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Evangelization, Proselytism, and Common Witness: Roman

Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue on Mission, 1990-1997

Veli-Matti Krkkinen

or the past quarter of a century the two largest Christian

communitiesthe Roman Catholic and the Pentecostalhave been in dialogue at the international level.1 Although
this historie dialogue has escaped the notice of even ecumenical
professionals, its significance can hardly be overestimated. With
regard to sheer numbers of Christians, the significance of the
Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue is immense; together these two
Christian families represent at least two-thirds of world Christianity.2
In the 1990s the dialogue teams dared to take up the subjects
of mission, proselytism, and common witness. An indication of
the delicateness of these issues may be seen in the fact that in the
early 1990s in Latin America alone about 8,000 Catholic faithful
left their churches every day to join Pentecostal and other charismatic churches.3

tion, and since significant tensions exist between Pentecostals

and Catholics on this issue, it appeared appropriate to concentrate on this topic" (no. 5).6
Although the goal of the dialogue was not structural unity,
the Pentecostal and Catholic participants alike shared a concern
for the unity of the church, and they engaged in the dialogue with
the aim of fostering respect and mutual understanding. Both
Catholics and Pentecostals "have become increasingly aware of
the scandal of a divided witness. It is a scandal when unbelievers
are more aware of those things which separate these churches
than those things they hold in common. It is a scandal, too, when
Catholics and Pentecostals demonstrate a lack of love or trust by
speaking negatively about one another or acting in ways that
antagonize or exclude one another" (no. 9).

Theological Basis of Mission

Development of the Dialogue

In 1972 the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the
Roman Catholic Church and leaders of the Pentecostal World
Conference initiated the Roman Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue.
The initial contacts were made by Fr. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B.,
and the late David du Plessis.4
The topics and themes for the various phases can be summarized in these terms:

Mutual introduction (first quinquennium, 1972-76);

Contra-positions (second quinquennium, 1977-82);
Search for common identity (third quinquennium, 1985-89);
Mutual cooperation in the Christ-given mission (fourth
quinquennium, 1990-97).

The first quinquennium, 1972-76, focused on establishing

mutual trust and understanding. Discussions were mainly on the
phenomena of Pentecostalism, an area fairly unfamiliar to most
of the Catholic team members. The second quinquennium, 197782, covered faith and experience, hermeneutics, speaking in
tongues, healing, tradition, the church as communion, Mary, and
ministry. The overall theme for the third quinquennium, 198589, was Communion of Saints. This phase produced a highly
acclaimed report entitled Perspectives on Koinonia.5
The fourth phase of the dialogue covered seven years, 199097, with five consultations over five years followed by two years
devoted to preparation of the final report. The themes of the
consultations were Meaning of Mission and Evangelization (1990);
Biblical and Systematic Foundation of Evangelization (1991);
Evangelization and Culture (1992); Evangelization and Social
Justice (1993); Evangelization/Evangelism, Common Witness,
and Proselytism (1994), and Common Witness (1995). Final Report 1990-1997 explained the reason for selecting evangelization
and mission: "Since many Christians have seen the last decade of
the second millennium as one in which to emphasize evangeliza-

Theologically and ecclesiologically Roman Catholics and Pentecostals are in many ways diametrically opposed to each other.
The one is a highly structured, hierarchical church with a pronounced sacramental theology and a formal liturgy, while the
other is a lay movement, with spontaneous worship style,
nonwritten (oral) theology, and no international body to speak
for it.
Against this background, it is highly significant that the
Roman Catholic and Pentecostal participants came to agreement
on the theological and biblical basis of mission. The biblical basis
of mission is described in Final Report 1990-1997. The missionary
nature of the church and missionary intention of God is seen as
an overarching principle of both the Old and New Testaments
(no. 22), and mission is described in a holistic way. In accordance
with recent conciliar understanding, mission at its most fundamental level is described as missio Dei.
Both Roman Catholics and classic Pentecostals hold that the
incarnation of the Son of God has brought to the world a unique
revelation of God. They therefore place the core of evangelization in the person of Christ: "The content of the message of
salvation is Jesus Christ himself, the way to reconciliation with
the Father" (no. 23). Significantly enough, Final Report 1990-1997
quotes the Catholic mission document Evangelii nuntiandi (no. 5)
almost verbatim. The Holy Spirit, seen as the primary mover in
evangelization and salvation, is the dynamism "at work in the
internal building up of the church as well as in the work of
spreading the Gospel 'to the ends of the earth/ " 7


