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Some central parts of

The Report from the Fourth Phase

of the International Dialogue 1990 - 1997

Between the Roman Catholic Church

and some Classical Pentecostal Churches

and Leaders

on

EVANGELIZATION, PROSELYTISM

AND COMMON WITNESS

selected by Kees Slijkerman, june 1999

 

INTRODUCTION

  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. ()

(2) The unity of the Church is a concern for Pentecostals and Catholics alike. ()The goal is not structural unity, but rather the fostering of this respect and mutual understanding between the Catholic Church and classical Pentecostal groups.

(4) () We, the participants hereby submit our findings to our respective churches for review, evaluation, correction and reception.

(9) Both the Catholic and the Pentecostal participants of the Dialogue have become increasingly aware of the scandal of a divided witness. ()

 

I. MISSION AND EVANGELIZATION

  1. 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). ()

(15) () 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.

(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. () 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.

 

II. THE BIBLICAL AND SYSTEMATIC FOUNDATION

OF EVANGELIZATION

(25) In the process of salvation, God always takes the initiative () 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).

  1. 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. ()

 

III. EVANGELIZATION AND CULTURE

(28) () 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.

(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. () The fact is that many people face new challenges without guidelines in the fields of religion and ethics.

 

 

IV. EVANGELIZATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

()

4. Things We Have Learned Together: Perceptions and Convergences

(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 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.

  1. 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. ()

(65) () 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.

(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.

 

V. PROSELYTISM

1. Moving Towards a Common Position on Proselytism

  1. 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. () Some people, in both traditions, have made it clear that they do not want Catholics and Pentecostals to speak to one another. ()
  2. (69) () 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. () (Perspectives on koinonia, 55). ()

  3. Still members of the Dialogue think that Pentecostals and Catholics already agree on critical points of faith. ()

(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. ()

(77) () 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. ()

(78) () 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

(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. () 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'.

  1. () 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. ()
  2. 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." ()

(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.

3. Defining the Challenge

(91) () 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 ways of interpreting whether or not a person can be considered an evangelized Christian.

(93) () 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.

  1. 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. ()

4. Promoting Religious Freedom

(104) () 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" () Religious freedom includes the freedom to embrace a religion or to change one's religion without any coercion which would impair such freedom.

5. Resolving Conflicts in the Quest for Unity

(106) () 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. ()

(108) () 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. ()

 

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 respects the free will and dignity of those to whom it is given, whether or not they wish to accept.

  1. () 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. ()
  2. 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. ()
  3. 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.

 

VI. COMMON WITNESS

  1. () True common witness is not engaged in for any narrow, strategic denominational benefit.

(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. () There are innumerable precedents from all over the world. () 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) () 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.

(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. ()

(127) In our Pentecostal-Catholic Dialogue, we have discovered two useful principles:

()

(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.

  1. This document comes out of our experience of Dialogue with one another over twenty-five 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.

The whole document is published in "Information Service" nr.97 (1998/ I-II) of the Pontificial Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Vatican City, and by Pneuma, the journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, USA.