January 7, 2015

Concluding Thoughts from Ecumenism’s Summit

The final statements have yet to be released, and the last press conference hasn’t been held, but the end of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches is in sight, and some conclusions can perhaps be drawn.

First, Seventh-day Adventists are right to eschew ecumenism. Though it is laudable to have dialogue and even to find some areas of commonality – we all want to be friends, don’t we? – it seems that the purpose of the “ecumenical movement,” at least as expressed here, is to concentrate more on being liked than being a witness. When church leaders apparently refuse to make an unambiguous statement about the centrality of Christ, and His teachings, over any other faith or worldview, there’s something wrong. Jesus didn’t create the Church to be some kind of social-works society; He commissioned His disciples to change the world, something the WCC appears to shy away from.

It is good that the Adventist Church has a representative here, and it is good that our people participate in groups such as the “Public Issues” committee. But it is more important, in my view, that we as Seventh-day Adventists fulfill the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, proclaiming the Three Angels’ Messages, so that this world might have a witness before Christ’s soon return.

Second, public policy doesn’t substitute for personal transformation. Among the “statements” due from the WCC are ones about ending the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, another calling for an end to nuclear weapons, and a third on the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

While these may or may not be laudable goals – some, if not many, Americans might disagree on the Cuba issue, for example – are these the things a group of churches needs to concentrate on? While there is a plan to issue a “Statement on the Politicization of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities,” what actions can back up such a statement? Unless there is an active Christian effort to evangelize non-believers and allow God the Holy Spirit to change hearts, what genuine progress will be made against the darkness?

The way to solve the U.S.-Cuba situation, or that of Christians in the Middle East, or even the nuclear weapons question is to see a change in the people involved. That will come through Christian witness, not through words on paper, I believe.

Third, as someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” For Seventh-day Adventists, that means keeping evangelism at the center. I know I said that above, but it bears repeating: the best thing we can do for humanity is to apprise them of a loving Saviour who died for them. Everything else – and I do mean everything else – flows from that. I think of the many Korean people I saw in Busan, and wondered how many knew Jesus. Even though Korea has a large Christian population, not everyone believes, and it’s evident in many aspects of life here.

The greatest thing Seventh-day Adventists can do for a hurting world is present Jesus as the answer. I’ve long believed this, and now, after watching the World Council of Churches close up, believe it more fervently than ever.