The relationship between culture and Gospel is extremely complex. Catholics and Pentecostals acknowledge that proclamation
and Christian lifestyle are always embodied in a specific culture.
Both accept also that there is considerable good in cultures,
notwithstanding the fact of humanity's fall from grace (no. 28).
(Catholics tend to value human cultures more because of the
Veli-Matti Krkkinen, former president of Iso Kirja College in Finland,
is doctrine of grace fulfilling what is lacking in nature.)
It was agreed that evangelists act unjustly toward peoples and
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary,
cultures if they import political, economic, or social ideologies
Pasadena, California.


alongside the Gospel. The evangelized must also be aware of

their own culture and religious history and must discern how
their response to the evangelizers is faithful to the Gospel as
embodied in their own religious history and culture (no. 30).
The term "secularization," though widely used in this dialogue as well as in missiological discussion elsewhere, is an
ambiguous term. The 1985 symposium of European bishops
rightly paid more attention to the empirical and historical (instead of metaphysical) notion of secularization, according to
which there is probably no such a thing as secularization per se,
but only varied situations that are the result of complex social
compromises. In that approach, secularization, rather than being
viewed as an obstacle to evangelization, was seen as a tool to help
one think through the connection between religion and the
surrounding society.8
Pentecostals in Latin America have had to tackle massive
social problems, such as the deterioration of the structure of the
society and increasing feelings of helplessness. In contrast, Catholics have focused attention on the challenges facing Europe with
the increase in secularization, particularly of women. This development is not necessarily a fruit of the feminist movement. It is
traced, rather, to such factors as the progress of medicine and
women's paid work in post-industrial societies. The development of medicine has enabled the control of birth and reduced
infant mortality. Financial independence leads to a yearning for
equality. Women tend to affirm their independence from institutions, such as the church, that are dominated by men (no. 34).
Secularization in the popular sense of the weakening of
Christian commitment is something to be deplored and condemned. More positively, however, it is to be met with a Christian message. The tragedy of secularization is that many people
face new challenges without guidelines from the fields of religion
and ethics (no. 34). Secularization is also occurring in the church,
not just outside, as Christians adopt the values of materialistic
culture or use the Gospel for political purposes.
What then, is the proper reaction of churches to changing
social circumstances, pluralism, and growing secularization?
The dialogue members, although entertaining somewhat differing emphases, believe that intensification of evangelization and
informed contextualization are the necessary means to counter
these challenges.

In the Old Testament there is a strong insistence that the

people whom God has freed should live justly (e.g., Jer. 21:12;
22:3; Amos 5:7-12; 8:4-6; Mie. 6:12). The fact that we find in the
Gospels both the Great Commission to evangelize the nations
(Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18) and the Great Commandment to
love God and one's neighbor (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34;
Luke 10:27-28) suggests that there is a continuum between the
two (no. 56).
Models for the practice of evangelization and social justice
are also found in the life of the early church (Acts 2:42-47; 4:3237). Evangelization and social justice are intrinsically linked, so
that the church cannot have one apart from the other. The
common agreement shows without the slightest doubt that

Evangelism and social justice

are intrinsically linked, so
that the church cannot have
one apart from the other.

