The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned against cultural imperialism and called for Christians to be sensitive when sharing the gospel.
Delivering the annual Deo Gloria Lecture, sponsored by the London School of Theology, Abp. Justin Welby warned against making evangelism an item in a marketplace or an expression of cultural superiority.
“We need to be ready: ready to speak, to share,” he said in an evening lecture at Lambeth Palace March 13. “This is hope for the world! But let that witness be seasoned with gentleness and respect.”
The archbishop called on Christians to tell people about Jesus without demeaning another person’s faith.
“Let us never be guilty of demeaning the light that others have; just show them something of the light you know,” he said. “Let’s tell people about Jesus and witness to what he has done for us, without feeling the need to presume to tell others what is wrong with their faith.”
He urged Christians to listen to those of other faiths. “Let’s be honest. How much of our evangelism is monologuing?” he asked. “Any credible witness requires us to be in dialogue with the other.”
He also said many white British Christians need to be conscious of their colonial history.
“How are British Christians heard when we talk of the claims of Christ by diaspora communities who have experienced abuse and exploitation by an empire that has seemed to hold the Christian story at the heart of its project?”
He urged Christians to be ready to learn and receive from someone of another faith.
“We are not contradicting any of the claims we make about the centrality of Jesus Christ to the whole of creation, our commitment to him as the source of all salvation, by recognizing that other traditions offer people encouragement, community, and even deep wells of spirituality,” he said. “But we may find our understanding challenged and enriched.”
And the archbishop stressed that evangelism is about relationship and love, not about building a power base or ensuring the survival of the Church.
“This is why so many religious groups rightly complain of being ‘targeted’ by Christians,” he said. “It’s one thing to feel a calling to share your lives with a particular culture or people. It’s another thing altogether to see their value only as would-be Christians.
“How do we express our love for others in witness so that they understand that we care for them even if they make no decision to follow Christ?”
Adapted from Lambeth Palace