Mission - Resources - Papers
Evangelism Beyond the World of Anglicanism
By The Revd Dr Carlos E. Ham WCC Program Executive for Evangelism
Firstly, I want to express my most sincere gratitude to the Anglican
Communion for the invitation to attend this “Missions and Evangelism
Provincial Co-ordinators Consultation” in Nairobi, Kenya. It is indeed
a great honour for me and for the World Council of Churches (WCC) to participate
and to share with you this presentation.
The theme that I have been asked to present is “Evangelism Beyond
the World of Anglicanism”. I must confess that I have been struggling
with it. How is it possible to introduce new information to a Communion
which is so creative and at the same time is ministering and serving all
over the world? I wonder if in stead of referring to the World of Anglicanism,
we should rather say Anglicanism of the World. In any case, what I will
try to do is to share with you some of the experiences of the Commission
on World Mission and Evangelism and its related team of the WCC, as we
journey and accompany the churches in this important task.
According to the document “Mission and Evangelism in Unity Today”,
the WCC expresses that “’Mission’ carries a holistic
understanding: the proclamation and sharing of the good news of the gospel
by word (kerygma), deed (diakonia), prayer and worship (leiturgia) and
the everyday witness of the Christian life (martyria); teaching (didaje)
as building up and strengthening people in their relationship with God
and each other; and healing as wholeness and reconciliation into koinonia — communion
with God, communion with people, and communion with creation as a whole. ‘Evangelism’,
while not excluding the different dimensions of mission, focuses on explicit
and intentional voicing of the gospel, including the invitation to personal
conversion to a new life in Christ and to discipleship.” Therefore,
evangelism is not an option of the Christian faith, it constitutes the
very essence, the reason a being of all the Christian Church.
This invitation, according to the Rev. Dr. Emilio Castro, a former general
secretary of the WCC, “is always joyful, it’s never constraint,
its never obligation, the invitation is made in Jesus’ way, this
is the great difference with proselytism, --we are not buying people’s
loyalty with a cheap grace, we are offering people to join, to follow Jesus
into the discipline of the kingdom and to become aware of our reality,
precisely in comparison with the life that is in Christ we realise…”
In other words, evangelism has a twofold task: a) It involves the proclamation
in word and in deed (action) of the good news of God's grace and abundant
life, promised and demonstrated in Jesus Christ, and b) It involves the
invitation, calling people to: repentance; respond to God's grace by confessing
Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, by personal faith in him; to active membership
in Christian community, and to obedient service (witness, commitment, discipleship)
in the world.
In order to develop my theme, I would like to work on the Biblical paradigm
of Jesus' dialogue with the Samaritan Woman, which can be found in John
John begins by telling us that the Pharisees heard that Jesus was winning
and baptising more disciples than John, so he left, and, on his way from
Judea to Galilee passed through Samaria. In the city of Sychar he stopped
to rest by a well at noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus
asked her to give him a drink. She replied that if he was a Jew, and she
a Samaritan, how could he ask such a thing. Jesus answered that if she
knew what God gives and who was asking for a drink, she would ask him and
he would give her life-giving water. He had to explain this because she
did not understand his message, believing that he was referring to material
water. He then explained to her that their ancestor Jacob, who gave them
the well used it for his family and for the animals.
Then he asked her to call her husband and she admitted that she had
had more than one. She realised that he knew very well about her life.
So, she even called him a prophet. Then Jesus goes on and urges her to
believe him and says that the time will come when people will not worship
the Father neither in that mountain nor in Jerusalem, but by the power
of God's Spirit; and underlines that it is from the Jews that salvation
The woman told Jesus that she knew that the Messiah will come and that
he reveal everything. He answered that he was the Messiah. Then the disciples
came concerned about Jesus' food, but he told them that his food is to
obey the will of the One who sent him to finish the work he gave him to
do. Then he used the image of the harvest, stressing that the ones who
sow and the ones who reap will rejoice together.
