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February 03, 2012

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I like this response, Nick! It would perhaps be better read in the context of the first presentation, but it stands well on its own.

I believe one point which would strengthen the point regarding Ellen White's commitment two working with other Christians where we have common goals would be her urging Adventists to support the Women's Christian Temperance Union at at time when the WCTU was advocating a national Sunday law. As you know, Adventists consider such a law to be implemented in connection with the mark of the beast, yet EGW advised to continue to support the WCTU in their main goal, prohibition.

I have a theory that the Sabbath is actually the Adventist version of ecumenism. We believe it is the day of rest given to all mankind, and that observance of Sabbath will, in the end times, be the visible mark of the invisible church. We also observe it in such a way that we expect God to work on the hearts of others to accommodate our observance, hence our religious liberty work. This would correspond to the ecumenical movements expectation that all should join. What do you think?

Yes, I think you are on to something David. Dean Fortin and I both independently decided that the Sabbath was the key issue in relation to the ecumenical movement, and now you have nicely framed its connection to Ecumenism in a positive manner.

Yes, I thought of getting into the Wctu thing and Sunday laws, but I had too much to say otherwise, and that got cut. I will add it back as I frame this for an article for Ministry or the Review. Good thought, thanks for your kind words and sharing of ideas.

A most excellent response!!!

Hmmm. Lots of things I could say. First, there's one issue where Adventist's practice one of the key principles of the ecumenical movement: intercommunion. Many of the churches that are not members of the NCC and WCC are specifically churches that practice close or closed communion, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. We welcome all Christians to the Lord's Table, without questioning them on their positions on the so-called "testing truths." When it comes to the Lord's Supper, we practice that there is only one testing truth--confession of Jesus Christ as Lord.

We let our pastors marry members of other Christian churches (as long as neither of the parties is an Adventist). That's a curious position, based our understanding of being "unequally yoked," and uniquely open to ecumenical hospitality.

We're not going to open our pulpits in our churches, and we've seen problems when we invite non-Adventists to our ministerial gatherings and seminary, it is true. But I think of Adventist leaders, like George Vandeman, who had very good relations with other Christian leaders (see especially George's book, "What I Like About...").

We've had Adventist observers at WCC events and Vatican 2. But one such leader, when I met him when I was an ELCA pastor, remarked snidely to me, "So you're a member of that church where you can believe anything you want." Not very graceful.

Adventists in chaplaincy ministries, whether in the military, hospital, or campus setting collaborate in many positive ways with our fellow Christians. It is an essential element of ministry in these settings. As a brigade chaplain in the Army (National Guard)--I supervise six chaplains of varying denominations. This happens all the time in the military and in hospital settings.

So there are lots of areas we could go with this discussion that are barely hinted at in this exchange. :-)

I am SO thankful to GOD for illuminating your mind to give such an excellent response!!! :D It wasn't condescending, arrogant nor uncivilized. I believe with certainty that the Holy Spirit spoke through you to clarify the misinterpretations about Seventh-day Adventists. Praise the LORD! My heart is at peace now... Happy Sabbath! (:

Here are a few things I found on the EG White Estates CD Rom that I thought might add to your response and may be an added help in your upcoming article in the Review.

Our laborers should be very careful not to give the impression that they are wolves stealing in to get the sheep, but should let the ministers understand their position and the object of their mission--to call the attention of the people to the truths of God's Word. There are many of these which are dear to all Christians. Here is common ground, upon which we can meet people of other denominations; and in becoming acquainted with them we should dwell mostly upon topics in which all feel an interest, and which will not lead directly and pointedly to the subjects of disagreement.--Review and Herald, June 13, 1912. {Ev 143.5}

Ministers of the popular denominations of the day are acceptable preachers if they can speak upon a few simple points of the Bible. {2T 556.1}

RELIGIOUS SERVICES AT THE SANITARIUM
Sunday afternoon, at 4 P. M., there is a general Bible class in the Sanitarium parlor, for the benefit of the patients and boarders. The text used is the International Lessons. {1890, MBC90 7.3}
Sunday evening, at 7:30, divine service is held in the parlor, the chaplain usually officiating, but frequently the preaching is by ministers of other denominations. {1890, MBC90 7.4}

Yes some good points:

Bill, thanks for the reminder on the open communion thing, that is an Adventist strong point that shows both our theoretical and practical openness to fellowshipping with other Christians. I suppose I'm a little less impressed with the marriage point, as it really cuts both ways, showing some openness, but also showing some exclusivity, though appropriately so, in my estimation. Also, the points about being observers at various ecumenical events was made both by the Dean and Dr. Kinammon, with them pointing out that we even participate at times, like serving on the Faith and Order commission to bring Adventist theology to bear on the larger discussion. Chaplaincy is also a good point, but not uncontroversial in some corners of Adventism, especially those who despise anything smacking of ecumenism.

