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EUD Administration Position on Religious Meeting in Italy in June 2021

EUD Administration Position on Religious Meeting in Italy in June 2021

On June 12, 2021, a ceremony took place in Italy among clerics of different religious denominations, presented by its organizers as a commemoration of the passage of the tenth anniversary of the constitution of the Council of Christian Churches of Marche and the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the document Charta Oecumenica. The entire event was recorded 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 is a retired pastor who was involved in the organization of a fellowship and exchange group of ministers of several Christian denominations living in that area of Italy, “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 on our part, the Administration of the Italian Union commented on the event, through the Declaration below (Document 1). We emphasize 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 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”.

In order 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” (complete Statement below, Document 2), 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 20thanniversary 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

 

Document 1
Statement from Italian Union Administration

July 21, 2021

Dear brothers and sisters, may the peace of Heaven accompany our work and mission to proclaim His return.

Hereby, as President of the Adventist Church in Italy, I feel the need to declare and make explicit what happens in our territory and that might be misunderstood.

Comments, photos, videos if not put in context can lead to misunderstandings and, when the good work of the church is manipulated and tarnished by the media, then I must take actions and a position.

Regarding what happened recently in Ancona, I inform you that ten years ago pastor Abiusi Michele signed the Constitutional Act of the council of Christian churches in the Italian region of Marche. Now, the reason was uniquely and explicitly founded on the intention of getting to know the other religious organizations in the area and to let the others religious organizations know us. 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).

As the WP ed. 1998, p. 368 states "we recognize every world organization. We deeply respect Christian men and women of other denominations, who strive to win souls for Christ." And again, on November 12, 1991, the plenary committee of the EUD approved a recommendation on relationships with other churches and Christian communities stating “Although Adventists have serious objections regarding their membership in the Ecumenical Council of Churches (CEC), they recognize the usefulness of the efforts made in view of Christian unity and the need to establish good relations with other churches.”

The pastoral body of each Union is therefore encouraged to collaborate with other confessional organizations, especially in compliance with the declaration published in December 1992 in the Revue Adventist. This declaration emphasizes that “Pastors of the 7th Day Adventist Christian Church should get in touch with clergymen from other churches or local Christian communities to emphasize common denominational points, without neglecting divergent aspects. Local churches will try to maintain good relations with other Christian churches, based on mutual tolerance and respect.”

Given the above, I affirm that in the event of June 12 on the Adventist side there was no statement that took a position contrary to our theological principles and our mission.

However, the Italian Union acknowledge the importance of these ecumenical moments, based on our understanding of the mission, and having assured our loyalty to the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, 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.

We take distance from those who have a different attitude from our belief, briefly outlined above. Also, we declare that as the Adventist church in Italy we distance ourselves from any statements that undermine our freedom of evangelization or might lead us to conform to decisions made by others with the excuse of being willing to become a single church. Concerning this church, we cannot and do not want to recognize the authority of it over our choices.

President
Stefano Paris

 

Document 2          
EUD Statement on Relationship with Other Religious Denominations

Voted on May, 2020

Whereas, from time to time, church members and leaders from across the EUD territory contact the Division inquiring about the appropriateness of Adventist pastors and leaders – in different positions of responsibility – to participate in Ecumenical and Inter-Religious activities and organizations,

Whereas, considering the complexity of the matter, a simple and straight yes or no response doesn’t, in most instances, bring a satisfactory answer to the question,

Whereas, based on the Bible the Seventh-day Adventist Church produced various documents and statements concerning our relationship with other churches and religious denominations,


MOVED, to strongly recommend to all the entities and workers within the Inter-European Division to abide by the following principles and guidelines: 

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.


2. We are fully convinced and vigorously defend that freedom of conscience and religious liberty are rights inherent to all human beings, not as something that we claim only for us, but as a right to be granted to all, even to those who think differently from us.

3. All human beings are created in the image of God and therefore deserve our deepest love and respect. Despite the differences, though, we should not shy away from those who don’t think, believe, and or behave as we do.

4. Dialogue and mutual understanding do not mean, however, agreeing with the others, just for the sake of securing cordial relationships.

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.

6. Our fundamental beliefs have been carefully and painstakingly built on the sure foundation of the Bible. These statements of faith define our identity as a church and should always be kept as our hallmark.

7. Therefore, 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.

The world is ripe to receive the hopeful message of Jesus’ soon return to this earth. God has called us, individually and as a Church, to proclaim this good news. The inter-religious relationships offer us an excellent opportunity to share it. If we earnestly pray, God will give us His love, strength and wisdom to do it. As we do so, many will come and join hands with us. We believe that this is the way par excellence to bring about the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17.