A Masterpiece Attempt at Jesuit-Style, Double-Speak White-washing Deception by the SDA Church
The following article rationalizing SDA ecumenical involvement appears at the following link:
I comment on the article below. My comments will be in this color font. The Adventist article will be in black print. I have never read anything by the professing SDA church that is more double-speak and whitewashing in my life. Better pray hard to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before your read this friend, because you are about to read one of the most masterful rationalizations for gross apostasy you will ever read.
Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement
The General Conference Executive Committee has never voted an official statement regarding the Seventh-day Adventist relationship to the ecumenical movement as such. A book has been written dealing at length with the subject (B. B. Beach, Ecumenism-Boon or Bane? [Review and Herald, 1974]) and a number of articles have appeared over the years in Adventist publications, including the Adventist Review. Thus, while there is not exactly an official position, there are plenty of clear indications regarding the Seventh-day Adventist viewpoint.
Ron’s Commentary: The leaders are trying to say that since the General Conference Executive Committee has never voted an official statement regarding the Seventh-day Adventist relationship to the ecumenical movement as such, it is okay to be a member of and pay representatives to go to the ecumenical Associations, Councils and Confederacies and become involved in a “working relationship” with those bodies. Here is what the Directory of Christian Councils, published by the World Council of Churches, has to say about its relationship with the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists:
“Ecumenical relationship: In addition to the relationship with regional and national councils of churches mentioned above, the WCC is in working relationship with many Christian World Communions, including the Anglican Consultative Council, Baptist World Communions, including t6he Anglican Consultative Council, Baptist World Alliance, Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council, Friend World Committee for Consultation, General Conference of Seventh Day Adventist, Lutheran World Federation, Mennonite World Conference, Old Catholic International Organization, Reformed Ecumenical Synod, Salvation Army, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, World Convention of Churches of Christ, World Evangelical Fellowship, and World Methodist Council.
Since 1967 there has been a Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church.” Directory of Christian Councils, p. 244. Emphasis supplied.
SDA church leaders are trying to say that since the church never voted in General Conference Session to become a member and in working relationship with the WCC and/or its subsidiary organizations such as the various National Council’s of Churches, and its Ministerial Associations in every major community of the world, that the SDA church is not indictable for its ecumenical relations with the WCC and its subsidiary organizations.
That is tantamount to saying it does not matter what apostasy the church imbibes, it is okay and there is no corporate responsibility for such apostasy unless the church in General Conference World Session has voted on it! That is one of the greatest lying abominations the church leaders have ever perpetrated.
The church has tried over the decades to foist that same lie upon the laity by the devious tactic of saying that representatives of the SDA church have gone to the WCC and its subsidiary organizations on their own cognition as “independent observers.” That is a Satanic lie. The church has salaried every representative to the WCC and its subsidiaries. And the above statement from the Directory of Christian Councils proves that the GC itself is in working relationship with the WCC! I will send photo-copies to anyone who desires them. I bought a dozen copies of that directory for members in my home church.
Many of the major apostasies of the church have NEVER been voted on by the General Conference in World Session. Rather than an out, that is an abomination in and of itself! What gave the power to a few men to adopt the following apostate measures without taking such serious issues to the General Conference in World Session?:
· Adoption of the World’s Accreditation Standards for education, circa 1930, thus marrying the church to the world via its youth and education. Satan could have no finer track to the youth of the church! Ellen White said that if the church was married to the world, it would become the cage of every unclean and hateful bird, and so it has. The youth are thus sacrificed on the alter of Baal. The Jews held actual human sacrifices. Those of SDA’s are more subtle! Time delayed for another literal fulfillment of Ezekiel 9.
· Adoption of the Trinity Doctrine in the 1930’s before it weas ever taken to the GC in Session years later.
· Ecumenical parleys with Walter Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse in the 1950’s, which resulted in ecumenical forays into Babylon, and the compromise of many truths such as Ministry magazine printing at that time, that the human nature of Christ was like Adam before the fall. And that before it was ever taken to the General Conference in Session for a vote.
· Certain SDA conferences have permitted the ordination of women without the voting approval of the General Conference in Session.
· The adoption of the false gospel of Desmond Ford which is informally taught by many of Adventism’s highest leaders at the GC level. Thus, the church is teaching a false gospel to the church laity and the world without ever having taking such a strictly forbidden practice to the General Conference in World Session for a vote!
· The church linked its Medical work in business partnership with Babylon, Rome and the World, without ever taking such a serious matter to the General Conference in Session for Vote.