In the meantime the woman returned to the town to witness about the
Messiah, and many people went to meet Jesus. They said to the woman that
they believed now, not because of what she said, but because they themselves
had heard him, and that they believed that he is really the Saviour of
Dr. Gail R. O’day, a New Testament scholar, and specialist in
John, referring to it, says that it “presents the interpreter with
a text that from the beginning to end transforms conventional expectations
and challenges the status quo. The setting of this narrative in Samaria
is a scandal that may have lost its force for modern readers. Jesus openly
challenges and breaks open two boundaries in this text: the boundary between ‘chosen
people’ and ‘rejected people’, between male and female… Jesus
initiates contact with a Samaritan, asking her to attend to his needs (v.
7). He then offers the Samaritan woman the gift of God (v. 10) and reveals
his identity to her (v. 26). He treats the Samaritan woman –and later
the Samaritan villagers—as a full human being, a worthy recipient
of the grace of God, not as the despised enemy from whom to fear contamination”.
Now, talking of "Sharing the Good News in Christ's Way" in
the context of the overall mission of the church, I would like to highlight
the following points, taking into consideration the Biblical paradigm that
we just described:
- The issue of competition.
In the text, the Pharisees, are observing and comparing the number of
disciples baptised by John and by Jesus. One of the main questions that
the churches committed with the ecumenical movement deal with is, do we
evangelise in competition, or in collaboration with each other? I think
we must admit that a very important reason why more people in this world
do not believe in Jesus Christ is because we, as evangelisers, often times
are trying to work for "our own business". And, what we are actually
doing is proselytising instead of evangelising. If we don’t love
one another, we prevent others of loving Christ.
This is the reason why we can't address the whole question of evangelisation
separately from the question of unity, because without evangelisation the
good news is not shared, and without unity the message is not credible.
The whole question of proselytism has become, throughout the years,
such a disturbing issue for the churches and the ecumenical movement in
general, that the World Council of Churches' Central Committee in 1997
had to issue the document "Towards Common Witness. A call to adopt
responsible relationships in mission and to renounce proselytism".
"The aims of this statement are: (1) to make churches and Christians
aware of the bitter reality of proselytism today; (2) to call those involved
in proselytism to recognise its disastrous effects on church unity, relationships
among Christians and the credibility of the Gospel and, therefore, to renounce
it; and (3) to encourage the churches and mission agencies to avoid all
forms of competition in mission and to commit themselves anew to witness
The document states that "common witness is the witness that the
churches, even while separated, bear together, especially through joint
efforts, by manifesting whatever divine gifts of truth and life they already
share and experience in common".
"Common witness is constructive: it enriches, challenges, strengthens
and builds up solid Christian relationships and fellowship. Through word
and deed, it makes the gospel relevant to the contemporary world. Proselytism
is a perversion of authentic Christian witness and thus a counter witness.
It does not build up but destroys. It brings about tensions, scandal, division,
and is thus a destabilising factor for the witness of the church of Christ
in the world. It is always a wounding of koinonia, creating not fellowship
but antagonistic parties.
"Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that some people may move
from one church to another out of true and genuine conviction, without
any proselytistic pressure or manipulation, as a free decision in response
to their experience of the life and witness of another church. "The
churches must continually assess their own internal life to see whether
some of the reasons people change church allegiance may lie with the churches
This is clearly stated in the section called “Being Missional
and Evangelising Churches” of the document written by the WCC Commission
on World Mission and Evangelism for the preparation process of the 2005
World Mission Conference, in which we read: “There is urgent need
to come to a clearer ecumenical stand on the place and role of evangelism
within a holistic mission theology. In several places, recently, people
have expressed a call for a spiritual renewal among traditional churches.
