Coming Lord; the power of the Spirit for witness; the enduring nature of Pentecost; the love of God poured out through the Spirit. We both acknowledge the unique character of salvation, the belief that anyone without exception who is saved attains salvation through Jesus Christ; the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, the significant role of the charisms, the ten commandments and the beatitudes. Common witness shows the bonds of communion (koinonia) between divided churches.
(122) No one is called to compromise. Common witness is not a call to indifference or to uniformity. In fact though division and separation are contrary to the will of God, the diversity within the unity of the one Body of Christ is a precious and indispensable gift which is to be recognized, valued and embraced. Common witness prevents neither individuals nor communities from witnessing to their heritage. This can even include our witnessing separately on things over which we seriously disagree. However, this can be done without being contentious, with mutual love and respect.
(123) At a deeper level, common witness and forgiveness are intrinsically related to one another. Forgiveness also leads to a more credible common witness. Praying together is a case in point. In fact, mutual forgiveness is itself an act of common witness. Here equity in the recognition of guilt is not the goal. One side may have offended more than the other. That determination is left to God. Rather, as Jesus himself has given us an example, each side takes on the sins of the other. In Christian forgiveness it is not a question of who threw the first stone (Jn 8:7), of who did what to whom first; rather it is the willingness to make the first step. Both sides should take the initiative according to Gospel norms: Pentecostals should take the initiative for reconciliation because they feel themselves the most aggrieved; Catholics should take the initiative because they are the elder in inter-Church relations. In both cases, if asked for our coat, we give also our cloak; if asked to go one mile, we go two (Mt 5:41).
(124) We need to be aware of the dark side of our histories, with full recognition of all the circumstances which gave rise to the distrust. Forgiveness is based on the truth established by both sides. The truth shared by the followers of Christ is not established by a judicial procedure (cf. 1 Cor 6:4-7). There is another way of resolving difficulties, more appropriate for those who are profoundly related to one another in the unity of the Spirit. The offended should not have to prove their position to the last detail. The model here is a more relational one. Once mutual forgiveness has been expressed reconciliation should be effected. In our cases this reconciliation should be expressed publicly in a form acceptable to both groups.
(125) Both should have acquaintance with the other's history, and theological positions. Otherwise we will not escape our histories of mutual distrust. Common witness gives Pentecostals and Catholics the opportunity to work together in the writing of our common and separate histories, without excluding different interpretations of the facts. Once Pentecostal and Catholic students have a firm grounding in their own tradition sharing in institutes of higher learning is possible, especially in disciplines such as intellectual history, philosophy, government, law, sociology, and medicine. This activity could include not only students, but mature scholars. We already share in scholarly biblical research and we participate together in learned societies such as the Society of Pentecostal Studies.
(126) We often underestimate the degree of common witness which already exists among Pentecostal and Catholic relatives and neighbors who pray together and cooperate in many ways, including visiting the sick and caring for others. Is it possible that the people in our local congregations and parishes are perhaps more involved in common witness than their pastors and church leaders realize?
(127) In our Pentecostal-Catholic Dialogue, we have discovered two useful principles:
The first principle, "we cannot do what conscience forbids," emphasizes that our witness must be prudent, honest and humble. We recognize today that there are limits as to what we can do together. Both Pentecostals and Catholics have diverse pastoral and worship understandings, as well as doctrinal points which they do not fully share with one another. While we build on those things that unite us, our common witness should also acknowledge our divergences. The present inability of Catholics and Pentecostals to share together at the table of the Lord is a striking example of our divisions and the lack of common witness in this respect (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). All of us experience this as deeply troubling.
The second principle raises the provocative question: Why do we not do together what we can do together? While recognizing that relations between Pentecostals and Catholics are a matter of a growth progress, what is possible at a later stage of growth may not be possible at an earlier stage. Many Pentecostals and Catholics may not see some of our suggestions as options for today. But both need to know what doors can be opened, if not today, perhaps in the future. Above all, no one wants to close off either the present or future inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
(128) Some measure of common prayer seems indispensable for common witness. How can we witness together, if we have not prayed together? To pray together is already common witness. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is generally celebrated in January or before Pentecost, is a possibility. Pentecostals and Catholic charismatics already share profound experiences in prayer together. There could be exchange of pulpits related to non-eucharistic worship services. We can exchange films, videos and printed materials which explain the faith but betray no denominational animus.
(129) We believe that Pentecostals and Catholics can together be proactive in promoting values and positive actions in human society. In the spirit of Mt 25: 31-46, we can stand together against sin in promoting human dignity and social justice. Though with changing times other issues will present themselves, currently there are many examples of the kinds of issues on which we can work together. We can cooperate in such works as the quest for disarmament and peace, providing emergency relief for refugees, for victims of natural disasters, feeding the hungry, setting up educational opportunities for the illiterate, establishing drug rehabilitation programs and rescuing young women and men from prostitution. We can work together to eliminate racial and gender discrimination, working for the rights and dignity of women, opposing offensively permissive legislation (such as abortion and euthanasia), promoting urban and rural development and housing for the poor, denouncing violations of the environment and the irresponsible use of both renewable and unrenewable natural resources. In some parts of the world, Pentecostals already collaborate with Catholics on many of these issues and others, yet there are still many more opportunities for cooperation, especially in North America. Why do we do apart what we can do together?
