SDA Ecumenical Agenda

 

Documentation for Lecture

List Of Those Attending Assisi Peace Conference

VATICAN, Jan 17, 02 (CWNews.com) — The Italian daily newspaper Avvenire has published a list of the religious leaders expected to participate in the January 24 inter-religious observance at Assisi.

The Vatican has not yet released an official list of the participants, explaining that the list will not be considered complete until all those invited have responded. An estimated 300 people are expected to be involved, representing 44 different religious bodies.

Avvenire reported that 33 cardinals are expected, led by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano; the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re; the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan; the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper; and Cardinal Etchegaray, who organized the original inter-religious ceremony in Assisi in 1986. Also present will be representatives of the episcopal conferences of Algeria, Angola, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sudan—countries where inter-religious dialogue is particularly important.

The Orthodox churches of the world will send 11 patriarchs to Assisi, led by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. But no representative of the Moscow patriarchate is expected.

About 50 Islamic leaders will attend, coming from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, the Philippines, and Jordan. And Jewish rabbis will come from Jerusalem, France, and the United States—along with Elio Toaff, the former chief rabbi of Rome.

Protestant bodies will be represented by Konrad Kaiser, the secretary-general of the World Council of Churches; Anglican Bishop Richard Garrard of Rome; Setri Nyomi of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches; George Freeman of the World Methodist Council; Cecil Robeck of the Pentecostal church; Alvin Jackson of the Disciples of Christ; Theodor Angelou of the European Baptist Federation; and Bert Beach of the Seventh-Day Adventists.

The Vatican also expects representatives of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and traditional African faiths.

The Italian government will be represented in Assisi by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

All these participants are expected to be aboard a specially chartered train that will leave Rome for Assisi on the morning of January 24, returning that evening. Catholic World News, www.CWNews.com. An international news organization, staffed by lay Catholic journalists, dedicated to providing accurate world news, written from a distinctly Catholic perspective.

AN ANYALISIS AND BACK GROUND OF

THE ABOVE ARTICLE

VANCE FERRELL

Why was Beach named? Simple enough: He has been the Seventh-day Adventist Church contact man with the WCC i.e. (World Council Of Churches) and the Vatican for decades, Indeed, he has probably been a liaison with the WCC and Rome longer than any other man named on the entire list-Catholic, Protestant, or governmental! Who is Bert B. Beach? He is the son of Walter Beach, Secretary of the General Conference in the 1950s, when I attended our Seminary and worked on the night crew at the General Conference. Bert Beach is a European who speaks several languages fluently and has been the General Conference representative to the WCC since 1967—the same year that Pope Paul VI appointed its first Vatican representative to the WCC. Now you can understand why Bert Beach was our denomination's representative in kneeling before the pope on May 18, 1977, and offering him a gold medallion on behalf of the people and organization of Seventh-day Adventists.

He was in Rome that day as leader of the World Confessional Families (now called Christian World Communions), an interfaith organization of several Protestant denominations, organized by the WCC in 1968. How did he get appointed to that position? It came as a result of his year-after-year contacts with Protestant church leaders at WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ignore this talk that our church does not have a representative at the World Council of Churches! We have had one there for 35 years! Is he voting member? He most assuredly is. He is a voting member of the most important ecumenical and interfaith doctrinal committee of the WCC, representing a broad range of Protestant denominations (The Faith and Order Commission). On that committee has sat a Vatican representative since 1967, the same year that Beach came on board.

In fact, Beach has been the chairman of that WCC ecumenical committee for at least two decades!

Why was he so influential? First, he is at ease in so many European languages. Second, he has been on the committee longer than anyone else. Third, he is so friendly, that he sets all the newcomers at ease. He is an extremely congenial person. Fourth, he knows all the background of ecumenical activities of the committee and the WCC, going back further than anyone else. So it has been natural for the representatives to elect this friendly, astute, knowledgeable man of affairs, year after year, as committee chairman.

If you ask our church leaders about this, they will reply that the General Conference is not, and has never held membership in the World Council of Churches. Very true. Instead, the General Conference used two ruses [deceit, fraud] to maintain its very close connections with the WCC.

First, our General Conference appointed Bert Beach as a voting "personal representative" to this key WCC interfaith Faith and Order Commission, especially set up for the purpose of cooperating with the Vatican II objective of sending representatives to the other churches and to the WCC, but not joining the WCC.

It is significant that, of all the denominations in Christendom, only two chose to send representatives without joining the WCC. Everyone else either joined it or stayed out of it entirely. Those two were the Roman Catholic Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They send "personal representatives."