This requires to understand mission also as having a religious offer and
challenge to the world. We need to reflect anew on the missionary nature
of the congregation, or the missional character of the church, but by including
the need for spirituality. CWME should be able to affirm the importance
of sharing the gospel, including to those persons who have not yet heard
of it, and place the debate on proselytism and conversion in a positive
context. This is possible, under certain conditions, like an atmosphere
of mutual respect. However, trends towards confessionalism and aggressive
competition must be resisted and the move towards "mission in unity" or "common
But the truth of the mater is that many WCC member churches and so called “historical” churches
are in a passive, reactive and defensive mode, “protecting” themselves
from evangelical and Pentecostal churches in stead of being proactive,
sharing the Good news responsibly, but also with passion and joy. In many
cases, in the Western countries, I am afraid that there is a “great
omission” on this regard in stead of developing the “Great
For Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser, current general secretary of the WCC, the
issue of proselytism is particularly relevant in current times, in the
context of rearticulating a missionary calling as a message of peace and
reconciliation. He notes that evangelicals tend to place greater importance
on conversion because they view Jesus Christ as the exclusive way to salvation.
But, he says, “I have a fairly deep trust that God will work ways
of salvation even beyond the limit of the visible Christian community”.
Raiser makes a distinction between evangelism, as the “proclamation
of the gospel in word and deed,” and proselytism, which has the sole
aim of conversion. “I think the spirit of the gospel demands of us
a witness to Christ that is at the same time a witness to peace and reconciliation”.
This statement is particularly relevant for the WCC’s Decade to
Overcome Violence program and for the thematic area that the Commission
on World Mission and Evangelism has chosen for the next World Mission Conference
in 2005: “Called in Christ to be reconciling and healing communities”,
which is indeed one of the greatest challenges of God’s mission and
therefore of churches today, to carry-out a ministry of compassion, of
solidarity, inclusion, mutual respect and acceptance.
- Evangelisation is contextual and focused primarily on the less
privileged, the rejected, the excluded.
John tells us that Jesus went back to Galilee, which was the region
rejected by the Jews and by the "pure" religious people. It is
the land of the excluded, of the marginalised. This is precisely his "mission
field", even after the experience of the resurrection. It is indeed
very interesting that when the women went early in the morning to the tomb
to see Jesus buried, the angel told them. “He is not here; for he
has been raised, as he said… Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He
has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee;
there will see him’. This is my message for you. “The mystery
of evangelisation –says Rev. Dr. Emilio Castro—is precisely
the mystery of the presence of the risen Christ”, and I would add,
of the risen Christ who is going ahead of us to Galilee with a message
and praxis of hope, restoration and liberation.
This fact is even more evident when Jesus approaches this nameless woman
(not even her name is mentioned in the biblical text) who was rejected
and marginalised mainly for two reasons: because she was a woman and because,
she was a Samaritan.
A third factor that caused the rejection of this woman, and therefore
the commitment of the Lord to make justice, and this is explained in v.
16 and after. Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come
back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus
said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you
have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What
you have said is true."
The woman not only did not have an “official” husband, which
gave social status, but she had had several, and therefore was considered
to have a very bad reputation. Jesus approaches this woman and offers her
the living water, right there, where she is, in her desperate situation.
But the other thing that strikes me is the fact that Jesus is talking
to a person that he knows very well. He even knows of her private life,
as we have seen before, which is reaffirmed in her testimony of faith to
the other Samaritans, at the end of the passage, “He told me everything
I have ever done” (v. 39). This, of course, posses a great question
to us. As we engage in a dialogue to proclaim the Gospel, How much do we
actually know our interlocutor? Many inter-religious conflicts are caused
by ignorance, by making presumptions without knowing well each other.
On of the characteristics that I have admired the most of Anglicanism
is that it a contextual Church. Names such as “The Church of England”, “The
Church of Bangladesh”, “The Church of South India”, “The
Church in Wales”, etc., express the commitment to try to be a Church
incarnated in each society. This also explains the importance of the relationship
gospel/culture, addressing the question How to express our Christian faith
in a particular culture or context. A relevant question therefore is what
does it mean to be an Anglican or an Episcopal in each one of our contemporary
- Evangelisation is carried-out in dialogue. As evangelisers,
we are bridge-builders.
Jesus takes the initiative to approach the Samaritan woman and develops
a very rich dialogue, and a very profound exchange of ideas and opinions.
