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News: The Conduct of Evangelism

According to this story featured in The Washington Post, several large church organizations may soon come together to create a “common code” of conduct in regard to witnessing to others about their faith. The World Council of Churches (WCC) said that the new initiative will determine how Christians should behave when attempting to win converts, not only among other Christian denominations, but also among other religions. The goal of the WCC is to have a resolution determined by 2009, but up till now, evangelical Christians have not participated in the conversation about coming up with a conversion rule book. A spokesperson for the WCC told The Washington Post, "Evangelical and Pentecostal representatives will be taking part in the dialogue for the first time, and we see this as a good sign for the eventual success of this project."

The first meeting brought leaders from several major world religions together, and a new meeting, planned for August, will join Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders for talks about conversion. One of the primary points of focus will be conduct guidelines in Muslim countries, where some hard-line leaders consider missionaries “enemies of the faith” and subject converts to severe punishments.

The issue of Christian missions work has been a prominent topic in the news lately, as a hostage crisis in Afghanistan continues to grab headlines. On July 19, Taliban insurgents kidnapped 23 Christian missionaries in South Korea. Two of them, including the group’s leader and pastor, were murdered. The insurgents are demanding a military withdrawal from the region and have continually threatened to kill the remaining hostages. One of the angles that many media outlets have been focusing on is the criticism by religious leaders who have called the missionaries “careless.” NPR recently aired a story about the dangers of missions work, especially in hostile countries, and made note of several personal security measures that the South Korean missionaries failed to take. Other reports accuse some missionaries of “lacking sensitivity.”

Some Christians, though, have reacted differently to the situation and WCC’s response to it. Mark Tooley, director of United Methodist Action at the Institute for Religion and Democracy, wrote in this column, “The WCC pronouncement is tepid and refers to the ‘negotiations’ between the Taliban killers and the South Korean government almost as though it were a labor contract at issue. When Christians are being brutalized specifically because of their faith in Jesus Christ, might not church officials, even those based in Geneva, be a little more spiritually expressive?” He also argues that the emphasis should not lie on a perceived “careless” action by the missionaries, but rather on the violent mind-set of the militants.

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As the hostage crisis continues to play out in the news, many Christians are coming to terms with their own ideas about how the Bible’s call to preach the Gospel should be implemented their own lives.

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