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EDINBURGH, Scotland (RNS/ENInews) “Good evangelism” and “bad evangelism” came under discussion when a diverse group of Christians met to mark the 100th anniversary of the historic 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference.
Antonios Kireopoulos, the associate general secretary for interfaith relations for the New York-based National Council of Churches, on Friday (June 4) used his keynote address to draw a line between “good” evangelism and bad “proselytism.”
Evangelism is most harmful, he said, when it “strives to make Christians from among people that are already Christians,” and suffering under political difficulties.
Kireopoulos cited the experience in Russia and other Eastern European countries after the fall of the Soviet Union, when missionaries, “generally, but not only from evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant communities in the U.S., took advantage of the weak.”
The Edinburgh meeting is commemorating the centenary of the 1910 World Missionary Conference, which marked the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement for church unity.
The organizers of the 2010 meeting include representatives of evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions, as well as of the World Council of Churches.
In Iraq, where Christian communities had borne much of the suffering since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, there had been a “particularly egregious missionary effort,” Kireopoulos said.
“How much more powerful would the witness to Christ have been if the missionaries sent to Iraq were there to support the local Christians, to work with the local Christian churches to foster reconciliation in their communities torn apart by war?”
— Peter Kenny
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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