When we evangelise, following the model of Jesus, we are not full vessels,
with all the truth and the knowledge, ready to empty all the contents in
the recipients of the “objects” of our work, rather, we are
engaged in an ongoing process of sharing the message, of giving and receiving,
of mutual nourishment.
The Samaritan woman was trying to find all the excuses in the world
to avoid talking with Jesus, to create barriers and obstacles in order
to prevent the dialogue. She says: "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan,
so how can you ask me for a drink? For him it would have been easier to
give-up, but he insisted and persisted, until he gained her trust, the
aim to overcome her fear and establishing the dialogue. As a church, as
a community of followers of Jesus, we are called to be a “safe space” of
acceptance and hospitality to each other, where everybody is accepted,
welcomed, embraced and listened to, regardless of the origin, ethnicity,
gender, age, ideology or any other differences.
We are also bridge-builders between the “community of saints” and
the wider community, the society. We are bridge-builders between the churches
of the North or the West and the ones in the South and East. Throughout
the centuries the former churches have evangelised the latter, but, we
need to admit that in general, the “historical” churches in
the North have become “pre-historical” in their structure,
liturgy, ecclesiology and would receive a lot if they are re-evangelised
by the churches in the South, which are not only the fastest growing ones,
but are also, in general, communities of men and women that try to live
their faith with hope and meaning in an economy of survival; men and women
of faith who day-by-day, experience in their own lives, what it is to live
by the grace of God.
I appreciate the fact that the Decade of Evangelism of the Anglican
Communion has enabled and encouraged a “shift from maintenance to
mission”, as it is expressed in the report “Anglicans in Mission.
A Transforming Journey”11. This is indeed a gift that we must share
with the World Christian Communion. As WCC we are bridge-builders, sharing
these rich experiences with others.
We are bridge-builders also with people of other faiths. In this regard,
I would like to remember the well known quote from the San Antonio World
Mission and Evangelism Conference (1989): "We cannot point to any
other way of salvation than Jesus Christ; at the same time we cannot set
limits to the saving power of God12… We are well aware that these
convictions and the ministry of witness stand in tension with what we have
affirmed about God being present in and at work in people of other faiths;
we appreciate this tension, and do not attempt to resolve it"13. Evangelisers
as bridge-builders means to respect others, but even more, to work with
others for a better world, for justice, peace and integrity of creation.
This notion is reaffirmed in v. 38 in which Jesus says to the disciples: “I
sent to harvest that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured,
and you have entered into their labour”. Evangelisation in unity,
consisting in planting and harvesting, harvesting and planting together,
as an ongoing process.
Even, if we go back to the etymology of the word “religion”,
it came originally in the 13th century from Latin and means, among other
things ‘re-ligare’, re-unite, to tie, to bind, or to link
together. It is indeed very sad, and discouraging that throughout the centuries
and certainly today, in some cases and places, religions in stead of serving
to unite the world, have served as a violent factor to fragment, fracture
and even to kill, even though behind these conflicts lie deeper political
or economical root causes.
There is no question that September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA
are part, in great extent, of these complex dynamics. This is indeed one
of the greatest challenges to mission and evangelism today. And after all
this happened, violent conflicts among religious extremists have escalated
in different parts of the world. A few days ago there has been more than
50 people killed in sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims in Western
India. More than 850 people have been killed since February. Christians
have been killed in bomb attacks during religious services in Pakistan.
Eight women were killed in a Mosque recently also in Pakistan, and the
list can be longer.
- The content of the gospel is a "life-giving" one.
In a world of brokenness and of fragmentation, the message of the "good
news" is one that gives life, like the water that Jesus was offering
to the Samaritan woman.
The water from Jacob’s well could satisfy the physical thirst;
but Jesus is offering water of a different nature. A water that satisfies
the deepest demands of the human heart. The language is an existential
one. Only those who ever have experienced thirst in the desert, would understand
that water is the most valuable gift, a symbol of the only thing that can
fully satisfy a human being”.
