Summarized by Kent Larsen
Elders Oaks & Wickman Write Chapter For Ecumenical Book On Proselyting
(Mission as dialogue means both sides teach, both learn)
National Catholic Reporter pg15 24Mar00 A6
By Paul Knitter
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church's Quorum
of the Twelve and Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Second Quorum of the
Seventy have written a chapter for the new book, "Sharing the Book:
Religious Perspectives on the Rights and Wrongs of Proselytism" from
ecumenical publisher Orbis Books. The book contains chapters from
various religions on their histories and experience balancing
proselyting with respecting the human rights of those that hear their
The issue is many times controversial. Recently, the Pope was
criticized when he visited India and renewed the Christian call to
convert India, and all Asia, to Christ. Hindu and Buddist reaction
was very negative, calling the pope's summons "a war against Hindus
and Buddhists," "a spiritual crime," and an expression of "the
Vatican's expansionist agenda."
LDS missionaries have often faced the same criticisms, as leaders
from other faiths object to their parishoners joining the LDS Church.
The premise behind these objections is that different faiths should
simply leave each other alone -- that no faith should attempt to get
converts from the others. But not only does this fly in the face of
Christian scripture, it also flies in the face of religious freedom.
The basic question comes down to a basic question, "When does my
right to preach infringe on your right to be left alone?"
"Sharing the Book" makes a distinction between what it calls
"Proselytism" and "Evangelism." It defines proselyting as cajoling or
coercing people to join a faith, while calling evangelizing (or
witnessing) sharing and inviting, while respecting the freedom of the
other. Under this definition, most faiths would claim to evangelize
instead of proselyte. And Knitter, who reviews this book for the
National Catholic Reporter, says that the chapters in the book,
written by scholars from a variety of faiths, document and endorse
Knitter calls the essays on 'modern mission movements' (including
Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman's chapter) provocative and engaging.
Noting that the LDS Church has grown by 50% each decade since the
1950s, he says this clearly shows that "vigorous preaching, combined
with firm resolve to avoid coercion can lead to impressive, often
phenomenal, increase in membership."
Knitter goes on to say that the book can give members of any religion
a valuable lesson. He describes this lesson as "the difference
between mere tolerance and genuine openness, between just witnessing
and also being witnessed to." According to Knitter, those engaged in
proselyting should remember, "If I think I always have the final
word, I'm not going to be a very good listener. And if I'm only
tolerant and nice to you, it may be difficult to maintain that
attitude when the power shifts to my side and I'm in control."
Among LDS missionaries, this lesson is clearly taught, but not in the
same language. Instead, missionaries are simply taught to "love the