Social Justice
It is a standard charge by many Catholics, especially in Latin
America, that Pentecostals are indifferent to social concern and
one-sided in their emphasis on evangelism. To be sure, Pentecostals have not articulated a theology of social concern, although in
recent years some promising attempts have been made.9 Instead,
Pentecostals have offered service to the hungry, naked, persecuted, socially disadvantaged, and so forth.
Catholic social teaching, with a much longer history, is still
in the making. The Vatican II documents Gaudium et spes and
Dignitatis humanae provide a contemporary basis. The theological starting point is the grace of God in the transforming power
of the Gospel on individuals and communities. It is disputed
whether social justice is "integral"10 to proclamation or "constitutive"11 to the preaching of the Gospel.
It is significant ecumenically that in principle Catholics and
Pentecostals are in agreement that evangelization and social
justice belong together and cannot be separated. They agree that
the Word of God is the foundation of both evangelization and
social justice (no. 35).
January 2001


Pentecostals too have committed themselves to the integral

relation of evangelization and social justice. This does not mean,
however, the giving up of the prioritization of personal evangelism and individual conversion.
Significantly enough, there is a Trinitarian approach to the
theology of social concern: "Clearly, any striving for social justice
in which our faith communities engage needs to be rooted in the
life of God/Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (no. 59).
Life in the Holy Spirit energizes Christians to engage in
evangelization and to work for justice in society. "Transformed
people are compelled by the Spirit, the Creator and Sanctifier, to
transform the world in the light of the in-breaking Kingdom of
God" (no. 59).
The overall topic of the third quinquennium (1985-89) was
koinonia, which has a bearing upon social justice. It was agreed
that koinonia as lived by the early Christians had social implications. Their communities did not act from a concept of social
justice. Rather, the concern they showed for the poor, widows,
and strangers was seen as an extension of their worship (no. 57).
The faith communityas seen in the New Testament and in the
contemporary worldevangelizes through its proclamation and
through its communal life. This lifestyle is but the living out of the
koinonia given to the church by the Holy Spirit.
The absolute norm for social justice is nothing less than the
kingdom of God, a point on which both Pentecostals and Catholics agree (no. 66).

Proselytism: "The Hot Potato"

Pentecostals have rarely addressed the issue of proselytism,12
and to date they have not participated directly in the development of any ecumenical documents that address the problem of
proselytism. They are among the groups most frequently charged
with proselytizing activities, but typically they have not been
invited to participate in discussions on the subject, nor is it
readily apparent that they are particularly concerned to address
the subject themselves. Proselytism, understandably, is a concern of older, more established historic churches. The evangelizing activities of such groups as Pentecostals have been effective
to the point that older churches are alarmed by the danger of

losing a substantial number of their members as a result of such

Since the beginning of the dialogue process (1972), the
members of the Roman Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue have committed themselves to address the issue of proselytism. Final
Report 1990-1997 notes that the fact that "this discussion has at
last begun is a sign of the growing trust and maturation of
Pentecostal-Roman Catholic relations" (no. 68). Both teams entered into a conversation on this topic with a number of misgivings, largely because of a long history of mutual suspicion and
hostility. In Jpoth churches there are Christians who would not
feel it appropriate for the dialogue to take up this issue. Both the
Catholic and the Pentecostal teams debated within themselves,
and then together, the wisdom of undertaking such a discussion
in light of possible repercussions on their mutual and growing
relationship (no. 68).