Why did the Catholic Church do that? It wanted to deepen its contacts and alliances with the other churches; but, because its doctrines taught that it was the only true church of Christ, it did not want to lower itself to full membership in the WCC.

The Adventist Church followed the same route because it knew its members (most of whom were still conservative back then) would be extremely upset if it openly joined the WCC.

So both organizations used the device of joining a committee, giving them access to the WCC and other churches without accepting the problems which would result from, what the WCC calls, a "full membership."

Second, our General Conference also appointed several Bible teachers at Andrews to the WCC, on a rotating basis, as additional "personal representatives." This fiction was originally used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1940s, when he appointed Myron Taylor as ambassador to the Vatican. Roosevelt well knew the American public would not tolerate a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, so he announced that Taylor was "a personal ambassador"—i.e., representing himself!

One more detail: If Beach was expected to attend the ecumenical function, why did he not do so? He has attended similar gatherings at the WCC and Canterbury for years; why not this one? It was slated to be given too much publicity. According to Kermit Netteburg, General Conference spokesman, after carefully discussing the invitation, General Conference leadership decided that Beach had better not attend after all. One person on the Vatican's short list of papal fawners had backed out.

For a very large collection of historical and documentary evidence relating to this, see our Seventh day Adventist/Vatican Ecumenical Involvement set of two books: Book I: History, 80 pp. ($6.00 + $2.50 shipping); Book 2: Documents, 146 pp. ($/10.00 + $3.00 shipping). Vance Ferrel, Pilgrims Rest, USA.

"The SDAC is regularly represented through observers or advisers at WCC and other church meetings. For many years, an SDA has been a member of the WCC Faith and Order Commission in a personal capacity. The SDAC has participated in dialogues with the WCC and various religious bodies and since 1968 has been represented at the conference of secretaries of Christian World Communions.

"More recently, the SDAC has been represented at the annual conference of U.S. church leaders. Christian World Communions and various churches have responded to the SDA invitation and sent observers to the quinquennial General Conference Sessions."-Article, "Seventh-day Adventist Church," in Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, published by WCC Publications, Geneva, Switzerland, 1991, p. 919 [abbreviations theirs]. 92:2-3. An ecumenical coalition of the churches will bring on the National Sunday Law!

WASCOWRAP CONFERENCE ON WORLD RELIGIONS

AND PEACE CONVENES

VIKKI MONTGOMERY

Columbia Union VISITOR, September 1, 2000Several scholars from different religions will present their views on how religious leaders and organizations can contribute to world peace at the Second Annual Conference of the Washington Conference on World Religions and Peace (WASCOWRAP).

It will be held Sabbath, October 7, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church located at the corner of Flower and Carroll Avenues in Takoma Park, Maryland. The conference is being held in support of the United Nation's declaration of the year 2000 as the "International Year for the Culture of Peace" issued on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The free conference will include a panel discussion, presentation of papers, special music presentations, and refreshments.

Papers will give perspectives of what major world religions teach about peace and harmony in the new millennium. "The purpose of the conference is to bring together religious leaders and get them to sign a declaration, to urge all faiths to bury ancient enmities and cooperate in resolving world conflicts," says Elisha Pulivarti, founder and secretary of WASCOWRAP and the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) leader of Southern Asia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.

"Our dream is to get the top world religious leaders for the next conference in 2001 to discuss their role in bringing about world peace and ask them to sign a common declaration pledging their commitment to reduce religious tensions. We also hope to establish a council of Senior Clerics." Pulivarti is the visionary and founder of the two-year old organization. Presently a Bank of America manager, he attended Spicer Memorial College in India and continued his education in Norway.

As he traveled, he was fascinated by people of various cultures and religions and started asking questions of them. He became more curious about the ways in which religions were different—and alike. He noticed that though all said they were seeking peace, several world conflicts arose because of religion. "We seek to answer the questions: How can we avoid religious conflicts? What are some of the ways and means to avoid and resolve religious conflicts? How can religious leaders play a role in bringing peace and harmony among the various religions of the world?" explains Pulivarti.

So far Pulivarti has received positive responses from several individuals and organizations interested in attending the conference or finding out more about the organization. "I have heard from Muslim communities in Florida, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, African American Women's Clergy Association, Catholic University School of Religious Studies, Congressmen Steny Hoyer and Albert Wynn, White House Public Liaison Officer Maureen Shea, the Council on Religious Freedom, and the Archbishop of Washington." "Since its founding in 1632, the State of Maryland has welcomed settlers of all faiths.

