In the 1980s, the American Family Foundation--an inter-religious, cult-watching organization--sponsored a group of religious professionals to develop a code of ethics that would be mutually affirmed, ethically viable, and theologically acceptable to diverse constituencies.
The task force included Jews, Roman Catholics, denominational chaplains, evangelicals, and agnostics; InterVarsity staff members participated at various stages. Toward the conclusion of the project, each group tailored the general Code to their particular situation. InterVarsity's version of the Code was affirmed by InterVarsity's leadership in 1989.
Why use the Code of Ethics for Christian Witness?
The Code Can Be a Helpful Teaching and Training Tool
The Code informs students and staff about what constitutes legitimate and respectful evangelistic communication. It affirms InterVarsity's conviction to be involved in evangelism. And it affirms our commitment to respect human dignity and the freedom to choose, as well as to avoid any forms of influence that are coercive or manipulative.
The Code Can Be Useful When Dealing with Campus Administrators
Campus fellowships can use the Code proactively with administrators (deans, chaplains, etc.) to demonstrate the commitments and convictions of the group.
Some campus administrators are quite worried about the destructive influence of cults who use unethical tactics to gain power over young students. As a result, some campuses have created restrictive regulations to curb these groups. Though typically well intended, these regulations are often ill-conceived and can undermine the Christian's freedom to share the good news of Christ with their peers.
If your fellowship faces these kinds of regulations and access issues, offer the Code as an alternative. It has often been well received by administrators because it is thorough and thoughtful. Some campus fellowships have even attached the Code to their constitutions as a protective measure.
A Code of Ethics for Christian Witness
As Christians called by the Living God, we seek first of all to honor him and his ethical standards in all our private and public lives, including our efforts to persuade others to believe the good news about Jesus Christ.
As Christian evangelists, we seek to follow the mandate, motives, message, and model of our God who is always pursuing and reclaiming those who are lost in sin and rebellion against him.
We believe all people are created in God’s image and therefore endowed with the capacity to be in relationship with their Creator and Redeemer. We disavow any effort to influence people in such a way that depersonalizes or deprives them of their inherent value as persons.
Respecting the value of persons, we believe all people are worthy of hearing the gospel of this loving Lord Jesus Christ. We equally affirm the inalienable right of every person to survey other opinions and convert to or choose a different belief system.
We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and affirm the role and goal of the Christian evangelist. However, we do not believe that this justifies any means to fulfill that end. Hence, we disavow the use of any coercive techniques or manipulative appeals that bypass a person’s critical faculties, play on psychological weaknesses, undermine relationship with family or religious institutions, or mask the true nature of Christian conversion.
While respecting the individual integrity, intellectual honesty, and academic freedom of all other believers and skeptics, we seek to proclaim Christ openly. We reveal our own identity, and purpose, our theological positions, and sources of information, and will not be intentionally misleading. Respect for human integrity means no false advertising, no personal aggrandizement from successfully persuading others to follow Jesus, and no overly emotional appeals that minimize reason and evidence.
As Christian evangelists, we seek to embrace people of other religious persuasions in true dialogue. That is, we acknowledge our common humanity as equally sinful, equally needy, and equally dependent on the grace of God we proclaim. We seek to listen sensitively in order to understand, and thus divest our witness of any stereotypes or fixed formulae that are barriers to true dialogue.
As Christian evangelists, we accept the obligation to admonish anyone who represents the Christian faith in any manner incompatible with these ethical guidelines.