The 1993 Pentecostal position paper is very frank about the

issue of proselytism. It states, "They [Pentecostals] are, at times,
guilty of the charges. They share what they believe to be the
Gospel, even attempting to convert people who say that they are
part of another tradition." But the paper underscores the fact that
there must be a reason or reasons for the Pentecostals' behavior.
Some of these reasons, as already alluded to above, come "as a
result of Pentecostal understandings of ecclesiology, of spiritual
discipline, of Christian discipleship, of fruit in the Christian life
which points to the transformation which has taken place or is
taking place in the one who claims to be Christian." Charges that
Pentecostals proselytize merely in order to increase their members at any cost, or that they do so to further some (North
American) political agenda, have been largely discredited in
recent years by respectable non-Pentecostal scholars who have
looked at the growth of Pentecostalism.13
The 1994 Santiago Faith and Order meeting issued probably
the most adequate explanation in relation to newer groups and
charges against their proselytizing action: "[We] believe that
most groups and persons who are engaged in such activities do
so out of a genuine concern for the salvation of those they
address." The same statement, however, continues with a plea
for dialogue in order for some methods and intentions to be
challenged by other churches.14
Whatever distorted motives there may have been in Pentecostal evangelization, for the purposes of ecumenical dialogue
the record must be clear: "In a very real sense evangelization is
the self-understood raison d'tre of the Pentecostal Movement."15
In other words, to speak about Pentecostals is to speak about
evangelization. What some churches regard as proselytism is for
most Pentecostals an urgent passion for the fulfillment of their
mandate. Pentecostals regard a lack of passion for the salvation
of souls as abnormal; a passion to carry the message to the ends
of the earth in the power of the Spirit is normal.
Ecumenically, it must be noted that there is a definite difference between true evangelization and proselytism. When Catholics on their own volition may choose to leave the church and join
other churches, this change does not constitute proselytism.
Catholics in the dialogue were prepared to acknowledge this
pointa truly significant concession.
Catholics and Pentecostals mutually concluded that
"proselytism is an unethical activity that comes in many forms,"
some of which are (no. 93):

The first step in moving

beyond name-calling is for
the churches to take one
another more seriously.
The issue of proselytism arises between Pentecostals and
Catholics largely because of a lack of a common understanding
of the relationship between the church, on the one hand, and
baptism as an expression of living faith, on the other hand (no.
69). The dialogue was bold enough to take examples where the
older church (usually Catholics) has been frustrated by the
"attacks" of newer groups (usually Pentecostals). On the one
hand, the newcomers often have not appreciated the centurieslong evangelizing efforts of the older churches or their wide
impact on people and culture (no. 71); they have not always
regarded them as true Christians (no. 82). On the other hand,
Catholicism, with its earlier Christianization of a given culture,
has taken for granted that the culture remains permeated by faith
(no. 73). The method of entrance by the newer groups has not
always been led by the Spirit of the Gospel, nor have the older
churches been willing to talk to the newcomers (no. 76). At times,
instead of open communication, there has been persecution (no.
82). Conflict arises when, without personal acquaintance, the
newcomers, whose motives often are legitimate, do not appreciate the efforts of the established churches ( nos. 75, 76). Lack of
communication leaves the door open for more conflict, resulting
in further disunity, which then becomes "a stumbling block to
the world and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature" (no. 78).
It would seem that the first basic step in moving past the state
of name-calling is for the churches to begin to take one another
more seriously. Unilateral actions that violate others do not
communicate community. Neither does name-calling, nor the
making of accusations to third parties, without first addressing
the perceived offender.
Contrary to what some Pentecostals believe, the discussion on
proselytism is not meant to downplay or hinder evangelization but
rather to help it. Both parties agree: "What we both desire is the
pure preaching of the Gospel. Most of our conflicts diminish if we
agree that this is what evangelization is all about" (no. 78).

all ways of promoting our own community of faith that are

intellectually dishonest, such as contrasting an ideal presentation of our own community with the weaknesses of another
Christian community;
all intellectual laziness and culpable ignorance that neglect
readily accessible knowledge of the other's tradition;
every willful misinterpretation of the beliefs and practices of
other Christian communities;
every form of force, coercion, compulsion, mockery or intimidation of a personal, psychological, physical, moral, social,
economic, religious or political nature, etc.
This definition calls for several observations. First, the definition follows closely the most important conciliar statements.
Second, it includes attitudes as well as actions itself. Third, the
point of departure is the individual's right of freedom in every
aspect of Christian life.