The exchange of ideas with representatives of the communities of faith and the political realm, which will take place at the Second Annual Conference on World Religions and Peace in Takoma Park, will deepen our understanding and appreciation of the rich tapestry of faiths that exist in our State," said state Senator Jean Roesser of the 15th Legislative District for Montgomery County at a press conference announcing the event. The press conference was held on Monday, July 17, in the Montgomery County Council conference room in Rockville, Maryland.

News about the press conference was carried on Washington metropolitan area cable TV channels 8 and 21 and on American University radio station, WAMU 88.5 FM. Pulivarti is Faith, Peace, Harmony 2000 planning for more press conferences as the date approaches. Other members of the Adventist Church will also figure prominently in the conference.

Franklin David, senior pastor of the Southern Asian Church serves as cochair of the conference. William Johnsson, executive publisher and editor of the Adventist Review, will serve as moderator of the panel discussion. Bert Beach, retired PARL director, who now serves as director of interchurch relations for the General Conference, will be a featured speaker. Ted N. C. Wilson, general vice president of the General Conference serves as a consultant to WASCOWRAP. Other speakers include Kalpana Patel, who is actively involved in the Shri Mangal Mandir, a Hindu temple in Ashton, Maryland; Imam Shamshad Nasir, a missionary from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; Bhante K. Uparatana, a monk and president of the International Buddhist Center and Buddhist chaplain of American University in Washington, D.C.; Amrit Kaur Singh, a member of the Guru Nanak Foundation of America and the Sikh temple in Silver Spring, Maryland; Michael Subin, president of the Montgomery County Council; and Senator Roesser.

U. S. Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett, Jr., of Maryland's Sixth District serves as the chairman of WASCOWRAP and John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association and director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department of the General Conference, co-chairs the organization

Adventists and Catholics Work Toward

Better Understanding in Poland

ANN Bulletin Adventist News Network Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters February 15, 2000– Warsaw, Poland.

After 15 years of dialogue, the Roman Catholic Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland have issued a document aimed at improving relations between the denominations while continuing to recognize each other's autonomy and independence. The joint statement, released on February 9, is intended to reflect a better understanding of the teachings and practices of each denomination.

Citing the fact that "relations between Catholics and Adventists have not been best in the past" the joint statement declares that "the Seventh-day Adventist Church cannot be treated either as a ‘new religious movement,' or as a sect."

The statement was signed by representatives of the Churches, including Pastor Wladyslaw Polok, president of the Adventist Church in Poland, and Archbishop Alfons Nossol, chairman of the Polish Episcopate's Commission for Ecumenical Affairs.

"With regret we recognize cases when the different religious and civic circles have denied the ecclesiastical status of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, even referring to it as a ‘sect.' Such an approach is unacceptable and, we believe, it is highly detrimental for the mutual relations," the document states.

"This document affirms religious liberty," says Pastor Polok. "We regard it as an important development not only for our Church in Poland. Religious minorities are too often regarded as less than what they are."

The statement recognizes that though the Churches can refer to similarities, they also see difference between each other's "doctrine, practice and church policies." However, it also affirmed the need for both sides to cultivate respect for each other and learn to understand each other. The document further states that the dialogue was "conducted on the basis of partnership, care to uphold a full identity of both sides, as well as their autonomy and independence, in the spirit of mutual respect and Christian love, and in recognition of the ideals of tolerance and religious freedom."

Professor Zachariasz Lyko, former public affairs director for the Adventist Church in Poland, notes that the document does not deal with doctrinal and theological issues. "Our Church recognizes that such a dialogue cannot be a dialogue of compromise," says Lyko, "but one of cooperative spirit and common understanding." [Ray Dabrowski]

Lebanon: Adventists Warmly Received By Maronites

 And Supreme Council Of Evangelical Churches

Jdeidet El Matin, Beirut, Lebanon/APD/ANR Dr Bertil Wiklander, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Trans-European Division, visited Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, the Patriarch of Antioch for Maronites, in Bkerkeh, Lebanon on July 1, 1999. Dr. Wiklander was accompanied by Pastors Sven Jensen, president of the Middle East Union (MEU), Levon Maksoudian, secretary of the East Mediterranean Field (EMF), Basim Aziz, ADRA director for the Middle East Union, and Mr. Sami AbouJoudi, lawyer for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Middle East.

"The purpose of this visit was to introduce the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the Patriarch and to establish a friendly rapport with the Roman Catholic Church of the Maronite Rite," reports Raffy Manassian, Communication director of the EMF.

Patriarch Sfeir was very co-operative and friendly and showed great interest in the Adventist Church, according to Maksoudian. Every member of the delegation felt that the meeting was a success, and future visits to the Patriarch are already being planned.

