Sunday, 21 August 2011

Michael Goheen on a Missional Code of Conduct

Michael Goheen, ‘Missional Code of Conduct’, Cardus (3 August 2011).

Some time back, I linked to ‘Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World’, a document on the ethics of mission and evangelism produced by the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the World Evangelical Alliance.

Mike Goheen comments on it for Cardus. He notes that while the gospel was first proclaimed in the context of religious pluralism, for much of its history the church has ‘lived isolated from the great religious traditions of Asia and Africa, cut off by the power of Islam, and separated from the religions of the Americas by the ocean’.

Today, as he says, things are quite different. ‘The church has awakened to its missional identity. It is a global church which now exists in every part of the world. All major religions have experienced a resurgence in growth and vitality, and there are an escalating number of conflicts worldwide fuelled by racial, ethnic, religious, and ideological animosities.’

While the document doesn’t back down from the responsibility of the church to witness, he says, it ‘does not touch on the issue of the theology of religions, the kind of claims that are made for the finality of Christ, the issue of conversion, or a variety of other sticky theological issues that would have made any kind of ecumenical consensus impossible. It is a document that restricts itself to the ethics of witness – a global code of conduct for witness that will not betray the gospel or cause suffering for others’.

Goheen writes that he was encouraged (1) by its ‘strong affirmation of Christian witness’, (2) by its ‘remarkable display of ecumenical cooperation’, and (3) by its ‘thoroughly Trinitarian basis for Christian witness’.

However, he says:

‘I hope that the large theological issues this study group did not address – like the content of the gospel, the meaning of the work of Christ, the nature of world religions, and the nature of evangelism, witness, and mission, among other things – will remain subjects of ongoing discussion.’

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