Toward a Common Witness

principle emphasizes that the common witness must be prudent,

honest, and humble. It also recognizes the limits of common
"What shape, if any, would common witness take between two witness because of different pastoral, doctrinal, and polity is
traditions which are either in the initial stage of ecumenical sues. While Catholics and Pentecostals build on those things that
relationships, or belong to denominations which are uneasy unite them, common witness would also acknowledge the exist
about any form of ecumenism?" asks the Catholic co-chairperson ing differences, the most striking of which is division around the
Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B. He further asks: "Is it even possible for Lord's Table. The second principle urges us to use every possible
Christians of different traditions to express their faith together in means of doing common witness and to grow toward greater
natural ways without committing themselves to structural re potential (no. 127).
union? Is it possible to engage in common witness while rejecting
Prayer and social action are especially commended along
ecclesiastica) reunion as an ideal? Are there no . . . choices with evangelization. Some measure of common prayer seems
between organic reunion on the one hand, and no common indispensable for common witness. How can there be a witness
witness whatsoever on the other hand?" 1 6
together if Catholics and Pentecostals do not pray together? In
The theological basis of common witness is found in Jesus fact, praying together is already a common witness (no. 128).
Christ, the Absolute Witness. As already seen, Pentecostals can Good works of love can take numerous forms, from quest for
agree with Catholics who, in the words of Pope Paul VI, say: disarmament and peace, to providing emergency relief for refu
"There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, gees, to rehabilitation of drug-addicted persons and prostitutes
the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, (no. 129).
the Son of God are not proclaimed." 17 It is the experience of Jesus
That these kinds of suggestions are not without a basis in
that unites Catholics and Pentecostals in a common task. But actual experience is seen in the growing number of precedents
there are also a host of biblical truths that join Pentecostals and already in existence. On the one hand, there is an unrecorded
Catholics and point to common witness, McDonnell adds. 18 amount of common witness in terms of prayer, visitation of the
"Once mutual trust as persons and reciprocal respect for each sick, witnessing, and other kinds of cooperation going on at the
others' traditions has been established, then some limited measure grassroots level. A number of recorded examples of a common
of common witness is possible" (no. 122, emphasis added). When witness can encourage for future efforts: a eulogy preached by a
we take into consideration the goal of the dialogue, spiritual Catholic priest in Iran 1995 when a Pentecostal leader was
exchange rather than structural union, this kind of approach murdered; a Pentecostal leader invited to preach in a Catholic
seems viable.
cathedral in the United States; the cooperation of Pentecostals
A limited common witness is already possible, because in and Catholic charismatics at local and international levels; and
many ways a vital spiritual unity exists between Catholics and the interdenominational evangelistic campaigns of Billy Gra
Pentecostals, a real though imperfect communion (no. 122). For ham, where both Pentecostals and charismatics (including those
the Roman Catholic Church the basis of ecumenical dialogue, from the Catholic Church) are actively involved (no. 120). The
and consequently of limited common witness, is found in the last item is significant in that it shows the possibility of direct
Catholic recognition of the baptism performed by Pentecostals in evangelistic ventures between Christians from various churches,
the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This implies even when there might be significant doctrinal differences.
a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.19 Pentecostals do not see
What is needed is willingness to forgive past attitudes and
unity between Christians as being based in a common water sins against each other by the grace and justice of God. In fact,
baptism, mainly because they believe that the New Testament forgiveness, as united prayer, is already common witness. Both
does not base unity in baptism. Instead, they believe that the sides are called to take initiative for reconciliation (no. 123).
foundation of unity is a common faith and experience of Jesus Forgiveness is based on the truth established by both sides. The
Christ as Lord and Savior through the Holy Spirit. This belief truth is not established by a judicial procedure (see 1 Cor. 6:7) but
implies that, to the extent that Pentecostals recognize that Roman by a relational one. Once mutual forgiveness has been expressed,
Catholics have this common faith in and experience of Jesus as reconciliation can be effected. Both teams urge their churches to
Lord, they may share a real through imperfect koinonia with publicly express reconciliation in a form acceptable to both
them. 20 The understanding of what constitutes the basis of groups (no. 124). When forgiveness and reconciliation are ef
koinonia and thus common witness is different, but the fact of a fected, personal inward conversion, the renewal of heart and
real, though imperfect, koinonia is affirmed.
mind, are also attainable. One sign of this change is growing
Furthermore, there is a clear Christological concentration, mutual understanding and trust. "In other words, we change,
or, to be theologically more precise, a pronounced Christological- but the change is not compromise" (no. 119).
Trinitarian approach. In a striking sentence, the Trinitarian out
look is described as a divine program a atre ad Patrem: "Witness What About Differences?
is rooted in the apostles' experience of Jesus who is the image of
the Father sent in the power of the Spirit to return all to the source, With regard to divergences on mission and evangelization be
the Father" (no. 117).
tween Catholics and Pentecostals, we must keep in mind the fact
It is emphasized repeatedly that common witness does not that the participants were engaged in dialogue more than fifteen
imply downplaying or neglecting important doctrinal differ years before starting the final quinquennium in 1990. The earlier
ences, nor does it involve abandoning one's convictions and phases revealed some radical differences in soteriology and
identity. It is not an exercise in compromise and can sometimes ecclesiology that had bearing on the topics of the dialogue on
lead to a separate, even contradictory witness, though always in mission (but they were not revisited in the final phase).
love and candor (no. 123).
The main divergences can be listed as follows: (1) salvation
Two useful principles were commended for churches: "We outside ekklesia and the role of the Holy Spirit in the mission, (2)
cannot do what conscience forbids. We can do together what the nature of conversion, and (3) the focus of evangelization.
conscience permits in the area of common witness." This first
Salvation outside ekklesia and the role of the Holy Spirit in