Dr. Wiklander met also with the youth of the Adventist Church for a motivational vespers in the College Park Church, Beirut. Dr. Wiklander had specifically asked to meet with the youth for the purpose of getting acquainted with them and to know their needs and plans for the future of the Church. Pastor Jimmy Choufani, Youth director for the MEU and EMF had organised the meeting. "All the Church members in Lebanon had been invited to this meeting," says Choufani, "and those who came greatly appreciated Dr. Wiklander's candid and honest appeal for brotherly love and unity among our youth."

On July 2, 1999, Dr. Wiklander - accompanied by Maksoudian and Jensen - traveled to Rabieh to visit Dr Salim Sahyuni, President of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches in Lebanon and Syria. Dr. Sahyuni has a long history of fellowship and co-operation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lebanon and was delighted to meet the delegation. Dr. Wiklander also participated in the elections of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches held during the following week.

Dr. Wiklander presented the sermon in the College Park Church on July 3 where he spoke about the importance of remembering that our first duty as Christians is to love and to show God's love to our fellowmen. He used 1 Corinthians 13 as the main emphasis of his sermon. [Reporter: Raffy Manassian]. From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org. August 13, 1999 Adventist Press Service (APD)

SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH LEADER WELCOMES

COOPERATION WITH ADVENTISTS

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, (ANN/APD) Metropolitan Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim (Aleppo) of the Syrian Orthodox Church welcomed the opportunity for greater cooperation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church during a visit to the Adventist World Church Headquarters on July 2. "For the Syrian Orthodox Church it is a new day to have a relationship with the Adventist Church. We need to work to develop better relationships between Christians," said Ibrahim, who is metropolitan of Aleppo, Syria, noting that the Syrian Council of Churches has 11 different denominational groups. Explaining the history of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Ibrahim noted that the Church was frequently persecuted but remains "open," with around 90,000 adherents. The Church still uses Aramaic in its services, the language spoken by Christ.

Responding for the Adventist Church, Gerry Karst, assistant to the president, welcomed the group from Syria, which also included Reverend Fayiz Hunain of the Presbyterian Church in Syria, as well as Razic Syriani, youth director for the Middle East Council of Churches, and Dr. Mekhael Asaad, head of the Ephraim dispensary in Aleppo. "We have looked forward to this meeting for a long time," said Karst, who previously worked in the Middle East. "We hope this friendship will grow as we are brothers in Christ." The group has visited Adventist institutions in California, Michigan, and Florida. At the close of the meeting, Metropolitan Ibrahim presented a plaque of the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, which he also read aloud.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND. THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

The Syrian Orthodox Church traces its history to A.D. 37 and holds the traditions of St Peter's work. The church suffered severe persecution during the struggle against Hellenistic domination at the time of the council of Chalcedon, and later through Mongol invasions and Turkish rule. The patriarchate had to be moved several times until it was established in Damascus in this country. Syrian liturgical and theological life flourished until the 13th century but steadily declined afterwards. The monastic movement produced many universally acknowledges saints and contributed enormously to the creation of a rich liturgical tradition. In 1665, the Antiochian church came into contact with the ancient church of St Thomas Christians in India, and the West Syrian liturgy was thus introduced to the Christians in South India. Though the Syrian church is vastly reduced in number because of Muslim domination, it has a considerable diaspora in the US, Australia and Europe. The Syrian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1961, at the New Delhi assembly. [APD]. August 30, 1998 Adventist Press Service (APD) Christian B. Schaeffler, Editor-in-chief Fax +41-61-261 61 18 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

SEVENTH-DAY-ADVENTISTS SHOULD NOT BE TREATED AS SECT LUTHERAN-ADVENTIST CONVERSATIONS' FINAL REPORT

GENEVA, 4 June 1998 (LWI) – "Lutherans in their national and regional church contexts" should, in the future, recognize the Seventh-day-Adventist Church no longer "as a sect but as a free church and a Christian world communion". This recommendation comes from the final report of the bilateral conversations between the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Seventh-day-Adventist Church held in Cartigny, Switzerland, May 10-16. The final report further recommends that "Adventists in their relationship with other Christian churches seek to have this conviction consistently affirmed."

In addition, both partners recommend the mutual recognition of "the basic Christian commitment" of each other's faith communions. Both sides are urged in their public teaching and theological education to present the other faith communion's view of church authority "truthfully and unpolemically" and in a manner which corresponds to their self-understanding.

