Evangelical-Catholic Statement Criticized

The Christian Century, May 18, 1994 | Go to article overview

Evangelical-Catholic Statement Criticized


Latin American Baptist leaders, citing the continued need for a Christ-centered evangelism, say they have no plans to sign on to a recent statement by prominent Catholics and evangelicals condemning proselytizing between the two groups. "This document is either excessively naive or . . . a sort of tricky trap," Daniel Carro, a professor at International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires, said in a report issued by Baptist Press.

The statement in question, titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium," emphasizes among other matters social concerns--such as opposition to abortion--that increasingly unite some Catholics and conservative evangelicals in the U.S. The 25-page document acknowledges that it is unofficial and nonbinding on any denomination. Commented conservative Roman Catholic George Weigel, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and one of the drafters of the accord: "It's precisely because |Evangelicals and Catholics' is an informal statement claiming no official status that it can facilitate a frank debate about the priorities of evangelization in the l990s and beyond."

The March 29 statement asks Catholics and evangelicals worldwide to consider ending "proselytizing" or so-called "sheep-stealing" between the two groups, flocks. That section of the statement drew quick criticism from some Southern Baptist officials. Trustees of the SBC Foreign Mission Board, meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, April 28, unanimously approved a motion clarifying the role of evangelization for Baptists as they encounter members of other faiths. The trustees, resolution declared that Baptist missionaries are free to try to convert inactive church members, including Roman Catholics.

According to Pat Bullock of Corpus Christi, a Foreign Mission Board trustee, portions of the joint declaration that speak of proselytizing or "sheep-stealing" create the wrong impression. "We affirm the appropriateness of missionary witness among populations and individuals characterized by nominal or former allegiance to any Christian denominations," the board's motion argued. "And we reject any suggestion that such witness should be characterized as |sheepstealing,' proselytizing or a wasteful use of resources."

Baptist leaders in Latin America-where Roman Catholicism has dominated for centuries--are now expressing views similar to those of the SBC's Foreign Mission Board. Rolando Gutierrez-Cortes, president of the National Baptist Convention of Mexico, called the statement's section one vangelism "a way to evade [Roman Catholic] churches, responsibility of pastoral care on the one hand and, on the other, [evangelicals,] responsibility of delivering a Christ-centered message of salvation and a Bible-centered message of faith and behavior. …

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