mission. Catholics and Pentecostals have differing ideas about

the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelization.21 While both agree
that the Spirit prepares the hearts of men and women to receive
the Gospel and that all who will be saved are saved because of
Christ, most Pentecostalswho base their understanding on a
strict reading of the New Testamentoppose the Catholic idea of
the possibility of salvation outside ekklesia. The Catholic view has
several nuances, even tensions,22 but it is a view much more open
to the possibility of salvation outside the church than the Pentecostal view, which basically equates with the (older) Protestant
view and tik current evangelical approach. When the issue
reappeared in the fourth quinquennium, it was admitted (to a
limited measure) that a shared anthropology and openness to the
Spirit might provide seed thought for further discussions (nos.
The role of the Holy Spirit in the world (and, consequently,
in mission) is generally emphasized differently in Catholicism
and Pentecostalism, although as we have seen above, both acknowledge the Spirit's indispensable role. For Pentecostals, the
Holy Spirit brings power, zeal, and persistence in proclamation
and a "mountain moving" faith. They speak freely about spiritual gifts and "signs and wonders." While Catholics do not deny
any of these (although they feel uneasy about the signs-andwonders language), they see the Spirit's role more as a quiet
process than as a sudden outpouring. Most probably, this difference of orientation does not necessarily have to do with theology
so much as with an ecclesiocultural frame of reference. Pentecostals are used to thinking of the work of the Spirit more in "power"
terms, while Catholics appreciate more his role behind the scenes.
The nature of conversion. Both Catholics and Pentecostals
affirm the necessity of conversion as the goal of proclamation.
But because of differing soteriological and ecclesiological doctrines, the topic of conversion is generally approached from a

For Pentecostals social

justice is not a cause but a
consequence of successful

The Roman Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue is a remarkable
achievement, a true exercise on the frontiers of ecumenism.
Reading Final Report 1990-1997 on mission and its related themes,
one might get the impression that ground-breaking results were
achieved between these two churches. Both parties condemn
proselytism, while strongly supporting legitimate evangelization. Both parties have a mutual vision for the importance of
social justice in mission. There is no need to downplay these
historic mutual affirmations. They truly point the way to a more
cordial relationship between these two churches.
At the same time we must admit that there is more to the
issue of mission, evangelization, and proselytism than the reading of this document reveals. There are radical theological divergences that have to do especially with ecclesiology and related
themes as well as salvation. Even if the third quinquennium, with
its topic of koinonia, has clarified foundational ecclesiological
themes, it has not solved them. Reading the remarkable document Perspectives on Koinonia leaves one with some unanswered
questions. Did the dialogue really uncover what are considered
to be the main doctrinal and polity divergences between Catholics and Pentecostals? Is there not also the related question of
faith, salvation, and sacraments, which are at least as challenging