· Vance Ferrell, a former credentialed minister of the SDA church, who operates a multi-million dollar SDA book printing business, has said that he has proof that SDA leaders made secret agreements with the ecumenical bodies they joined, to water down the Sabbath and “beast” issues, taking the heat off Rome and her fallen Protestant daughters.
· The church pays large sums of money annually to the WCC and its various subsidiary organizations such as the National Councils and local Ministerial Associations. Butler, the GC Treasurer in 1988, told me that the church gave over $8,000 that year to the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Finance Babylon and you are responsible for its errors! If I financed the church of Satan in San Francisco, I would be responsible for its errors!
· Are the members of the SDA church corporately responsible for the apostasies of the church whether or not they are voted on by the General Conference in Session? Yes indeed:
· "The plain straight testimony must live in the church, or the curse of God will rest upon His people as surely as it did upon ancient Israel because of their sins. God holds His people, as a body [corporately], responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them." Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 269.
· Did the camp of Israel vote in General Conference Session that Achan could steal booty and thus sin against God, Joshua 6, 7? No! Was the entire camp held responsible until the act was discovered and killed from the camp in the person of Achan and his family? Yes!
· The church went to Babylon seeking the Holy Spirit in Robert Folkenberg’s tenure as GC President. It came back with the Satanic Celebration Movement and implemented that program without ever taking the issue to the General Conference in Session and voting on it! Does that excuse the church for that apostasy in God’s eyes? Just because it was not formally voted on? Nay friend, Nay!
· We were not to isolate ourselves, but Ellen White and God said that we were never to join Babylon’s Associations, Councils and Confederacies. There is one option after doing so, broken in pieces, Isaiah 8:9-14, and Ezekiel 9:2 (see margin definition of slaughter weapons). Then there is Jeremiah 11:9-15, and what happened to Israel of that generation for conspiring with God’s enemies. Then there is Word to the Little Flock, p. 14, where it says it is IMPOSSIBLE to get back on the path again after violating the Midnight Cry of Matthew 25, “to go ye out to Meet Him.” Out of the world! Out of Babylonian fallen churches that cannot be distinguished from the world, Early Writings, 273.
Here is what the SDA church leaders who wrote the SDA Bible Commentary prior to 1957, had to say about the ecumenical movement and churches who are part of it:
SDA Encyclopedia on the Ecumenical Movement—“On the basis of Bible prophecy and the writings of Ellen G. White, SDA’s anticipate the eventual success of the ecumenical movement, both in eliminating the divisions of Protestantism and in reuniting Christendom by bridging the gulf that separates non-Catholic communions from Rome. The ecumenical movement will then become a concerted effort to unite the world and to secure universal peace and security by enlisting the power of civil government in a universal religio-political crusade to eliminate all dissent. SDA’s envision this crusade as the great apostasy to which John the revelator refers as “Babylon the great.” They understand, also, that God’s last message of mercy to the world prior to the return of Christ in power and glory will consist of a warning against this great apostate movement, and a call to all who choose to remain loyal to Him to leave the churches connected with it. See Rev. 13:15-17; 14:6-11; 16:12-14; 17:1-6; 18:1-4; GC 444, 445, 573, 588, 589, 615.” SDA Encyclopedia, p. 411, and page 362 in some later editions.
The above statement will most likely be expunged from later publications of the SDA Bible Commentary.
Note the following links:
What you will read by GC leaders herein is a whitewash rationalization for disobedience to God’s commands in the Midnight Cry, the first and second angel’s messages and the first and second commandments—a prime reason as to why Ezekiel 9 will be literally fulfilled again BEGINNING AT THIS SANCTUARY, the SDA churches around the world. If you will be whitewashed by the following article by the church, you will be whitewashed by anything and may the Lord have mercy on your unstable soul. Ron Beaulieu
Generally, it can be said that while the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not completely condemn the ecumenical movement and its main organizational manifestation, the World Council of Churches, she has been critical of various aspects and activities. Few would wish to deny that ecumenism has had laudable aims and some positive influences. Its great goal is visible Christian unity. No Adventist can be opposed to the unity Christ Himself prayed for. The ecumenical movement has promoted kinder interchurch relations with more dialogue and less diatribe and helped remove unfounded prejudices.
