Capitulation to the Ecumenical Movement
by Colin Standish
With anguished alarm many faithful Seventh-day Adventists around the world reacted to the capitulation of the two German Unions to the ecumenical movement. However, it was no surprise to those who are familiar with the recent history of the Northern German Union that it voted to continue ties with the ecumenical movement. That Union voted in April of this year by a 3-to-1 margin to continue its guest membership in the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen (ACK)--the Council of Christian Churches.
The Northern German Union has for years been taking its stand with the apostate Protestant churches. Further, it is reported that the influence of the charismatic movement can be seen in many of the churches of that Union. However, there was hope among those who are faithful Seventh-day Adventists that the Southern German Union would not follow suit, but to the deep sorrow of God's faithful people, the Southern German Union also voted (129-109) to become a guest member of the ACK. Tragically, as a result, many members feel betrayed.
It is likely that some delegates were deceived by the fact that neither Union became full members of the ACK--rather, they accepted guest membership. But let us look at the strategy of the ecumenical organizations. Organizations such as the World Council of Churches are not ignorant of the fact that many, especially smaller denominations, are resistant to ecumenical ties. Therefore, a special strategy has been developed. First, such churches were invited to be "observers." During this time our representatives have forged friendly relationships with many of the representatives of the various member churches.
Now they are being asked to accept guest membership (or as it is called in Great Britain and Ireland, associate membership). But step by cunning step they are reaching toward their ultimate goal of full membership. With impaired spiritual discernment, many are voting for the intermediatory status, thinking that they can do so with safety, not discerning Satan's wicked plan to derail the destiny of God's remnant church.
It has also been pointed out that the Unions have agreed to allocate 2,000 Marks (about US $1,130) annually to the ACK--a comparatively small amount, but which, I predict, will increase in the future. Yet dare we donate the sacred means of the Lord to an organization which is certain to be a ringleader in the persecution of God's faithful saints in the near future? Dare we insult God by giving even one pfennig (cent) to such an organization?
"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. . . . And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13:15-17.
The German Seventh-day Adventist Church has been through crises in the past--the leadership of Louis Conradi, who rejected the Spirit of Prophecy, and the war question in 1914-1918, which led to the formation of the Reform Churches--but it is my evaluation that the decision to join the ecumenical movement has the potential of becoming the basis of the greatest schism in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany. Such tragedy need not have happened had leadership understood the unique destiny of God's remnant church.
We must acknowledge the faithfulness of those delegates in both the Northern and Southern German Unions who steadfastly voted against the ecumenical ties. Special acknowledgment must be made to the Baden-Wurttemburg Conference in the Southern German Union which, under courageous leadership, fought nobly against the ecumenical ties and even circulated written materials to help warn against the dangers of such ties.
It would be tragedy enough if the ecumenical thrust were limited to the two German Unions, but we see a similar trend in other European nations such as Hungary, Sweden, France and Great Britain, to name only a few. Indeed, the ecumenical thrust is not limited to Europe. Even in such remote South Pacific nations as Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has embraced the ecumenical movement.
In Vanuatu our church has united with the Vanuatu Council of Christian Churches, and, indeed, at one point the secretary of the Vanuatu Mission was also the secretary of the Vanuatuan Council of Christian Churches. In the Solomon Islands there has been a joining of our people with the Solomon Islands Christian Association. Both of these groups are arms of the World Council of Churches.
Unless decided action is taken by all of God's faithful brethren and sisters around the world, there is sure to be a rapid increase in the development of such ecumenical ties. It is impossible for me to understand how Seventh-day Adventists do not see the warning lights and hear the alarm bells. Surely Paul's admonition has specific application to the ecumenical movement:
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." 2 John 9-11.
With great wonderment many are asking, What has the General Conference leadership done to seek to discourage such moves? Of course, I am not privy to the counsel that has been given from the General Conference concerning these most dangerous affiliations. I was, however, alarmed by the response of the Assistant to the President of the General Conference to an earnest letter sent late last year to the General Conference President by 68 German members. The response curtly said that the members' letter had been referred to the President of the Euro-Africa Division, who is believed to support the ecumenical ties, and that all future correspondence should be addressed to that Division. No encouragement whatsoever was given to these faithful German believers.
Well might we ask, "Where are the faithful guardians of the Lord's flocks? Where are His watchmen? Are they standing on the high tower, giving the danger signal, or are they allowing the peril to pass unheeded?" Selected Messages, book 1, 194.