different orientation. Pentecostals insist on an individual, personal conversion, whereas Catholics, while not downplaying the
meaning of individual conversion, attempt proclamation for a
broader orientation. Pentecostals are concerned as to whether
the Catholic inculturation remains true to the Gospel in terms of
individuals converted and spiritually nourished, while for Catholics their main concern is to relate conversion to the social context.
This difference of orientation is also visible in relation to
social justice. For Catholics the point of departure is the grace of
God, mediated through the Word and sacraments, in the transforming power of the Gospel on individuals, communities, and
societies. Catholics are disposed to address not only individuals
but also social structures and cultures with the changing power
of the Gospel. The Pentecostal focus has been on the change of
individuals to change societies. For Pentecostals social justice is
not a cause but a consequence of successful evangelistic efforts.
Conversion is seen primarily in individualistic categories (nos.
60-64 especially).
For Catholics, conversion means a lifelong process, whereas
Pentecostals generally think in terms of a radical, sudden converJanuary 2001

sion experience. It must be admitted that the difference of orientation does not relate so much to theology per se as to different
ecclesiocultural contexts. It has also to do with differing sacramental views. Catholics practice infant baptism, with the expectation that later on the Spirit will quicken the faith of the baptized,
while Pentecostals baptize those who have experienced conversion.
The focus of evangelization. While Pentecostals and Catholics
agree that all people, whether non-Christians or Christians of
other churches, need to hear the Gospel in an evangelistic manner, there is a difference in focus. Catholics generally think of
evangelization as an action toward those who have never heard
or toward their own members who have lost their faith. When it
comes to proclaiming the evangelistic message to Christians of
other churches, they prefer to speak of "witness." Pentecostals do
not usually differentiate objects of evangelization. For them
atheists, followers of other religions, as well as nominal members
of other churches, are in need of evangelization and conversion,
even if they have been baptized. The rationale is to be found in
their understanding of salvation, which is not mediated through
sacraments (baptism or any other) but through conscious faith
This difference, of course, has bearing upon the issue of
proselytism. What Pentecostals believe to be legitimate evangelization, other churches might consider sheep-stealing. As Pentecostals get to know other Christians and build mutual trust,
they may be helped to differentiate, at least to some degree, their
targeting for evangelization. Sometimes the tension also has to
do with terminology. What Pentecostals call evangelization might
in older churches be viewed as catechesis (note, John Paul II's
term "radical catechesis," which amounts to evangelization in a
Pentecostal context).
The focus of evangelization has to do with overall mission
strategy. Catholics ask Pentecostals why they invest such a large
amount of resources in areas where there is substantial Christian
witness by other churches, rather than evangelizing the growing
number of followers of other religions or those without any


issues? Until there is some additional light shed on these two

cardinal issues, speaking about koinonia, common witness, and
condemnation of proselytism, is at best open to various, even
conflicting, interpretations.

In sum, the participants, and especially the drafters of Final

Report 1990-1997, are to be commended for their undertaking of
such a historical move in ecumenical missiology.