(130) This document comes out of our experience of Dialogue with one another over twenty-five years on a variety of topics, with years of focused discussions on Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness. Strong bonds of affection and trust between Pentecostals and Catholics in the dialogue have created an atmosphere in which differences have been faced with candor, even when those differences seen to be irreconcilable. We hope that the text conveys something of the frustrating and rewarding moments that have been part of our experience over the years. We also hope that the text will help readers to re-experience what we ourselves experienced, namely, the joy of discovering together astonishing areas of agreement. But the text would lack integrity if it did not also offer to the reader the opportunity to re-experience with us the shocks of the gaps between our positions. Still we hold dear the unity in diversity which exists among us and look forward to the day when we may work more closely together despite our differences. In reality, what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Though the road to that future is not entirely clear to us we are firm in our conviction that the Spirit is calling us to move beyond our present divisions. We invite our readers to travel this road with us.
Roman Catholic Participants
*c Rev. Norbert Baumert, SJ
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
* Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa,
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
* Rev. John C. Haughey, SJ
Chicago, Illinois, USA
1990, 1991, 1992P, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
* Rev. Hervé Legrand, OP
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993P, 1994,1995, 1996, 1997
*s Rev. Kilian McDonnell, OSB
Collegeville, Minnesota, USA
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995P, 1996, 1997
Rev. Karl Müller SVD
St. Augustin, Germany
1990P, 1991P, 1992, 1993, 1994P
*c Dr. Donna Orsuto
*s Msgr. John A. Radano
Vatican City, Europe
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
s Msgr. Heinz-Albert Raem
Vatican City, Europe
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 (+ 1997)
* Rev. John Redford
1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997
* Sr. Helen Rolfson, OSF
Collegeville, Minnesota, USA
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
*s Rev. Juan Usma Gómez
Vatican City, Europe
1 Only those who attended the Dialogue in 1997 had a part in the final drafting and editing of this report. They are indicated with an asterisk (*). Steering Committee members are indicated with an (s), consultants with a (c), observers with an (o), and paper presenters with a (P) following the year in which they made a presentation.
Rev. Edith Blumhofer
Assemblies of God
Wheaton, Illinois, USA
o Rev. David Cole
Open Bible Standard Church
Prof. Murl 0. Dirksen
Church of God
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
s Justus du Plessis
[co-chair, 1990-1992, emeritus 1992-1997]
Apostolic Faith Mission
Faerie Glen, South Africa
1990, 1991, 1992
Rev. Howard Ervin
American Baptist Church
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Prof. Walter J. Hollenweger
Swiss Reformed Church
s Rev. James. D. Jenkins
Church of God
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
Prof. Cheryl Bridges-Johns
Church of God
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
1993, 1994, 1995
o Rev. Jackie Johns
Church of God
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
*s Rev. Ronald A.N. Kydd
Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
Keene, Ontario, Canada
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
o Rev. Steven J. Land
Church of God
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
Rev. Japie Lapoorta
Apostolic Faith Mission
Kuils River, South Africa
1990, 1991, 1992
* Rev. Gary B. McGee
Assemblies of God
Springfield, Missouri, USA
1990P, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997
Rev. William W. Menzies
Assemblies of God
Baguio City, Philippines
Rev. François Möller
Apostolic Faith Mission
Sandton, South Africa
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996
o Prof. Karen C. Mundy
Church of God
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
* Rev. Steve Overman
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
Eugene, Oregon, USA
1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
* Ms. Marta Palma
Mision Iglesia Pentecostal
Santiago, Chile/Geneva, Switzerland
1993, 1994, 1997
Rev. Coleman Phillips
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
Escondido, California, USA
1990, 1991, 1992
o Rev. Luis Carlos Pinto
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
Rev. Raymond M. Pruitt
Church of God of Prophecy
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA
1994, 1995, 1996
*s Rev. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr.
[treasurer, 1990-1992, co-chair 1992-1997]
Assemblies of God
Pasadena, California, USA
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994P, 1995, 1996, 1997
s Rev. Jerry L. Sandidge
Assemblies of God
Springfield, Missouri, USA
o Rev. Chris Stathis
Church of God of Prophecy
Ano Glyfada, Greece
Rev. Vinson Synan
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
* Rev. Del Tarr
Assemblies of God
Springfield, Missouri, USA
1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997
o Rev. Paul Tinlin
Assemblies of God
Schaumburg, Illinois, USA
o Rev. Cees van der Laan
Doorn, The Netherlands
Rev. Miroslav Volf
Croatian Pentecostal Church
Osijek, Croatia/Pasadena, California
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
Rev. Everett Wilson
Assemblies of God
Costa Mesa, California, USA
*o Rev. Huibert Zegwaart
Doorn, The Netherlands
1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
Official Documents of the Catholic Church
Second VAtican Council
- Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [Lumen gentium]
- Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et spes]
- Decree on Ecumenism [Unitatis redintegratio]
- Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People [Apostolicam actuositatem]
- Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity [Ad gentes]
- Declaration on Religious Liberty [Dignitatis humanae]
Pope Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, Apostolic Exhortation [Evangelii nuntiandi]
Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, 1971 [De iustitia in mundo]