Editor’s Note: Last month we looked at an overview of the steps leading toward the ecumenical push in Adventism today. In the conclusion of this study we will consider where this movement is leading and what our response should be.
Early History of Ecumenical Aspirations In the SDA Church
With this background of “ecumenism” in mind, we must now consider the historical evidence that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has joined hands with the World Council of Churches in the Ecumenical Movement. How did it all begin? Why has the SDA leadership been deceived by the erroneous concept that we should seek fellowship and acceptance from the fallen churches of Babylon? That we should also seek fellowship and approval from the Papacy, the Anti-christ of the end-times, is truly astounding!
The American Sentinel’s Ecumenical Aspiration
The first hint of a desire for the acceptance of Seventh-day Adventism by the popular denominations took place in 1890. (See Manuscript Releases, No, 1033.) Ministers who were in charge of the American Sentinel, (Seventh-day Adventist Religious Liberty magazine of the day, forerunner of our contemporary Liberty magazine), met behind closed doors to contemplate dropping the name Seventh-day Adventist from the magazine. The reason given by the editorial board was to gain acceptance from the Sunday-keeping churches. Ellen White received a vision of what was taking place and gave the following testimony:
“In the night season I was present in several councils, and there I heard words repeated by influential men to the effect that if the American Sentinel would drop the words “Seventh-day Adventist” from its columns, and would say nothing about the Sabbath, the great men of the world would patronize it. It would become popular and do a larger work. This looked very pleasing. These men could not see why we could not affiliate with unbelievers and non-professors to make the American Sentinel a great success. I saw their countenances brighten, and they began to work on a policy to make the Sentinel a popular success.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, 96.
“These things have gone as far as they should without someone protesting against them in plain words,” Ellen White admonished. “The Lord’s time to set things in order has fully come.” Ibid.
Notice that these early ecumenical-minded Adventist leaders, these “influential men,” as Ellen White stated, desired that “the great men of the world would patronize” the American Sentinel magazine. They believed that if they dropped the name Seventh-day Adventist it would then “become popular and do a larger work.” However, they could not see “why we could not affiliate with unbelievers and non-professors.” Because of their false concept of ecumenical ties between Seventh-day Adventists and the Sunday-keeping churches “they began to work on a policy to make the Sentinel a popular success.” This erroneous policy was never implemented because the messenger of the Lord was alive and well. She was given a vision of the movements underfoot and gave her faithful testimony to the “influential men.” They saw their error and kept the name Seventh-day Adventist on the Sentinel magazine. Indeed, who would like to stand up against a living prophet of the Lord?
How is it today, friend? Since the living prophet has passed from the scene has the contemporary Church preserved the name “Seventh-day” on its periodicals and institutions? No, it has not! The contemporary church has dropped the name “Seventh-day” from everything, and simply employs the name “Adventist.” Adventist Book Center, Adventist Media Center, Adventist Community Center, etc. Indeed, today many churches and book centers have even dropped the name Adventist, and call themselves simply, Christian Book Center, or Community Worship Center. A Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bothell, Washington, took the name “North Creek Fellowship.” This group met in the local Conference office until funds were raised to construct a church building. The name “Seventh-day” has been dropped from hospitals and clinics. (See, “Portland Adventist Hospital,” Portland, Oregon.) Indeed, the name “Seventh-day” has been dropped from the church’s welfare system. Remember when the church’s welfare system was called SAWS, which stood for, “Seventh-day Adventist Welfare System?” What is the title of this entity today, friend? ADRA, “Adventist Development and Relief Agency.” How about the periodicals? We now have the Adventist Review. What was the name of our church paper in the days of the pioneers? Advent Review and Sabbath Herald!
Heaven gave counsel against removing the name Seventh-day Adventist from the periodicals and institutions of the church. Speaking on the subject Ellen White stated in part: “This policy is the first step in a succession of wrong steps. The principles which have been advocated in the American Sentinel are the very sum and substance of the advocacy of the Sabbath, and when men begin to talk of changing these principles, they are doing a work which it does not belong to them to do. Like Uzzah, they are attempting to steady the ark which belongs to God, and is under His special supervision.” Ibid.
“This policy is the first step in a succession of wrong steps,” Ellen White warned. Why would the “wrong steps” be successful from 1926 onward, and not in 1890 and 1905? The answer is simple. The messenger of the Lord passed from the scene in 1915! Leadership no longer had to answer to a living prophet. What has been the succession of “wrong steps” taken toward ecumenical policies since these first attempts were made in 1890 and 1905? Sadly, history reveals the answer.
The First Wrong Step Toward Ecumenism Approved In 1926
“In the desire to avoid occasion for misunderstanding or friction in the matter of relationship to the work of other societies, the following statement of principles are set forth as a guidance to our workers in mission fields in their contacts with other religious organizations,” the General Conference voted in 1926. (General Conference Executive Committee, 1926.)