This sense of being fulfilled which is provided by the “life-giving” water
is not one that makes people feel happy with themselves, it is rather one
that converts, changing the lives of the people. Evangelism, therefore
in the words of Rev. Dr. Emilio Castro, “aims not to satisfy people,
but to transform people, we are not calling them to be happy with what
they are, we are calling them and ourselves to aim at the promise of abundant
life, that is the life under the cross that Jesus has called us for”.
The life that Jesus is offering to the Samaritan woman is a life in
all its fullness and abundance, a life to which we are committed as evangelisers.
We just returned a few days ago from a Missiology Consultation organised
in London, under the theme “Toward the Fullness of Life: Inter-contextual
Relationships in Mission”. The final report summarises what we are
trying to say: “The fullness of life is the goal of the missio Dei.
This vision of abundant life now shapes our calling and engagement with
the world. The mission of the church is to receive, celebrate, proclaim
and work for the fullness of life in Christ. In Christ, we are called to
be reconciling communities, bringing a message of healing and wholeness
to a broken world; sharing in the life of the world as the people of God
in the midst of all God’s peoples; receiving the gifts of all peoples,
cultures and religious traditions; and resisting the powers of death that
still and kill, scatter and destroy”.
Rev. Dr. Philip Potter, another former general secretary of the WCC,
many years ago shared this same vision in these words: “The whole
burden of the ecumenical movement is to co-operate with God in making the
oikoumene an oikos, a home, a family of men and women, of young and old,
of varied gifts, cultures, possibilities where openness, trust, love and
This is expressed in terms of an ecumenical strategy for congregational
evangelism by Raymond Fung in his book “The Isaiah Vision”.
He says that the Isaiah agenda is concrete and clear in its objective.
- that the children do not die;
- that the old people live in dignity;
- that those who build houses live in them; and
- those who plant vineyards eat the fruit.18
- Evangelisation is informed by the Biblical message and tradition.
The Swiss Reformed theologian, Professor Karl Barth said, that in order
to bear witness of the risen Lord, we ought to hold the Bible in one hand
and the newspaper in the other. We have seen already how the evangelisation
endeavour is contextual, defined in this metaphor by the newspaper, but
it is also textual, in the sense that it is informed by the Biblical text,
the “revealed Word of God”. In verse 12 of our passage, the
woman makes a reference of the Scriptures talking about Jacob’s well,
which Jesus uses as a starting point to offer the water of eternal life.
And this was a constant procedure of Jesus in his ministry, since he had
been a child.
“Jesus loves me, yes I know, for the Bible tells me so” is
the very simple song that we learned in Sunday School and is the essence
- As evangelisers, we are not judges.
“One of the most harmful attitudes as we try to share the Good
News is to be judgmental. I do not pretend to judge here the judgmental
people, but perhaps it would be very helpful at this point to learn from
Jesus’ way in dealing with the woman at the well, which reminds us
of his reaction with the scribes and the Pharisees when they caught the
other woman in an act of adultery. He asked her: “Woman, where
are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go you way, and from now
on do not sin again” (John 8: 1-11).
“The Samaritan woman is never judged as a sinner. On the contrary,
she is portrayed as a model of growing faith”19. In fact “Jesus
treats her as a serious conversation partner, the first person in the Gospel
to whom he makes a bold statement of self-revelation”20. As we evangelise, “We
are not called to be judges, we are called to be witnesses”, says
Rev. Dr. Emilio Castro.21
- As we evangelise, we call to metanoia, repentance, conversion,
transformation, liberation, a turning from and a turning to.
Progressively the differences have been solved and finally comes the
highest point of the story: the self-revelation of Jesus, as we have seen
before: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” (v. 26).
This is the starting point to better understand the following facts:
- My food is to do the will of my Father (v34) This is the way of access
to eternal life
- That we are in the harvest time, which is a normal symbol in Judaism
to point out to the judgement not for the future, but for the present;
- Some plant and others harvest. This is the missionary activity of the
- Faith in Jesus is born out of the witness and a personal encounter
with him, and finally;
- Jesus is discovered as the Messiah, the saviour of the world.22
So, as evangelisers we ourselves are not the message, we are the channels
of the message, called to lead people to a personal encounter with Jesus.