Also in the future, "consultative linkage" between Lutherans and Adventists is to be maintained "for the good of the total Christian community." The final report identifies the following as possible areas of cooperation: alleviating the suffering of humanity, religious liberty endeavors, ministerial associations/pastoral gatherings, joint prayer events, and Bible Society work.

Although the four-year series of conversations is concluded, Lutherans and Adventists should "meet in occasional bilateral consultations." The theological foundations and the spiritual dimension of our observance of the day of rest "with particular reference to modern society," is a possible topic for next year.

The Lutheran/Seventh-day-Adventist series of conversations began four years ago in November 1994 in Darmstadt, Germany. This was the first international consultation between representatives of the free church of the Seventh-day-Adventists and the LWF. The goals of the first meeting were, among others, better mutual understanding, the breaking of false stereotypes and the discovery of each other's bases of belief. The themes of the four-year conversations were Justification by Faith: the Law; Law and Gospel, Ecclesiology and the Understanding of Church Authority, and Eschatology.

The fourth concluding meeting in Cartigny was co-chaired by the Adventist representative, Dr. Bert B. Beach (USA), and the Lutheran representative, the Oslo dean, Ole Chr. Kvarme. One of the highlights of this year's consultation was the visit of President Robert S. Folkenberg of the Adventist General Conference headquartered in Maryland, USA, and of LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko.

The final report, and the consultation papers, will be published.

The Seventh-day-Adventist Church has some 10 million members in over 200 countries. The LWF has 124 member churches representing over 57 million members worldwide. From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org Received by the WFN Archive: Jun 5 1998 8:53 PM Source: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES FAITH AND ORDER

Towards a Common Date for Easter

World Council of Churches/Middle East Council of Churches Consultation Aleppo, Syria March 5 - 10, 1997

"Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival." 1 Cor. 5:7-8.

I. The Issues

Background to this consultation

1. In the 20th century the churches have rediscovered a deep concern for Christian unity. They have expressed this in their efforts to find common ground on theological issues that have long divided them. They have learned to give common witness in a variety of ways. But despite this progress towards visible unity, many challenges remain. One very sensitive issue, with enormous pastoral consequences for all the Christian faithful, has taken on growing urgency: the need to find a common date for the celebration of Easter, the Holy Pascha, the feast of Christ's resurrection.

By celebrating this feast of feasts on different days, the churches give a divided witness to this fundamental aspect of the apostolic faith, compromising their credibility and effectiveness in bringing the Gospel to the world. This is a matter of concern for all Christians. Indeed, in some parts of the world such as the Middle East, where several separated Christian communities constitute a minority in the larger society, this has become an urgent issue. While there has been some discussion of this question, it still has not been given the serious attention that it deserves.

2. While the question of a common date for Easter/Pascha has been addressed at different times since the earliest Christian centuries, a renewed discussion of this issue has arisen in the present century in the churches of both East and West. It also has emerged in significant ways in the secular world. The question was put to the wider Christian world in a 1920 encyclical of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople and addressed in a 1923 Pan-Orthodox congress, whose decision to revise their calendar unfortunately led to several schisms within the Orthodox churches.

Around the same time, discussion was beginning in secular circles especially in Western Europe concerning the possibility of establishing a fixed day for Easter, such as the Sunday following the second Saturday in April, so as to facilitate commercial planning and public activities. In addition, proposals for introducing a new fixed calendar were being advanced, for similar utilitarian reasons. After World War II the context for discussion of such issues changed in several ways. International secular initiatives received little support. The churches were especially opposed to any calendar reform which would break the cycle of the seven-day week.

On the other hand, many churches continued to express interest in the idea of a common day, whether movable or fixed, for the celebration of Easter/Pascha. The Orthodox returned to the paschal question from 1961 onwards, in the context of preparations for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church; the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council (1963) gave renewed impetus in the Roman Catholic Church to discussion of this issue; and since 1965 the World Council of Churches has taken up the subject on a number of occasions.

3. In recent years, concrete steps have been taken in the Middle East, where Christians of so many traditions live closely together in a largely non-Christian society. The Middle East Council of Churches has been particularly active in encouraging and facilitating the celebration of Easter/Pascha on a common day. Two recent WCC consultations have taken up this concern. A consultation on "Christian Spirituality for Our Times" (Iasi, Romania, May 1994) proposed that "a new initiative be taken towards the common celebration of Easter." Even more striking are the conclusions reached by a consultation "Towards Koinonia in Worship" (Ditchingham, England, August 1994):

Besides the work already done on baptism, eucharist and ministry, the churches need to address the renewal of preaching, the recovery of the meaning of Sunday and the search for a common celebration of Pascha as ecumenical theological concerns. This last is especially urgent, since an agreement on a common date for Easter - even an interim agreement - awaits further ecumenical developments. Such an agreement, which cannot depend on the idea of a "fixed date of Easter", should respect the deepest meaning of the Christian Pascha, and the feelings of Christians throughout the world. We welcome all initiatives which offer the hope of progress in this important area." (T.F. Best/D. Heller, eds., So We Believe, So We Pray: Towards Koinonia in Worship, Faith and Order Paper No. 171, WCC Publications, Geneva 1995, pp. 9-10.

