Christian unity has become the focus of most Christian churches today.
The current attempt of Christian churches to band together in things in which they hold common, is commonly referred to as “ecumenism.” This word is defined as “the organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity of all believers in Christ.”
The foundation for this ecumenical trend has been laid and built upon over many years. We saw the beginning of institutional ecumenism in the 1960’s, with the formation of The World Council of Churches, which at first consisted of mostly mainline Protestant denominations.
The largest Christian church, however, the Roman Catholic Church, with about 1 billion members, is still not a member of the World Council of Churches. Until the 1960s, one could not really be a good Catholic and be ecumenical.
In 1964, however, the Roman Catholic Church officially stepped into the ecumenical age. In that year, the second Vatican Council adopted the decree on ecumenism, which says that “all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ.
They, therefore, have a right to be called Christians and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. The decree refers to non-Catholic Christians as “separated brethren.”
The Catholic ecumenical position is very simple: The separated brethren ought to accept the supremacy of the Pope, and either become members of the Roman Catholic Church or join hands and continue their existence as separate entities within the framework of a fraternal religious system.
Every Sunday, ecumenical worship services are held around the globe, and in 1991, for the first time in history, the Pope held an ecumenical service with two Lutheran bishops at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The former Pope, Benedict XVI had declared his commitment to the Second Vatican Council’s Ecumenism.
During Pope Benedict’s trip to the United States in 2008, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons), were invited to attend an ecumenical prayer service with the pope for the first time.
Recently, Pope Francis presided over a service at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in the United Kingdom with Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and other Christian representatives present and reading some of the prayers.
At that occasion Pope Francis remarked, “If we do not walk together, if we do not pray for one another, if we do not collaborate in the many ways that we can in this world for the people of God,” the Pope said, “then unity will not come about.”
Back in March 29, 1994, leading evangelicals and Catholics signed a historic joint declaration called, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the 3rd. Millennium.”
The 25-page document, originated by Chuck Colson and Catholic social critic Richard John Neuhaus, was signed by 40 noted evangelical and Catholic leaders including Pat Robertson, heads of the Home Mission Board and Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bill Bright – founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Mark Noll of Wheaton University, Os Guinness, Jesse Miranda (Assemblies of God), Richard Mauw (President , Fuller Seminary.)
A glaring example of today’s ecumenical movement is seen in Promise Keepers. Promise Keepers is a Christian organization for men who are not affiliated with any Christian church, or denomination.
Huge rallies of Promise Keepers are conducted periodically in various parts of North America, and thousands of men who sometimes travel great distances to attend.
What could be wrong with Christian men uniting to become more godly? What could be wrong with men assuming leadership in marriage? What could be wrong with promoting the virtues of sexual integrity, parental responsibility, and church devotion?
Promise Keepers is committed to reaching across denominational barriers in an effort to unite men. And they have been successful in doing that.
Promise Keepers supporters and sponsors include Evangelicals, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Charismatics, Catholics, Mormons and others. These groups have been divided by major doctrinal differences for many years.
But now these differences are being dropped for the sake of unity. The very fact that both the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches have officially declared that they find no conflict between Promise Keepers teaching and their own doctrines, ought to tell us that something is seriously wrong.
There have been single issues, such as abortion, pornography, and prohibition, that have drawn a spectrum of churches together, but none have reached the popularity and ecumenicalism of the Promise Keepers.
At present, there are two main ecumenical organizations, the World Council of Churches or the W.C.C., and the National Council of Churches, or the N.C.C. Today, 349 churches with more than 560 million members belong to the World Council of Churches, whose administrative center is in Geneva, Switzerland.
The main aim of the Ecumenical Movement is to bring churches of all denominations, and ultimately, all other religious organisations together as One Ecumenical Church or World Church.
Roman Catholic bishops from around the world met in an Ecumenical Council at the Vatican from 1962-1965. They revised the Catholic liturgy, and have updated the church in several areas in an effort to bring the Protestants back into the fold.
Protestants are no longer called ‘heretics’ by Catholics, but are referred to as ‘separated brethren’. Booklets are being distributed to Catholic laymen on ‘ecumenical etiquette’. Each year million of leaflets, ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ are distributed.
One of the biggest drives toward unity is the amalgamation of Catholic and Protestant seminaries. For the first time in history Roman Catholic churches are joining Protestant church councils.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was the first Anglican primate to visit a Pope in 400 years, and official Roman Catholic documents are beginning to use the term ‘church’ to describe Protestant churches.
There is no doubt that the irresistible effort of the Ecumenical Movement to form a World Church will culminate in the acceptance of the Pope — that man of sin, the son of perdition — as its head.
In 1888, Ellen G. White wrote: “Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul, and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of Spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome.
The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of Spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.
Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power, and they will see in this union a grand movement for the conversion of the world and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium.” Great Controversy, Page 588
In 1885, when she wrote this, the ecumenical movement, as we know it today, was not even thought of. At that time, not only were Protestants quarreling amongst themselves, but most were passionately opposed to the Roman Catholic Church. Over the past 40 years, the first part of this prophecy is being fulfilled.
Finally, here’s the official position of our denomonation on this matter of ecumenism. It’s a direct quote taken directly from the church website, Documents of offical Statements of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
General Conference – Official Statements Documents- Ecumenical Movement
“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.
…The Seventh-day Adventist church 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.
…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.
…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.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church wants no entangling memberships and refuses any compromising relationships that might tend to water down her distinct witness.”