Evangelistic work does provide public benefit, the Charity Commission has concluded, following an assessment of the Church Mission Society (CMS).
The news goes some way towards allaying concerns that new guidance from the Charity Commission on assessing the charitable status of religious groups could cause problems for those engaged in evangelism.
The Commission said the CMS “engages in a very wide range of missionary and outreach activities” which are “always carried out with the intention that, on an entirely non-coercive and invitational basis, people should become followers of Christ”.
It cited a number of different public benefits growing out of the charity’s aim.
The Revd Canon Tim Dakin, General Secretary of the CMS, said: “This confirms the principle that mission and evangelism convey public benefit.
“It is good news for churches and organisations engaged in evangelism.
“It is an encouragement to people concerned about the possible erosion of freedom for Christian witness in this country.”
Another Christian charity, United Christian Broadcasters, also passed the public benefit test.
The Commission published its new public benefit guidance for religious charities in December.
Christian groups gave the new guidance a cautious welcome, after several points of concern contained in the draft had been altered.
Previously the Commission said that seeking converts might be considered as a part of advancing religion. But the final guidance properly recognises that evangelism is a core activity of many religious groups.
The guidance now says: “In some religions proselytising is seen as an essential part of the outworking of the religion. For example, Christians regard evangelising as a central part of their religion.”
However, concerns remain about the Commission’s approach to charities which have the sole purpose of seeking to convert people from one religion to another.