There is evidence of the loss of spiritual discernment by some in the General Conference. When it was decided a few years ago to have consultations with the World Lutheran Federation (which incorporates almost all of the diverse Lutheran Churches around the world), this certainly was a step in the ecumenical direction. Those who have studied the Second Vatican Council and the developments since that time, recognize that a primary goal of the Vatican today is to bring about such consultations to emphasize the similarities of belief and to de-emphasize the distinctiveness of the beliefs of different Christian denominations.
In the second consultation of Seventh-day Adventists with the World Lutheran Federation, the topic of dialogue was "justification by faith." That may not raise a strong alarm in the minds of many people, for it is well known that the Lutheran Reformation began with a central focus upon justification by faith. Of course, as Seventh-day Adventists, we thoroughly believe in justification by faith; however, unlike the Lutherans, we also believe in sanctification by faith. because Christ preached that doctrine as part of the gospel of salvation:
"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:18.
The great difference between Lutherans and Seventh-day Adventists is that we believe that we are saved by grace through faith in the justification and sanctification by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ provided through His blood shed for us on Calvary and ministered in the heavenly sanctuary. The Lutherans believe in a justification-alone salvation, ignoring the powerful statements of Paul. For example:
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
They would seem to overlook the fact that the same blood that justifies us (see Romans 5:9), also sanctifies us. See Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 10:10; 13:12. They also fail to see how frequently the justification and sanctification principles are linked together in the presentation of the gospel. See 1 John 1:9; Romans 8:1,3-4; Acts 5:31-32; Matthew 6:12-13; Revelation 22:11.
In the minds of faithful Seventh-day Adventists the alarm raised by the dialogue with the World Lutheran Federation was greatly heightened when it became known that the same World Lutheran Federation was dialoguing with the Vatican on precisely the same topic of justification by faith. Could it be that the Roman Catholics, aware that too many Seventh-day Adventists would rise up against consultations with the Vatican, were willing to use the World Lutheran Federation as an intermediary to help to discern ways and means of undermining the distinctiveness of God's remnant church and its unique message to take to every nation, kindred, tongue and people? It is not insignificant that the World Lutheran Federation has headquarters in the headquarters of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland.
Surely the iceberg of apostasy is upon us. No doubt the response of every faithful Seventh-day Adventist should be the same as the Lord ordered through His servant almost 100 years ago:
" 'Meet it!' There was not a moment's hesitation. It was a time for instant action." Selected Messages, book l, 205.
The Parliament of the World's Religions
The ecumenical movement is a desperate movement. It is a movement that recognizes the chaotic conditions that are in the world--the unrest, the disunity, the conflict, the strife and the global dangers. While claiming to be Christian in its principles, it is determined not only to bring all the diverse Christian communities into one united organization but also to encompass ultimately all the religions of the world. There is no question that this movement will fulfill all the warnings that are presented in the prophetic utterances of Revelation chapter 13. There is no doubt that the goal is to unite all the peoples of the world under the banner of the Papacy. Perceptive worldlings realize that there is no hope for a purely political solution to the issues of this world, and that such a thrust alone to bring about a one-world government is doomed to failure. Thus they are placing their hopes upon the uniting of the world under one religious banner--the Vatican.
In a perceptive document put out by the Christian Advent Community of Hungary, under the title God's People on the Horns of the Dilemma of Elijah, important developments were recorded. Referring back to the Council of the Parliament of the World's Religions held in Chicago, August 28 to September 4, 1993, the paper also deals with the very first such effort one hundred years before in 1893. They quote the words from the ideological leader of the Second Assembly:
"The world Columbian Exposition in Chicago in Autumn 1893, held to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the 'discovery of America' by Christopher Columbus. . . . One man, Charles Carol Bonney, had a vision which went beyond the material realm. Bonney was a Chicago lawyer, a member of the Swedenborgian Church (founded in 1787 and going back to the Swedish scientists and theosophist Emmanuel Swedenborg), . . . managed . . . to organize . . . a congress of representatives of the great religions, called the Parliament of the World's Religions. The initiators were seized with the spirit of understanding among the nations through the religions. With the solemnity of the time, in his words of welcome, Charles Carol Bonney exclaimed: 'This day the sun of a new era of religious peace and progress rises over the world, dispelling the dark clouds of sectarian strife. This fraternity bears one name . . . the brotherhood of religions.' "
It is not insignificant that this nineteenth-century congress coincided with the celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. It will be recalled that when Christopher Columbus discovered the New World he claimed it all for the pope. We can rest assured that the Vatican is keenly aware of this fact.