Through its various organizations and activities, the ecumenical movement has provided more accurate and updated information on churches, spoken for religious liberty and human rights, combated against the evils of racism, and drawn attention to socioeconomic implications of the gospel. In all this the intentions have been good and some of the fruit palatable. However, in the total picture, the banes tend to outweigh the boons. We shall examine some of these.
Adventism a Prophetic Movement
The Seventh-day Adventist Church stepped upon the stage of history-so Adventists firmly believe-in response to God's call. Adventists believe, it is hoped without pride or arrogance, that the Advent Movement represents the divinely appointed instrument for the organized proclamation of the "eternal gospel," God's last message, discerned from the prophetic vantage point of Revelation 14 and 18. In the focalized light of its prophetic understanding, the Seventh-day Adventist Church sees herself as the eschatologically oriented "ecumenical" movement of the Apocalypse. She begins by "calling out" God's children from "fallen" ecclesial bodies that will increasingly form organized religious opposition to the purposes of God. Together with the "calling out" there is a positive "calling in" to a united, worldwide-that is, ecumenical-movement characterized by "faith of Jesus" and keeping "the commandments of God" (Rev. 14:12). In the World Council of Churches the emphasis is first of all on "coming in" to a fellowship of churches and then hopefully and gradually "coming out" of corporate disunity. In the Advent Movement the accent is first on "coming out" of Babylonian disunity and confusion and then immediately "coming in" to a fellowship of unity, truth, and love within the globe-encircling Advent family.
In understanding the Adventist attitude toward ecumenism and other mainline churches, it is helpful to remember that the early-Advent movement (characterized by the Millerites) had ecumenical aspects: it arose in many churches. Thus, Adventists came from many denominations. However, the churches generally rejected the Advent message. Adventists were not infrequently disfellowshipped. Sometimes Adventists took with them portions of congregations. Relations became embittered. False stories were circulated, some of which unfortunately still persist today. The pioneers had strong views, and their opponents were no less dogmatic. They tended to look more for what separates than what unites. That was an understandable development. Today, of course, the interchurch climate tends to be more irenic and benign.
What are some of the problems Adventists have with ecumenism? Before we endeavor to give a summary answer to this question, it needs to be pointed out that the ecumenical movement is not monolithic in its thinking, and one can find all kinds of views represented in its ranks (that in itself, of course, is a problem!). We will try to make reference to what can be considered mainstream thinking within the World Council of Churches (WCC), an organization now representing more than three hundred different churches and denominations.
Ecumenical Understanding of Unity
The New Testament presents a qualified church unity in truth, characterized by holiness, joy, faithfulness, and obedience (see John 17:6, 13, 17, 19, 23, 26). "Ecumenthusiasts" (to coin a word) seem to take for granted the eventual organic unity and communion of the great majority of the churches. They emphasize the "scandal of division," as if this were really the unpardonable sin. Heresy and apostasy are largely ignored. However, the New Testament shows the threat of anti-Christian penetration within "the temple of God" (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). The eschatological picture of God's church prior to the Second Coming is not one of a megachurch gathering all humankind together, but of a "remnant" of Christendom, those keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus (see Rev. 12:17).
There is clearly a point at which unorthodoxy and un-Christian lifestyle justify separation. The WCC misses this point. Separation and division in order to protect and uphold that purity and integrity of the church and her message are more desirable than unity in worldliness and error.
Furthermore, Adventists are uncomfortable with the fact that the WCC leaders seem to give little emphasis to personal sanctification and revival. There are indications that some may view such emphasis as a quaint pietistic hangover, not a vital ingredient of a dynamic Christian life. They prefer to soft-pedal personal piety in favor of social morality. However, in Adventist understanding, personal holiness of life is such stuff as the morality of society is made (with apologies to Shakespeare). Without genuinely converted Christians, any formal organizational unity is really of a plastic nature and of little relevance.
Ecumenical Understanding of Belief
In many church circles broad-mindedness is seen as an ecumenical virtue. The ideal ecumenist, it is suggested, is not dogmatic in belief and is somewhat fluid in doctrinal views. He greatly respects the beliefs of others, but is less than rigid about his own belief. He appears humble and not assertive about doctrinal beliefs-except those regarding ecumenical unity. He has a sense of partial knowing. To show religious doctrinal arrogance is, ecumenically, especially sinful.
All this has a laudable side. Humility and meekness are Christian virtues. Indeed, Peter tells us to always be ready to answer and give a reason for our faith, but this must be done with humility, respect, and a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15, 16). However, there is in ecumenical ranks an almost inbuilt danger of softness and relativization of belief. The whole concept of heresy is questioned. Lately, questions are even raised regarding the idea of "paganism."
