Adventists Observe WCC Assembly

BY BILL KNOTT                                                                                                                          Back to WCC Menu

ince the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1948, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has carefully monitored events and trends in this largest Christian interchurch movement, even as it has steadfastly chosen not to join or actively participate in the WCC’s efforts to promote Christian unity.  Adventist observers have been present at most of the WCC Assemblies, held every seven years to shape the organization’s plans and strategies.

This week, three Adventist leaders are in Porto Alegré, Brazil, site of the 9th WCC Assembly, from February 14-23.  Dr. John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director of the General Conference, Dr. Eugene Hsu, General Conference vicepresident; and Dr. Bill Knott, associate editor of the Adventist Review; are attending sessions, press conferences, and dialogues to learn more about the WCC’s goals and plans, especially those that may have an impact on Adventist faith and witness.

Reports on this Web site from the WCC Assembly will be updated daily, and a concluding report by Graz and Knott will appear both in print and on this site.  Please note that articles prepared by WCC staff and posted here are offered for information only and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints or beliefs of Adventist leaders attending the WCC Assembly, the General Conference, or the Adventist Review.

Dr. Bert Beach, longtime PARL director of the General Conference and an observer for more than four decades at WCC Assemblies and dialogues, has offered the following helpful explanation of the Adventist Church’s relationship with the World Council of Churches:

“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.”*

Beach offers a helpful summary of the approach that the church has maintained for almost 50 years toward the WCC:  “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. . . . However, in the total picture, the banes tend to outweigh the boons.”

* “Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement,” (pamphlet), Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985.

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