It took another hundred years before such a congress would be called--this time celebrating the half millennium of the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. Then Karl-Josef Kuschel stated:
"The second Parliament in 1993 . . . was also organized by a 'council' of committed men and women. . . . If the first Parliament of the world's religions was dominated by modernity, the second is dominated by postmodernity. If the first was dominated by the universal idea of the 'brotherhood of religions,' the second had to occupy itself with concrete questions of common convictions, values, basic attitudes. . . . The second council of the Parliament of the world's religions, which met in Chicago from the twenty-eighth of August to the fourth of September in 1993, and in which six thousand five hundred people from every possible religion took part, ventured to work out and present a 'declaration towards a global ethic.' "
Upon what will this global ethic be established? Will it be established upon the plain sure Word of God? Hardly! It does not take long in reading the materials to recognize the humanistic basis of the attempt to establish uniform world ethics under which all the world and the peoples of the world will be expected to operate. It will be noted that they appealed to all the inhabitants of the world to exert their awakening concepts of spiritual powers through meditation, prayer or positive thinking, claiming that this will lead to a conversion of the heart, claiming that this will move mountains. It is also significant that they invited all men and women, religious or not, to participate in such an exercise. We ask the question, Can men who have no connection with God offer any relevant contribution to discovering the ethics that will bind the world together in unity?
It is not insignificant to recognize that Dr. Robert Muller was one of the main speakers at the assembly. Those who have followed some of the articles that I have presented before in Our Firm Foundation will recall that Dr. Muller is the chancellor of the Peace University, established by the United Nations, and is a former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. They will also recall that he was the keynote speaker in San Jose, Costa Rica, at the 1989 New Age Conference in which seven hundred of the best known leaders of the New Age movement met to set the agenda for the year 2000. Dr. Muller is a Roman Catholic. In his presentation at the council of the Parliament of the World's Religions he said:
"Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth, civilization is doomed. . . . Religions and spiritual traditions: the world needs you very much! . . . You must again be the lighthouse, the guides, the prophets and messengers of the one and last mysteries of the universe and eternity. . . . You must give humanity the divine or cosmic rules for our behavior on this planet." The Global Ethic, the Declaration of the Parliament of the World's Religions, 1993, 101.
It is not difficult to determine the humanistic concepts presented here by Muller. There is no recourse to the inspired words of the Biblical prophets, but rather to humanity itself with all its fallibility and failures. Surely it cannot be lost upon the leadership of God's people that every effort that has been made to bridge the gap of religious division has been made--not upon the unity that the truth of God brings--but upon the denial of those very truths that alone can unite God's people. We must recognize that there is only one basis for truth, and that key is given in Jesus' prayer for unity: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17.
Unless the truth has been accepted by the minds of human beings and has been translated into the sanctifying power of Christ in the heart of each, there will be no unity. Humanism has proved itself hopelessly inadequate to bring about such unity. Every effort is being made to de-emphasize the great pillars of the Christian faith. We cannot forget the congress that convened in Lima, Peru, in 1981, in which almost all of the Christian communions of the world met, including a representative from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was at this congress that the BEM (Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry) document was established and then sent to all of the religious communions of Christianity seeking their comments and their understanding of this document. The whole basis of the document was to urge all communions to make no issue on the form or time of baptism, to accept every baptismal procedure as of equal worth. The concept of the Eucharist, in itself a wholly Roman Catholic term, is an anathema to those who deny the mystical, blasphemous claims of the Roman Catholic Church that the priest converts the wafer into the very body of Jesus Christ. The idea of the ministry portion of the document was that we should accept any belief in terms of the communion service, and that we do not proselytize those who are members of other Christian communions.
Briefly looking at these three areas, we have to deny fully any part in such compromise. In past ages myriads of God's faithful people died because they believed in adult believers' baptism by complete immersion, following in the footsteps of their Saviour, and because they held infant baptism to be wholly unscriptural. How could Seventh-day Adventists ever agree to the equality of one form of baptism, which is predicated upon the words and example of Jesus, and the other one, which has no foundation within the Word of God?
In terms of the Eucharist we deny the very word itself and all that it stands for, recognizing that the wafer and the wine are symbols of the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus, but denying any mystical conversion into the very body of Christ. Also myriads of God's people in the past lost their lives because they refused to accept such blasphemous claims of the Papacy.
Furthermore, in terms of mission, how could we who have been called to give the loud cry "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4), ever capitulate to agreeing to only minister to and proselytize from the unchurched? While we must work for those who are members of no Christian faith, we have just as earnest a responsibility to minister to those who are God's faithful people who have not heard the full claims of the everlasting gospel. They are to be called out because of God's great love for them. They must be called out so that they will not continue in the sins of Babylon, and so that they will be protected from the plagues that will come after the close of probation.