Typical of some ecumenical presuppositions is the idea that all denominational formulations of truth are time-conditioned and relative, and therefore partial and inadequate. Some ecumenists would even go so far as to advocate the need of doctrinal synthesis, bringing together various Christian beliefs in a kind of cocktail approach. We are told that each church is imbalanced and it is the task of ecumenism to restore balance and harmony. Within the reconciled diversity of the ecumenical movement, presumably everyone, in the words of Frederick the Great, "will be saved in his own way."
Adventists believe that without strong convictions, a church has little spiritual power. There is the danger that ecumenical quicksands of doctrinal softness will suck churches into denominational death. Of course, this is precisely what ecumenical enthusiasts hope for. However, Adventists feel that such doctrinal irresolutions must be vigorously resisted, otherwise spiritual self-disarmament will be the result and a truly post-Christian age would be upon us.
Ecumenical Understanding of Scripture
Adventists see the Bible as the infallible revelation of God's will, the authoritative revealer of doctrinal truth, and the trustworthy record of the mighty acts of God in salvation history (see Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists: 1. The Holy Scriptures). Adventists see the Bible as a unity. For many WCC leaders the Bible is not normative and authoritative in itself. The emphasis is on Biblical diversity, including at times demythologization of the Gospels. For a large number of ecumenists, as is the case for liberal Christianity in general, inspiration lies not in the Biblical text but in the experience of the reader. Propositional revelation is out; experience is in.
Apocalyptic prophecy is given practically no time-of-the-end role. Pro forma references to the Parousia are made, but have no implications for urgency and make little measurable impact on the ecumenical concept of evangelistic mission. There is here the danger of eschatological blindness.
Seventh-day Adventists see the Biblical picture of sin and redemption within the framework of the "great controversy" between good and evil, between Christ and Satan, between God's Word and the lies of the impostor, between the faithful remnant and Babylon, between the "seal of God" and the "mark of the beast."
Adventists are, first and foremost, people of the Word. While believing in the unconditional authority of the Scriptures, Adventists recognize that the Bible was "written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, it not represented. . . . The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen.Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21. Many ecumenists would say that the Biblical text is not the word of God but contains this word as men respond and accept it. In contrast, Adventists would say that the utterances of the Bible writers "are the word of God" (ibid.). God is not on trial; neither is His Word, form criticism notwithstanding. It is man vis-à-vis the Bible who is on trial.
Ecumenical Understanding of Mission and Evangelism
The traditional understanding of mission highlights evangelism, that is, the verbal proclamation of the gospel. The ecumenical approach sees mission as involving the establishment of shalom, a kind of social peace and harmony. Adventists have problems with any tendency to downplay the primary importance of announcing the good news of redemption from the stranglehold of sin. In fact, the traditional, including Adventist, view of salvation has always been the saving of individuals from sin and for eternity. Ecumenical evangelism sees salvation as primarily saving society from oppressive regimes, from the ravages of hunger, from the curse of racism, and from the exploitation of injustice.
The Adventist understanding of conversion means for a person to experience radical changes through spiritual rebirth. The majority emphasis in WCC circles appears to be on changing-converting-the unjust structures of society.
As we see it, in the area of evangelism and foreign missionary work the fruits (or maybe we should say lack of fruits) of ecumenism have often been less evangelism (as we understand it-from Paul to Billy Graham), less growth and more membership decline, fewer missionaries sent out, proportionally less financial support coming in. In fact, the missionary outreach has shifted away from mainline "ecumenical" churches to conservative evangelicals. It is sad to see such a large evangelistic potential lost to the missionary movement, especially at a time of increasingly active and militant Islamic outreach and the awakening of Eastern and indigenous religions.
The recent and successful Seventh-day Adventist One Thousand Days of Reaping campaign ran counter to the ecumenical low-key "joint mission" approach. The latter may sound good in an ecumenical study paper, but soul-winning results are really not there. The paraphrase of an old saying has some relevance here: "The proof of the ecumenical pudding lies in the evangelistic eating."
Ecumenical Understanding of Sociopolitical Responsibility
Admittedly, the whole question of Christian social and political responsibility is a complicated one. The WCC and other councils of churches (such as the National Council of Churches in the United States) are heavily involved in what are usually seen as political questions. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is very much more circumspect in this area (in comparison to evangelism, where the tables are turned!).
