On June 12, 2021, a ceremony took place in Italy attended by clerics of many religious denominations, presented by organizers as a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the constitution of the Council of Christian Churches of Marche and the 20th anniversary of the signing of the document Charta Oecumenica. The entire event was recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube.
Many Seventh-day Adventist church members from inside and outside EUD territory watched the video and became extremely concerned when they realized that two Adventist pastors were among the invitees. One of them was a retired pastor involved in the organization of a fellowship and exchange group of ministers of several Christian denominations living in the Italian region of Marche.
Given the presence of two Seventh-day Adventist pastors at that celebration, the Inter-European Division administration sought to learn about the circumstances and conditions of their attendance. After a request for clarification, the administration of the Italian Union released a comment on the event.
We emphasize from the statement that “this action was not intended to recognize or validate the Ecumenical Charter of Strasbourg. The Adventist Church in Italy does not recognize it, does not believe in it, and is not submitted to such ecumenism. Hence, we do not intend to join the Ecumenical Council of Churches (CEC).” At the same time, according to the union administration’s perspective, “we remain open to any type of interfaith relationship but only if these relationships do not question our specific conception and belief in the prophetic word of Daniel chapter 7 and Revelation chapters 13 and 17.”
To clarify our church’s position on the dialogue with other religious denominations and on the ecumenical movement, we feel the responsibility to reaffirm the principles enunciated in the document, “Relationship with Other Religious Denominations," voted by the EUD Executive Committee in May 2020, namely in the following points:
“1. The Adventist Church favors dialogue and cordial relationships of mutual respect and understanding with other religious confessions, at all levels of our church organization.”
“5. All human relationships should be subordinated to the principles and values of the written Word of God, which bears witness of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, who testifies of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.”
“7. (…) we should not become members of an organization whose principles, beliefs, objectives, and mission conflict with the principles of the Word of God, the Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Neither should we enter in any negotiation or agreement that compromises any of our fundamental values.”
“8. Experience has shown that the context of inter-church dialogue is an excellent environment for us to relate to the leaders of other religious denominations, get to know them personally and the teachings of the communities they represent. It also creates a suitable environment to make ourselves known by explaining the Adventist beliefs and viewpoints in several other areas of our church life and mission. A friendly and respectful relationship can break many unfounded prejudices and promote fruitful cooperation in many domains of common interest.”
“9. On the other hand, there is a real risk that as we try to reach people from other religious denominations, we get entangled in a system that prevents us from preaching the message that God has entrusted us. To be a member of an ecumenical organization, for instance, implies the acceptance of guidelines that are in contradiction with our understanding of church unity, ecclesiology, and mission. Thus, the Inter-European Division strongly recommends that Adventists have a status of observers, consultants, or guests.”
We deeply regret that two Adventist pastors attended the aforementioned celebration, meant to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Charta Oecumenica, thus conveying the idea that by their presence, they fully supported it. We do not condone and are opposed to such an initiative. It is our duty to be clear and consistent with the church’s position on its relationship with other religious institutions, being open to a cordial and fruitful dialogue, but with reserve in relation to any commitment that calls into question the specificity of the message and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is the position that we expect of all who, in the name of the church, contact other religious institutions and their representatives.
The Administration of the Inter-European Division
Seventh-day Adventist Church