Thank you, Charles, you have come up with some great quotes that will indeed inform some later version of this. Thanks for insights, all.

Just to keep the use of the Spirit of Prophecy correct, the post by Charles Possenriede on February 04, includes a statement from Vol 2 of the Testimonies for the Church. Without further clarification which is the rest of the statement, it is seen to be misleading. It is not a statement allowing preachers from other denominations to preach in our churches. It is speaking of our own pastors and stating that in other denominations one may be qualified to speak if they can present a point or two from the Bible, but we must do better. Our ministers who are "spreading unpopular truths" and have to meet "opposers of every type, should know what they are about." Here is the statement in context from Vol 2.

"I was shown that ministers must be sanctified and holy, and must have a knowledge of the word of God. They should be familiar with Bible arguments and prepared to give a reason of their hope, or they should cease their labors and engage in a calling where deficiency will not involve such tremendous consequences. Ministers of the popular denominations of the day are acceptable preachers if they can speak upon a few simple points of the Bible; but the ministers who are spreading unpopular truth for these last days, who have to meet men of learning, men of strong minds, and opposers of every type, should know what they are about. They should not take upon themselves the responsibility of teaching the truth unless they are qualified for the work. Before engaging in, or devoting themselves to, the work they should become Bible students. If they have not an education so that they can speak in public with acceptance, and do justice to the truth, and honor the Lord whom they profess to serve, they should wait till they are fitted for the position." {2T 556.1}

It can be seen from this full quote that our ministers are held to a much higher standard than many "ministers of the popular denominations of the day." It has nothing to do with these ministers from other denominations speaking in Seventh-day Adventist pulpits.

The last two quotes shared in the post by Charles Possenriede, do not give support to having non-Seventh-day Adventist ministers preaching in our hospitals. Our institutions are to be channels for bringing the truth to those who have not heard it. Let us walk in the light while we still have opportunity. Jesus is coming soon! He would have come long ago if we had been faithful in doing our appointed work. Let us redeem the time and heed to the call for revival and reformation within our church.

"Our keeping of the Sabbath has given us a great sensitivity to the plight of religious minorities who have been persecuted for holding beliefs outside the mainstream. Anti-semitism has a long and unfortunate history in Europe and America, and often the target of that bigotry has included the practice of Sabbath-keeping."

Please could you tell me how I should read these sentences in light of what actually happened within Christianity under the Nazi regime. I would love, love love to understand how we were more of a remnant than the confessing church was. I would love to hear exactly why our aversion to ecumenicalism didn't contribute to our inability to discern what other Christians could.

Or, sounds great. Too bad that our past performance belies everything you just said!

Things I appreciated about this article include,
1. The accurate representation of EGW's view of other Christians both in their place in God's end-time remnant and the importance of cooperation with other pastors.
2. I thought you were generous to other Christians and what they got up to in the 1910 conference. I would have used harsher language to describe the unseemliness of how they divided the mission field.
3. It's such a big deal that this guy was on the Andrews campus. That deserves major kudos.

Your excellent article doesn't discuss the history of Christianity under Nazi's so it's unfair to suggest that. However, I'd love it if you would!

To be fair, the confessing church frustrated both Barth and Bonhoeffer in their refusal to address outright the treatment of Jews but at least they objected to Nazi treatment of developmentally disabled Christians which is more than we can say.

In the spirit of other comments I'd like to add another area where Adventists are ecumenical. Education. As in, this event was ecumenical. ATS relates to the wider ETS crowd in a way that could be said to be ecumenical. Where Adventist theologians pursue postgraduate education could be said to be ecumenical. Thanks!

Thank you for your comments, Johnny, especially your more moderate second set! (I know that my second attempt at a response is often more positive and thoughtful than my first.) But both sets of comments make good points.

I would agree that Adventism did not do well in Germany, but I think the whole experience rather supports my point, rather than denying it. First, it shows the kind of anti-semitism that has and is a problem in the West. Second, the German Christian church, which Hitler created to unite all German churches, was the "ecumenical" movement in Germany that the Confessing church was opposing.

The confessing church, in my view, represented the real remnant in Germany, because they insisted that the foundation of their unity must be scripture, and not scripture plus national socialism or German tradition. They insisted on commitment to scripture, and opposed the ecumenical movement urged by the state.

The SDA church's failure to join in with this scriptural remnant was, in my view, not so much their opposition to ecumenism, though that probably played a role, as it was their over-zealous devotion to certain scriptural truths, e.g., the Sabbath, at the expense of others, e.g., defending the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Certain members understood this, and stood up for their Jewish neighbors and friends, e.g., the Hasels and the Weidners, but as an organization the Adventist church did not do so well. This is a lesson we must learn from.

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Memory, Meaning & Faith is a blog covering Christian history in light of contemporary issues.

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