1. For a detailed treatment of the topic, see my monograph Ad Ultimum
Terrae: Evangelization, Proselytism, and Common Witness in the Roman
Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue, 1990-1997, Studies in the Intercultural 7.
History&i%Christianity (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1999). Also
see the following dissertations: Arnold Bittlinger, Papst und fingstier:
Der rmische katholische-pfingstliche Dialogue und seine kumenische
Relevanz (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1972); Veli-Matti
Krkkinen, Spiritus ubi vult spirat. Pneumatology in Roman CatholicPentecostal Dialogue (1972-1989) (Helsinki: Luther Agricola-Society,
1998); Paul D. Lee, "Pneumatological Ecclesiology in the Roman
Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue: A Catholic Reading of the Third 10.
Quinquennium (1985-1989)" (diss., Univ. of St. Thomas, Rome, 11.
1994); Jerry L. Sandidge, Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue (1977- 12.
1982): A Study in Developing Ecumenism, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main:
Peter Lang, 1987).
2. For the significance of the dialogue to the ecumenical world in
general and to Catholic-Pentecostal relations in particular, see two 13.
articles by the Catholic co-initiator and cochair of the dialogue, Fr. 14.
Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B.: "Improbable Conversations: The
International Classical Pentecostal/Roman Catholic Dialogue,"
Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 17, no. 2 (1995):15.
163-74; "Five Defining Issues: The International Classical
Pentecostal/Roman Catholic Dialogue," ibid., pp. 175-88.
3. Walter J. Hollenweger, "From Azusa Street to Toronto Phenomenon:
Historical Roots of the Pentecostal Movement," Concilium 3 (1996): 16.
4. It is in many ways a remarkable fact that the Pentecostal side took the
initiative to set up the dialogue. The Catholic cochair, K. McDonnell, 17.
states: "The initiative for the dialogue came from the Pentecostals,
but was warmly received by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian 18.
Unity" ("Improbable Conversations," pp. 167-68). This initiative of 19.
Pentecostals is of special ecumenical significance when we remember 20.
that most Pentecostals, especially back in 1960s, thought of Catholics 21.
in very negative terms and regarded all kinds of ecumenical relations
with bad feelings.
5. Published under the title "Perspectives on Koinonia" in Information
Service 75 (1990): 179-91, and Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for
Pentecostal Studies 12, no. 2 (1990): 117-42.
6. Each quinquennium was followed by a final report and identified by
the years of the dialogue. When paragraph numbers are given in the
text and in these notes, they refer to Final Report 1990-1997, the report
that is the focus of this article. In these notes the reports will be 23.
referred to as FR I (Final Report 1972-1976), FR II (Final Report 1978-


1982), FR III (Final Report 1985-1989), and FR IV (Final Report 19901997).

In the unpublished Agreed Account, 1991, FR I, no. 10.
Les vques d'Europe et la nouvelle evangelisation, ed. Herv Legrand,
Conseil des confrences episcopales d'Europe, Coll. "Documents
des glises" (Paris: Cerf, 1991).
The most sophisticated and comprehensive treatment of theological
foundations of Pentecostal social concern is Douglas Petersen, Not by
Might, nor by Power: A Pentecostal Theology of Social Concern in Latin
America (Oxford: Regnum, 1996).
Evangelii nuntiandi (1975), nos. 29,31.
"Justice in the World," Synod of Bishops (1971), no. 6.
The most comprehensive, up-to-date discussion is offered by Cecil
M. Robeck, Jr., the Pentecostal cochair, in the position paper for the
1993 session entitled, "Evangelization, Proselytizing, and Common
Witness: A Pentecostal Perspective" (54 pp., unpublished).
Ibid., pp. 2,11.
On the Way to Fuller Koinonia: Official Report of the Fifth World Conference
on Faith and Order, d. T. F. Best and G. Gassmann, Faith and Order
Paper no. 166 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1994), p. 257.
Robeck quotes the Assemblies of God (USA) Constitutional
Declaration, which says that "the priority reason-for-being of the
Assemblies of God is to be an agency of God for evangelizing the
world" ("Evangelization," 4).
Kilian McDonnell, "Can Classical Pentecostals and Roman Catholics
Engage in Common Witness?" Journal of Pentecostal Theology 7 (1995):
97 (the published version of his position paper for the 1995 session).
Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 22, quoted in ibid., "Can Pentecostals and
Catholics Engage," p. 98.
McDonnell, "Can Pentecostals and Catholics Engage," p. 98.
FR III, no. 54.
Ibid., no. 55.
There was a tentative discussion concerning salvation outside the
church during the second quinquennium (1972-76); see FR II, no. 14.
For a recent study of Vatican II's understanding of world religions
and the possibility of salvation, see Miikka Ruokanen, The Catholic
Doctrine of Non-Christian Religions According to the Second Vatican
Council (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992). Ruokanen's (Lutheran) study
elicited a number of critical responses from Catholic missiologists,
which were published in International Bulletin of Missionary Research
during 1990-92.
Agreed Account, 1992, FR III, no. 2 (unpublished).


^ s
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