Much ecumenical thinking in the area of political responsibility includes or involves: (1) a secularization of salvation; (2) a postmillennial view advocating the gradual political improvement and social betterment of humankind and the establishment through human effort, as divine agents, of God's kingdom on earth; (3) adaptation of Christianity to the modern world; (4) evolutionary utopian faith in progress; and (5) socialistic collectivism, favoring some form of egalitarianism and the welfare state, but not Communist materialism.
Presumably, ecumenical social activists consider Adventism as a utopian vision of pie in the apocalyptic sky by and by; this is wrong. Faced with the many problems of society, Adventists cannot be, and generally are not, apathetic or indifferent. Witness this: extensive hospital-clinic-health institutions serving millions of people every year; a large educational system circling the globe with nearly five thousand schools; Adventist Development and Relief Agency-a rapidly expanding worldwide service of the church in areas of acute and chronic need. Several other service activities could be referred to.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes it is necessary to distinguish between sociopolitical activity of individual Christians as citizens and involvement on the corporate church level. It is the church's task to deal with moral principles and to point in a Biblical direction, not to advocate political directives. The WCC has at times been involved in political power plays. While Adventism will sow seeds that will inevitably influence society and politics, it does not wish to be entangled in political controversies. The church's Lord did state: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36), and like her Lord the church wishes to go "about doing good" (Acts 10:38). She does not wish to run the government, either directly or indirectly.
Ecumenical Understanding of Religious Liberty
In the early years of the WCC, beginning with its first assembly at Amsterdam in 1948, religious liberty was placed on the ecumenical agenda. Religious liberty was seen as a vital prerequisite for ecumenical unity. In 1968 a religious liberty secretariat was set up at WCC headquarters. However, in more recent years, the WCC religious liberty stance has been somewhat ambiguous. In 1978 the secretariat was closed down, mainly for what was seen as a lack of funds. This, of course, in itself speaks regarding the priority given to religious liberty in the organized ecumenical movement.
Today the ecumenical tendency is to view religious liberty as simply one of the human rights instead of the fundamental right that undergirds all other human rights. This is, of course, the approach used by the secular mind. Secularists or humanists refuse to recognize religious belief as something apart or above other human activities. There is here the danger that religious liberty will lose its unique character that makes it the guardian of all true freedoms.
It must not be forgotten that historically it has been the balance of power and denominationalism that have neutralized religious intolerance and worked for religious liberty. Formal religious unity has existed only with force. There is thus in society an inbuilt tension between unity and religious liberty. In fact, the eschatological picture of the final events is a dramatic tableau of religious persecution, as the massive forces of apocalyptic Babylon try to squeeze the church of the remnant into the mold of united apostasy.
Finally, the religious liberty outlook becomes increasingly clouded when it is realized that certain ecumenical activists accept fairly easily religious liberty restrictions affecting believers of a different religiopolitical stamp, who are exerting what is perceived to be a negative social stance. Furthermore, some ecumenical leaders are quite willing, in revolutionary situations, to see religious liberty interfered with and "temporarily shut down," in order to promote unity, nation building, and the "good" of society as a whole.
The Influence of Prophetic Understanding
What we have written so far highlights some of the reservations Adventists have regarding involvement in the organized ecumenical movement. The general attitude of the Seventh-day Adventist Church toward other churches and the ecumenical movement is decisively influenced by the above considerations and determined by prophetic understanding. Looking back, Adventists see centuries of persecution and anti-Christian manifestations of the papal power. They see discrimination and much intolerance by state or established churches. Looking forward, they see the danger of Catholicism and Protestantism linking hands and exerting religiopolitical power in a domineering and potentially persecuting way. They see the faithful church of God not as a jumbo church, but as a remnant. They see themselves as the nucleus of that remnant and as not willing to be linked with the expanding Christian apostasy of the last days.
Looking to the present, Adventists see their task as preaching the everlasting gospel to all men, calling for worship of the Creator, obedient adherence to the faith of Jesus, and proclaiming that the hour of God's judgment has come. Some aspects of this message are not popular. How can Adventists best succeed in fulfilling the prophetic mandate? It is our view that the Seventh-day Adventist Church can best accomplish her divine mandate by keeping her own identity, her own motivation, her own feeling of urgency, her own working methods.
Should Adventists cooperate ecumenically? Adventists should cooperate insofar as the authentic gospel is proclaimed and crying human needs are being met. The Seventh-day Adventist Church wants no entangling memberships and refuses any compromising relationships that might tend to water down her distinct witness. However, Adventists wish to be "conscientious cooperators." The ecumenical movement as an agency of cooperation has acceptable aspects; as an agency for organic unity of churches, it is much more suspect.