We propitiate this encounter without interfering or hindering, giving "account
of the hope that is in us"
- Evangelisers as servants.
In the text, John also tells us about the participation of the disciples,
which was not that encouraging. As we have seen before, at the beginning
of Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman, they were not present
with him. They came later and “were astonished that he was speaking
with a woman…” (v. 27). On the other hand, they are concerned
about his material needs, they are asking him to eat something (v. 30)
and he replied, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and
to complete his work” (v. 34).
Having accompanied to him for so long, and knowing the type of person
he was, it seams they did not know him well, and were focusing on their
own agenda. The followers that Jesus calls are ordinary people, like us.
People with a lack of vision, with their own values, just like the disciples,
just like us. But Jesus has a transforming power, he turns our mistakes
into positive energy in order to evangelise. We see it constantly with
the disciples and with the Samaritan women. He sends them –and us--,
as faithful servants, to continue the work of salvation that he began.
This call is clearly stated in many WCC documents, particularly in “Mission
and Evangelism. An Ecumenical Affirmation”: “’As the
Father has sent me, even so I send you’ (John 20:21). The self-emptying
of the servant who lived among the people, sharing in their hopes and sufferings,
giving his life on the cross for all humanity – this was Christ’s
way of proclaiming the Good News, and, as disciples, we are summoned to
follow the same way. ‘A servant is not greater than his master; nor
is he who is sent greater than he who sent him’ (John 13:16).”
- Going back to town - The evangelised woman became an evangeliser.
The Samaritan woman after talking with Jesus, was so moved, that she
herself felt obliged to share with others (v. 28) the treasure that she
discovered in Jesus, though he did not ask her to do so. She took the initiative,
as she felt that she could not keep the “living water” for
herself. She “takes Jesus to the people”25. Here we clearly
see what Pope Paul VI describes in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelisation
in the Modern World”, ‘Evangeli Nuntiandi’, as a movement “from
Christ the evangeliser to the evangelistic church”26. “The ‘conversion
agenda’ is essential. Only those who are converted can evangelise
and be sacrificial givers”27. In fact, the word evangelisation involves
the messenger, the “angel”, committed to finish the work that
the Lord started, aware of the "already", but at the same time,
the "not yet" of the Kingdom.
This notion of evangelising in order to fulfil the "not yet" of
the Kingdom is clearly stated by Rev. Mortimer Arias. He believes that “to
evangelise is to make visible the Kingdom of God, through gestures, words,
deeds which call to follow Jesus Christ. Evangelism becomes liberating
when the announcement of the Good News under the action of the Holy Spirit,
calls to conversion and discipleship, provoking processes of change towards
humanising lifestyles, for individuals, groups, systems and structures”
At the end of the passage we read that “many Samaritans from the
city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (v.
39); and of course, “many more believed because of his word” (v.
41). She did not impose conversion, she only shared the experience of her ‘metanoia’,
of her transformation. She told of her “transforming journey” with
Summarising my presentation, I would like to quote one of the most helpful
thoughts on the theology of evangelisation and our commitment to it, from
Dr. David Bosch. “Evangelism as that dimension and activity of the
church’s mission which, by word and deed and in light of the particular
conditions and a particular context, offers every person and community,
everywhere, a valid opportunity to be directly challenged to a radical
orientation of their lives, a reorientation which involves such things
as deliverance from slavery to the world and its powers; embracing Christ
as Saviour and Lord; becoming a living member of his community, the church;
being enlisted into his service of reconciliation, peace, and justice on
earth; and being committed to God’s purpose of placing all things
under the rule of Christ”29.
May God, inspirer and source; Jesus Christ, communicator and the Holy
Spirit, enabler of the “life-giving” message, guide us as we
try to be faithful evangelisers in the whole creation. Amen.
The Inter Anglican Provincial Mission and Evangelism Co-ordinators Consultation
Encounters on the Road
Resurrection Gardens, Nairobi, Kenya May 2002