In view of the concerns expressed at these consultations, the Executive Committee of the WCC, meeting in Bucharest, September 1994, recommended that Unit I, "especially the Ecclesial Unity/Faith and Order stream and the Worship and Spirituality stream, give renewed attention to the subject of the common celebration of Easter, keeping in mind that in the year 2001, the dates of Easter according to both Eastern and Western calendars coincide."

4. The present consultation, meeting in Aleppo, Syria, March 5-10, 1997, comes in response to this request. Sponsored jointly by Unit I of the WCC and by the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), it brings together representatives of a number of communions which participate in the annual meeting of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, representatives of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, representatives of the MECC, and invited experts and staff.

Together participants in the consultation enjoyed the hospitality of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and experienced first-hand the commitment to unity of the Christian communities of this city. At a meeting with members of these communities, they listened to a call for removal of the painful sign of separation which differing dates for Easter/Pascha constitute. In an atmosphere of prayer and common study, participants considered the problem of a common day for the celebration of Easter/Pascha from various perspectives - theological, historical, liturgical, catechetical and pastoral. The consultation offers to all the churches the following observations and recommendations.

Christ's resurrection, basis of our common faith

5. The apostolic faith of the Church is based on the reality of the resurrection of Christ. As St. Paul says: "Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the death, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Cor. 15:12-14)

Viewed as the ultimate victory over the powers of sin and death, the resurrection of the Lord is not only an historical event but also the sign of God's power over all the forces which can keep us from his love and goodness. It is a victory not only for Christ himself but also for all those united with him (1 Pet. 1:3f). It is a victory which marks the beginning of a new era (Jn 20:17). The resurrection is the ultimate expression of the Father's gift of reconciliation and unity in Christ through the Spirit. It is a sign of the unity and reconciliation which God wills for the entire creation.

6. As the apostles began their missionary activity, the resurrection was at the heart of their preaching (1 Cor. 15: 1-17, Acts 2:22-36, 1 Pet 1:3), and as the evangelists began to record aspects of the Lord's teachings and ministry, the resurrection comes as the culminating event in their gospels. In every aspect of her life, the early Church was first and foremost the community of the resurrection. Thus the early Church's life of worship focused on God's reconciling love as manifested in the saving passover of Christ's death and resurrection. The first day of the week became the preeminent day of the Christian assembly because it was the day on which the Lord rose from the dead (Jn 20:1, Acts 20:7).

At the same time, this came to be known as the "eighth day," a day of new creation and ultimate fulfillment. Each year too, Christians both remembered and experienced the continuing power of Christ's passion and resurrection in a single but multifaceted celebration. This celebration also became the occasion for baptism, in which Christians shared in Christ's passage from death to life, dying to sin and rising to new life in him. Therefore the behavior of Christians was rooted in their relationship with the risen Lord and reflected the new reality inaugurated by him (Col. 3:1-11).

Historical background to the present differences

7. The New Testament indicates that Christ's death and resurrection were historically associated with the Jewish passover, but the precise details of this association are not clear. According to the synoptic gospels, Jesus' last supper was a passover meal, which would place his death on the day after passover, while according to John his death occurred on the day itself, indeed at the very hour, when the paschal lambs were sacrificed. By the end of the 2nd century some churches celebrated Easter/Pascha on the day of the Jewish passover, regardless of the day of the week, while others celebrated it on the following Sunday.

By the 4th century, the former practice had been abandoned practically universally, but differences still remained in the calculation of the date of Easter/Pascha. The ecumenical council held at Nicea in 325 AD determined that Easter/Pascha should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first vernal full moon. Originally passover was celebrated on the first full moon after the March equinox, but in the 3rd century the day of the feast came to be calculated by some Jewish communities without reference to the equinox, thus causing passover to be celebrated twice in some solar years. Nicea tried to avoid this by linking the principles for the dating of Easter/Pascha to the norms for the calculation of passover during Jesus' lifetime.

