Last week, a code of conduct regarding evangelism was issued by the World Council of Churches, the Vatican, and the World Evangelical Alliance.  Every Christian, at least, should read it, and think about how to put what it calls for into action.

But, as Michael Kinnamon often says, before I speak about that, I have something to say.  Or, in this case, a story to tell:

On one of the last days before my retirement, I went to see the second in command of my denomination.  This was late last August, at the time of the manufactured flap about “the mosque at Ground Zero.”  He did not think that we should be taking a strong public position about the fact that Muslims families had lost members on 9/11, and that a commitment to religious liberty called for us to support the building of a Muslim center near the site.  I had challenged his view in an internal email to a number of staff– something that he liked even less.

When we met, he explained that he thought we should not speak out on this because Christian families in New York were, or might become, upset about it.  They had lost people as the Towers collapsed, and supporting the right to build a mosque near the site would be unsympathetic, and make a mockery of what they had suffered.

In return, I asked, What about the fact that Muslims also grieved for lost family members? And that it was not, as President Bush himself had made clear, Islam that had done this terrible act of terror, but a small group using a few Quranic quotes to justify their willingness to kill anyone to make their point?  What about the need to uphold religious liberty for all, lest it be taken away from us all?  Were we to put the feelings of a few Christian families before making a contribution to a clearer understanding of what was at stake, and give those feelings precedence over taking a stand against anti-Mulsim bias and injustice?

He had no answer to any of these questions, but just repeated his position.  Then added, “And isn’t our calling to share the gospel, after all?”

I resisted the urge to say to him all that was in my mind and heart at that point.  If he did not think that I had been talking about the gospel — and he obviously did not– then we had much more to discuss than could fit in this sort of encounter!  This brother was obviously confused.

He seemed to think (and perhaps still does) that taking a stand for Muslims as human beings like us, who should receive the same treatment as a group that we do,  is counter to the “gospel mandate.”   He seemed to think that we should side with the poor, grieving Christians, and … what?  Make some OTHER sort of effort to offer Christianity to the Muslims?  Support the Christians over against the Muslims?

In short, he was standing for no action, or for an action without any sort of friendship, or love, or understanding for non-Christians.

Contrast the understanding and beavior of the Evangelical Synod of the Nile in Egypt.  The Synod was contacted, around 2004-5, by Christians in a village where violence against them had been perpetrated by some of the Muslims in the area.  They aided the Christian community in their need, and also made the decision to build another school in that village – for all of its people.  This, they told us, was how to live out the gospel in a situation such as theirs: to serve all of the people, and by this to demonstrate, in action, what the good news is.

When human caring is missing from what we do, and from what we say, then more than the gospel is missing – WE are missing in action.  We are parking our humanity somewhere as we walk on by.  And we are turning our interactions and relationships into  small acts of agression, division, and “other making”.