At the January 1990 North American Religious Broadcasting Convention held in Washington, D.C., a paper entitled "A Proposal for a Joint Worldwide Movement" was distributed to the more than ten thousand participants by Robert Meyers, himself a Roman Catholic. The North American Religious Broadcasting Convention brings together the religious editors of the myriads of papers and magazines that are distributed, often worldwide, to the religious television and radio preachers and commentators, and so forth. In 1990 so important was the convention deemed to be that the then President of the United States, George Bush, gave the keynote address. This proposal described the worldwide movement as a joint venture by the three communions (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) and para-church organizations to reach the world for Jesus Christ. It would seem to be a noble goal, but on reading through this proposal we find these words:
"This joint worldwide movement centered in Jesus Christ, would be wholly Catholic, Apostolic and Orthodox.
"The things that separate us cannot be the issue. Theological differences will have to be set aside. The main issue is the truth we find in the Bible and the creeds which we agree upon. As we get to know one another better, theological differences can more easily be addressed.
"Issues not to be addressed would include Calvinism versus Armenian doctrine, Biblical inerrancy, predestination, modes of baptism, whether the Holy Spirit comes from the Father alone or the Father and the Son (Filioque), pre-, post-, or a-millenialism, glossolalia, whether or not the pope is infallible and is the sole head of the church, ordination of women, Saturday or Sunday worship, the place of Mary in our faith, the dating of Easter, the number of sacraments, eternal security, whether the Lord's Supper is symbolic, or consubstantial [that is, it represents a spiritual presence of Christ], or transsubstantial [the host actually becoming the body and blood of Christ], and other issues." Robert N. Meyers, Proposal for a Joint World Movement, 19.
What purpose do Seventh-day Adventists have in forging the slightest ecumenical tie? What help will this be for us to give the everlasting gospel and the three angels' messages to the world? Surely the answer is all in the negative direction. It will prove a hindrance. Are we going to agree to diminish the great truths of God which have stood the test of millennia? Are we going to capitulate to the fallen churches of Babylon? Are we going to mute our voice in this time of spiritual crisis as we come to the very final moments of this earth's history? Are we going to fail our Lord now and not take this message to every nation, kindred, tongue and people? Are we going to decline to declare with a strong voice, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies." Revelation 18:2-3.
For what purpose did God raise up the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Was it just to be absorbed into the fallen churches of Babylon, or was it to call men and women unto truth and righteousness? Was it to prepare a people to meet their God? Was it to prepare the way for the second advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? This Seventh-day Adventist Church has been bequeathed the truths of God and has become the depository of God's eternal gospel at this end time.
Truly Satan is working in marvelous ways to derail the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church--to turn us away from truth and righteousness, and to lead us into the pathway of apostasy and spiritual impotency. The tragedy is that there is so little earnest effort on the part of those in responsible positions to declare the mortal dangers in which our church is now thrust. As I mentioned earlier, we have no way of knowing just how our leaders in the General Conference have responded to the events in Germany and in other nations of the world. However, we do know that there has been no clear warning in our denominational papers urging men and women to stand firm against the ecumenical movement and all the devastating consequences of such a union. We call upon our leaders to make a decided stand and warn our people worldwide to stand though the heavens fall, to be as true to principle as the needle is to the pole, to forward the truths of the gospel, to gain a new moral fortitude, to enlighten the world with the everlasting gospel, to warn against the eternally dangerous substitutes that are being offered by the fallen churches of Christendom, and to remain wholly separate from that which is inconsistent with the pure truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I plead with all ministers and leaders, be they denominational, self-supporting or laymen, to stand courageously at this time, for the warnings are fearful for the unfaithful:
"No superiority of rank, dignity, or worldly wisdom, no position in sacred office, will preserve men from sacrificing principle when left to their own deceitful hearts. Those who have been regarded as worthy and righteous prove to be ringleaders in apostasy and examples in indifference and in the abuse of God's mercies. Their wicked course He will tolerate no longer, and in His wrath He deals with them without mercy.
"It is with reluctance that the Lord withdraws His presence from those who have been blessed with great light and who have felt the power of the Word in ministering to others. They were once His faithful servants, favored with His presence and guidance; but they departed from Him and led others into error, and therefore are brought under the divine displeasure." Testimonies, vol. 5, 212.
Let all of God's people heed Isaiah's cry:
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money." Isaiah 52:1-3.