8. While certain differences in the mechanics of determining the date of Easter/Pascha remained even after Nicea, which occasionally resulted in local differences, by the 6th century the mode of calculation based on the studies of Alexandrian astronomers and scholars had gained universal acceptance. By the 16th century, however, the discrepancy between this mode of calculation and the observed astronomical data was becoming evident. This led to the calendar change introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

Since that time, western Christians have come to calculate the date of Easter on the basis of this newer Gregorian calendar, while the eastern churches generally have continued to follow the older Julian calendar. While calendrical changes in some of the Orthodox churches in 1923 affected fixed-date feasts, the calculation of the Easter date remained linked to the Julian Calendar. Our present differences in calculation of the date of Easter thus may be ascribed to differences in the calendars and lunar tables employed rather than to differences in fundamental theological outlook.

9. In its study of the mechanics of the paschal calculation, the consultation took note of the fact that both the current eastern (Julian) and the current western (Gregorian) calculations diverge in certain respects from the astronomical data as determined by precise scientific calculation. As is well known, the Julian calendar at present diverges from the astronomical by thirteen days; the Gregorian at present does not diverge significantly, though it will in the distant future. Less well known is the fact that both Julian and Gregorian calculations rely upon conventional tables for determining the lunar cycle. For both modes of calculation, these tables at times give results that diverge from the astronomical data.

The continuing relevance of the Council of Nicea

10. In the course of their deliberations, the participants in the consultation came to a deeper appreciation of the continuing relevance of the Council of Nicea for the present discussion. The decisions of this council, rooted as they are in scripture and tradition, came to be regarded as normative for the whole Church.

(a) Despite differences in the method of calculation, the principles of calculation in the churches of both East and West are based on the norms set forth at Nicea. This fact is of great significance. In the present divided situation, any decision by one church or group of churches to move away from these norms would only increase the difficulty of resolving outstanding differences.

(b) The Council of Nicea's decisions are expressive of the desire for unity. The council's aim was to establish principles, based upon the scriptural data concerning the association of the passion and resurrection of Christ with the passover, which would encourage a single annual observance of Easter/Pascha by all the churches. By fostering unity in this way, the council also demonstrated its concern for the mission of the church in the world. The council was aware that disunity in such a central matter was a cause of scandal.

(c) The Nicene norms affirm the intimate connection between the biblical passover (cf. especially Exod. 12:18, Lev. 23:5, Num. 28:16, Deut. 16:1-2) and the Christian celebration of "Christ our paschal lamb" (1 Cor. 5:7). While the council rejected the principle of dependence on contemporary Jewish reckoning, it did so on the grounds that this had changed and become inaccurate, not because it regarded this connection as unimportant.

(d) In the course of their discussions the consultation also gained a deeper appreciation for the wealth of symbolism which the Nicene norms permit. In the worship of many of the churches, especially in the biblical readings and hymnography of the paschal season, Christians are reminded not only of the important link between the passover and the Christian Easter/Pascha but also of other aspects of salvation history. For example, they are reminded that in Christ's resurrection all creation is renewed. Some early Christian sources thus linked the Genesis account of the seven days of creation with the week of Christ's passion, death and resurrection.

(e) The Council of Nicea also has an enduring lesson for Christians today in its willingness make use of contemporary science in calculating the date of Easter. While the council sought to advance the concrete unity of the churches, it did not itself undertake a detailed regulation of the Easter calculation. Instead it expected the churches to employ the most exact science of the day for calculating the necessary astronomical data (the March equinox and the full moon).

II. Two recommendations

First recommendation

11. In the estimation of this consultation, the most likely way to succeed in achieving a common date for Easter in our own day would be

(a) to maintain the Nicene norms (that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first vernal full moon), and

(b) to calculate the astronomical data (the vernal equinox and the full moon) by the most accurate possible scientific means,

(c) using as the basis for reckoning the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Christ's death and resurrection.

12. This recommendation is made for the following reasons.

In regard to point a:

(i) The Church needs to be reminded of its origins, including the close link between the biblical passover and the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ - a link that reflects the total flow of salvation history. In the estimation of this consultation, a fixed date would obscure and weaken this link by eliminating any reference to the biblical norms for the calculation of the passover.

(ii) Easter/Pascha has a cosmic dimension. Through Christ's resurrection, the sun, the moon, and all the elements are restored to their primordial capacity for declaring God's glory (Ps. 19:1-2, 148:3). Easter/Pascha reveals the close link between creation and redemption, as inseparable aspects of God's revelation. The Nicene principles for calculating the date of Easter/Pascha, based as they are on the cycles of sun and moon, reflect this cosmic dimension much more fully than a fixed-date system.

