[World Council of Churches] A recent symposium in Leeds, United Kingdom, reflected on the document Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World and strongly proposed further systemic and academic research on the ethics of evangelization and conversion.
The document under discussion is a landmark statement addressing the conduct of Christian witness and was released 28 June 2011 by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) after five years of work.
The symposium held on 16 September was organized by Leeds Trinity University, under the leadership of Prof. Kirsteen Kim, former vice- moderator of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, and professor of theology and world Christianity at Leeds Trinity University.
“The threat to social cohesion, ethics of evangelization and the call to conversion has not received the attention it deserves in scholarship. The contentious issue still lies behind the development of theology and philosophy of inter-religious dialogue and the post-colonial re-thinking of Christian mission and evangelism,” stated Prof Kim in her introduction to the symposium.
“The present landscapes of evangelization and conversion are in a state of radical transition and encompass questions of religious freedom, human dignity, community cohesion and individual autonomy,” said Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar, the WCC's programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. “The opportunistic alliance of religion and politics impinges upon evangelization and conversion in an unprecedented manner today.”
Reflecting on the possibilities of further research, Rajkumar, who represented the WCC at the symposium, went on to say that “the nuanced revisiting of commonly presupposed and tacitly embraced notions of evangelization and conversions” is essential as global contexts undergo dramatic change.
“The strength of future research on the theme will lie not only in identifying the shifting boundaries of the theme but in exploring questions that inhabit interstices of these boundaries. The WCC, which is currently working on appropriate reception and reflection processes for the Christian Witness document, will watch this space with interest and enthusiasm,” added Rajkumar.
Among speakers at the symposium were Dr George Chryssides from the University of Birmingham; Dr Gavin Wakefield from Durham University; Rev. Dr Patrick A. Smythe from the Diocese of Leeds; Dr Suzanne Owen from Leeds Trinity University, Prof. Sebastian C.H. Kim from York St John University and Dr Ann Marie Mealey from Leeds Trinity University.