“#1. We recognize every agency that lifts up Christ before man as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world, and we hold in high esteem the Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ.” “Relationship To Other Societies,” General Conference Executive Committee, 1926.
Notice that the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church “recognize every agency that lifts up Christ.” This would include the Roman Catholic and apostate Protestant churches and unholy- spirit-filled Pentecostal churches. SDA leadership also recognizes these fallen churches of Babylon “as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world.” That is not what my Bible says! Neither can this premise be found in the Spirit of Prophecy. “There is as great a difference in our faith and that of nominal professors, as the heavens are higher than the earth.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 300.
This statement is the last sentence in an important testimony. Let us consider the complete testimony in context: “Those who engage in the solemn work of bearing the Third Angel’s Message, must move out decidedly, and in the Spirit and power of God, fearlessly preach the truth, and let it cut. They should elevate the standard of truth, and urge the people to come up to it. It has been lowered down to meet the people in their condition of darkness and sin. It is the pointed testimony that will bring up the people to decide. A peaceful testimony will not do this. The people have the privilege of listening to this kind of teaching from the pulpits of the day. But God has servants to whom He has entrusted a solemn, fearful message, to bring out and fit up a people for the coming of Christ. There is as great a difference in our faith and that of nominal professors, as the heavens are higher than the earth.” Ibid., 299, 300.
“God has committed to us the special truths for this time to make known to the world.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 236. In these last hours, “God has given to us,” Seventh-day Adventists, “the special truths for this time to make known to the world.” He has not given this message to the Sunday-keeping churches of Babylon. Our commission is to call the people out of Babylon, not to join hands with Babylon! We are not to please the churches of the world by emphasizing doctrines the SDA leadership alleges we hold in common with them. “The world is against us, the popular churches are against us, the laws of the land will soon be against us.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 236.
How can we “recognize” the “popular churches” that are “against us” as being “a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world?” Notice also that the contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Church holds “in high esteem the Christian men and women” who teach the false doctrines of the Protestant churches, the churches that the Scripture calls the harlot daughters of Babylon.
“And the Roman Catholic Church was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her false doctrine, and upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” Revelation 17:4, 5, paraphrase.
“In our day. . .are not religious teachers turning men away from the plain requirements of the word of God? Instead of educating them in obedience to God’s law, are they not educating them in transgression? From many of the pulpits of the churches the people are taught that the law of God is not binding upon them.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 305.
“The Protestants have accepted the spurious Sabbath, the child of the papacy, and have exalted it above God’s holy sanctified day,” Ellen White stated, “and our institutions of learning have been established for the express purpose of counteracting the influence of those who do not follow the word of God.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 288.
Does this sound like Ellen White would approve of any idea of ecumenism? How can we “recognize” the Sunday-keeping churches of Babylon as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world” and still be “counteracting the influence” of those churches “who do not follow the word of God?” How can we “recognize” those churches who have “accepted the spurious Sabbath, the child of the papacy, and have exalted it above God’s holy sanctified day?”
Ellen White stated that in the Sunday-keeping churches of Babylon “the doctrine is now largely taught that the gospel of Christ has made the law of God of no effect; that by ‘believing’ we are released from the necessity of being doers of the word.” Signs of the Times, February 25, 1897. She stated further that this teaching “is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned.”
Have the Sunday-keeping churches become more “Adventist” since the death of Ellen White? What was Ellen White’s position on the recognition of the Sunday-keeping churches of Babylon? What would she say if she were alive today? She would give the same testimony she gave from the beginning. Truth does not change.
“I saw that since Jesus left the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary and entered within the second veil, the churches have been filling up with every unclean and hateful bird. I saw great iniquity and vileness in the churches, yet their members profess to be Christians. Their profession, their prayers, and their exhortations are an abomination in the sight of God. Said the angel, ‘God will not dwell in their assemblies. Selfishness, fraud, and deceit are practiced by them without the reprovings of conscience. And over all these evil traits they throw the cloak of religion.’” Early Writings, 274.
Ellen White’s position on the other denominations was that the members of these churches of Babylon “profess to be Christians.” The contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Church concurs with these false churches by stating that “we hold in high esteem the Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ.” GC Executive Committee, 1926.
Because we recognize the fallen churches of Babylon, does this mean that they will always love and recognize Seventh-day Adventists as Christian brethren? No, they will not.
“When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach,” Ellen White warned, “worldlings will regard Seventh-day Adventists as odd, singular, strait-laced extremists.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 289.
We now have the answer to two important questions.
- Why were the attempted moves toward ecumenism by “influential men” not successful in 1890 and 1905?
- Why would the “wrong steps” toward ecumenism be successful after the year 1926 and onward? Again, the answer is simple. The messenger of the Lord passed from the scene in 1915—and the written Testimonies of the Lord have been made of non-effect!