Relationships With Other Religious Bodies
Back in 1926, long before ecumenism was in vogue, the General Conference Executive Committee adopted an important statement that is now a part of the General Conference Working Policy (O 75). This declaration has significant ecumenical implications. The concern of the statement was for the mission field and relationships with other "missionary societies." However, the statement has now been broadened to deal with other "religious organizations" in general. It affirms that Seventh-day Adventists "recognize every agency that lifts up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world, and . . . hold in high esteem the Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ." In the church's dealings with other churches, "Christian courtesy, friendliness, and fairness" are to prevail. Some practical suggestions are made in order to avoid misunderstandings and occasion for friction. The statement makes it very clear, however, that the "Seventh-day Adventist people" have received the special "burden" to emphasize the Second Coming as an event "even at the door," preparing "the way of the Lord as revealed in Holy Scripture." This divine "commission" makes it, therefore, impossible for Adventists to restrict their witness "to any limited area" and impels them to call the gospel "to the attention of all peoples everywhere."
In 1980 the General Conference set up a Council on Interchurch Relations in order to give overall guidance and supervision to the church's relations with other religious bodies. This council has from time to time authorized conversations with other religious organizations where it was felt this could prove helpful.
Adventist leaders should be known as bridge builders. This is not an easy task. It is much simpler to blow up ecclesiastical bridges and serve as irresponsible "Christian commandos." Ellen White has said: "It requires much wisdom to reach ministers and men of influence. Evangelism, p. 562. Adventists have not been called to live in a walled-in ghetto, talking only to themselves, publishing mainly for themselves, showing a sectarian spirit of isolationism. It is, of course, more comfortable and secure to live in a Seventh-day Adventist fortress, with the communication drawbridges all drawn up. In this setting one ventures from time to time into the neighborhood for a quick evangelistic campaign, capturing as many "prisoners" as possible, and then disappearing with them back into the fortress. Ellen White did not believe in the isolationist mentality: "Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ's messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 78.
Usefulness of Observer Relationships
Experience has taught that the best relationship to the various councils of churches (national, regional, world) is that of observer-consultant status. This helps the church to keep informed and to understand trends and developments. It helps to know Christian thinkers and leaders. Adventists are provided the opportunity to exert a presence and make the church's viewpoint known. Membership is not advisable. Those ecumenical organizations are usually not "neutral." They often have quite specific goals and policies and play sociopolitical advocacy roles. There would be little point in being halfhearted members (at best) or pro forma members (as many member churches are) or often in opposition (as inevitably would be the case).
On local levels, dealing with more practical and less theological issues, one could envision some forms of Seventh-day Adventist membership, with caution, however. We are thinking of such organized relationships as ministerial associations/fraternals, local church organizations, Bible study groups, specific groups or networks to study community needs and help solve local problems. Adventists must not be perceived as simply opting out of any Christian responsibility for the local community.
In recent years, Adventist leaders and theologians have had opportunities for dialogue with other church representatives. These experiences have been beneficial. Mutual respect has been engendered. Worn-out stereotypes and inaccurate and untrue doctrinal perceptions have been removed. Prejudices have been unceremoniously laid to rest. Theological tools and understandings have been sharpened. New dimensions have been recognized and new vistas of outreach opened up. First of all, however, their faith in the Advent message has been enhanced. There is no reason for Adventists to have an inferiority complex. It is a wonderful privilege to be a Seventh-day Adventist and to know that the theological and organizational foundation of the church are sure and secure.
Heralds of the True Oikoumene
Adventists are heralds of the only true and lasting oikoumene. In Hebrews reference is made to "the world [Greek: oikoumene] to come" (chap. 2:5, N.E.B.), the coming universal kingdom of God. In the final analysis, it is this "ecumenism" Adventists are working for. Every other ecumenical movement is ephemeral. In the meantime, it is a Christian duty to "concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ" in one's heart. "Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. Make sure that your conscience is perfectly clear" (1 Peter 3:15, 16, Phillips).
This study document, intended for internal church use, first appeared in Pattern for Progress, The Role and Function of Church Organization by Walter Raymond Beach and Bert Beverly Beach, was authored by Bert B. Beach, and was released in connection with the General Conference Session New Orleans, Louisiana, June 1985. It is available from the office of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty of the General Confere