February 26, 2020

Church Leaders Respond to Italian Local Pastor Signing Ecumenical Charter

Inter-European Division News and Adventist Review

The following is a press release by the Inter-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists dated February 24, 2020. —Editors

On Saturday, January 25, 2020, the pastor of a local church congregation in Italy signed a joint declaration with other faith groups that, while focused on respectful dialogue among and between different religious denominations, contained some statements which run counter to Seventh-day Adventist principles regarding inter-church relations.

The administration of the Inter-European Division (EUD) disapproves the signing of the ecumenical charter and reaffirms its position concerning the involvement of church entities and representatives in ecumenical endeavors.

As a result, the EUD officers wish to clarify the involvement of Seventh-day Adventist pastors and leaders in meetings and events with representatives of other religious bodies.

The EUD encourages all its entities to abide by, and offer education on, the valuable principles that are contained in the Bible, in the writings of Ellen G. White, and the various documents and statements produced by the Adventist Church concerning our relationship with other religions and denominations. We confirm that:

1. The Adventist Church favors dialogue and cordial relations of mutual respect and understanding with other religious confessions at all levels of church organization.

2. We are fully convinced and strongly defend that freedom of conscience and religious liberty is a right inherent to all human beings, not as something that we claim only for us, but as a right to be granted to all, even to those who think differently from us.

3. Dialogue and mutual understanding do not mean, however, agreeing with others just for the sake of securing cordial relationships.

4. Our fundamental beliefs have been carefully and painstakingly built on the sure foundation of the Bible. These statements of faith define our identity as a church and should always be kept as our hallmark.

5. As representatives of the Adventist Church, we should clearly speak on behalf of the community that we represent. Thus, we should not negotiate or compromise regarding anything that goes against the principles of our church and its fundamental beliefs.

We appreciate the statement of the Italian Union of Churches published on January 31. This clearly demonstrated that the event in Bologna does not change the official position of the Adventist Church in Italy.

Statement of the Italian Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We are aware of the discomfort, uneasiness, and disappointment that has arisen from the news concerning an ecumenical event in which Seventh-day Adventist pastor Giovanni Caccamo took part and during which he signed a document entitled “Charta Ecumenica di Bologna.”

This event and the signing of the document do not represent the position of the Italian Union. As officers of the Italian Union, we were not aware of this program, which was a local initiative of the Bologna pastor. We express our regret for the situation that ensued.

As officers and leaders of the church, we appreciate and support all initiatives that allow us to witness our faith with respect and friendship. It is our intention to ensure that our voice can be heard in every meeting, both ecumenical and otherwise, so that our faith can be shared with others.

We distance ourselves, however, from any statement that undermines our evangelistic freedom or that leads us to conform to decisions made by others under the direction of one church. We cannot and will not recognize the authority of that church over our choices.

Therefore, even though the signed document may have good intentions as a whole, and despite the fact that we recognize the good intentions that inspired it — to establish a peaceful and respectful dialogue among and with the different religious denominations in the area — in some parts it does not reflect the official position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Being aware of this, we distance ourselves from this document.

May the Lord help us to be good witnesses of the faith and grace received in Christ, knowing that our mission must never be conditioned by any earthly organization or power.

—Seventh-day Adventist Italian Union officers

The original version of this press release was posted on the Inter-European Division news site.