Ethical conversion and freedom of religion

Evangelical and Pentecostal representatives will join an August 8-12 consultation on conversion with the World Council of Churches and the Vatican in Toulouse, France. The joint Vatican-WCC study process on religious conversion is moving closer to its goal of a common code of conduct in seeking converts to Christianity, according to Ekklesia.

Kicked off in May last year at a meeting that affirmed freedom of religion as a “non-negotiable” human right valid for everyone everywhere and at the same time stressed that the “obsession of converting others” needs to be cured, the three-year joint study process moves now into its second phase.

Intended as an intra-Christian discussion – whereas the first encounter featured participants from different faiths – the project’s second phase will consist of a high-level theological consultation entitled “Towards an ethical approach to conversion: Christian witness in a multi-religious world”.

At the consultation, some 30 Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal and Evangelical theologians and church representatives will aim to articulate what a common code of conduct on religious conversion should look like from a Christian viewpoint.

“Conversion is a controversial issue not only in interreligious relations, but in intra-Christian relations as well”, says Rev. Dr Hans Ucko, WCC’s programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. “In Latin America it is a source of tension between the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal movement, while in other regions Orthodox churches often feel ‘targeted’ by some Protestant missionary groups.

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