(iii) In addition to underscoring many important symbolic aspects of the feast, a movable date for the observance of Easter/Pascha also indicates in palpable fashion the dramatic way in which the resurrection breaks into the comfortable routines of this world. While such a date may in some respects be less convenient than a fixed Sunday, it does call attention to a significant theological point which otherwise might be overlooked.

(iv) An earlier WCC consultation on the date of Easter/Pascha (Chambésy, 1970) observed, "In any case the churches should arrive at a solution for reasons based entirely on the religious meaning of the feast and for the purpose of Christian unity rather than for the purpose of satisfying inherently secular interests." The present consultation wholly concurs with this sentiment.

(v) This recommendation maintains what, for most churches, is an important aspect of tradition. Adoption of a fixed Sunday approach would raise difficulties for many churches and, if introduced unilaterally by one church or group of churches, might well result in not two but three different dates for Easter/Pascha in a given year.

In regard to point b:

In recommending calculation of the astronomical data by the most accurate possible scientific means (as distinct, for example, from reliance on conventional cyclical tables or personal observation), the consultation believes that it is being completely faithful to the spirit of the Council of Nicea itself, which also was willing to make use of the best available scientific knowledge. We are fortunate that experts in astronomy have already provided these necessary calculations; they are conveniently presented in Synodica V (Chambésy - Genève, Les Editions du Centre Orthodoxe, 1981) 133 - 149.

In regard to point c:

Astronomical observations, of course, depend upon the position on earth which is taken as the point of reference. This consultation believes that it is appropriate to employ the meridian of Jerusalem, the site of Christ's passion and resurrection, as this necessary point of reference for the calculation of the March equinox and the subsequent full moon.

13. The recommendation just stated will have some different implications for the churches of East and West as they seek a renewed faithfulness to Nicea. Both will face the need for education of their faithful. For eastern churches, changes in the actual dating of Easter/Pascha will be more perceptible than for the western churches. Given the contexts in which these churches live, this will require both patience and tact. For western churches, on the other hand, the challenge may lie in communicating deeper aspects of the Nicene principles for the calculation of Easter/Pascha, such as those sketched above, and in acquainting their faithful with the concerns and insights of the eastern churches.

14. The consultation is well aware of the particular circumstances of many eastern churches. In some countries in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where the Christian churches have lived with the challenge of other religions or materialistic ideologies, loyalty to the "old calendar" has been a symbol of the churches' desire to maintain their integrity and their freedom from the hostile forces of this world. Clearly in such situations implementation of any change in the calculation of Easter/Pascha will have to proceed carefully and with great pastoral sensitivity.

15. To aid the churches in their discussion of the above recommendation, the consultation appends to this report a table of Easter/Pascha dates from 2001 through 2025, based on the astronomical specifications already indicated. For convenience of reference, the table also indicates the dates of Easter/Pascha according to the current Gregorian and Julian reckonings, the astronomically determined date of the first vernal full moon, i.e., the first full moon following the March equinox (cf. Exod. 12:18, Lev. 23:5, Num. 28:16, Deut. 16:1-2), and the date of passover according to current Jewish reckoning.

Second recommendation

16. This consultation also recommends that the churches now undertake a period of study and reflection towards the goal of establishing as soon as possible a common date for Easter/Pascha along the lines set forth above. In the year 2001 the paschal calculations now in use by our churches will coincide. Together, Christians will begin a new century, a new millennium, with new opportunities to witness to the resurrection of Christ and to proclaim their joy in his victory over sin, suffering and death. The unity that will be reflected as Christians celebrate Easter/Past on the same date will be for many a sign of hope and of witness to the world. This celebration of Easter/Pascha on the same date should not be the exception but the rule.

17. The way is now open for the churches to consider again their current practice for determining the date of Easter/Pascha. As a first step, in the interval between 1997 and 2001, this consultation encourages the churches to take up consideration of the recommendations here proposed, and, if they find them acceptable in principle, to explore ways of implementing them according to their own procedures, in light of their own opportunities, and within their own contexts. This consultation suggests that during these years the churches consult with each other on the ways in which a common date for Easter/Pascha can be implemented. In this interval also, the present consultation encourages continuation of existing local and regional initiatives, as interim measures, for observance of a common Easter/Pascha.

18. As a second step, the consultation suggests that the year 2001 would also provide a good opportunity for the churches to review reactions and to assess progress made towards agreement on this matter. It recommends, therefore, that the World Council of Churches, in cooperation with its ecumenical partners and other Christian groups, organize then a consultation in which this assessment could be reported and implementation could be discussed.

19. It is the sincere hope of the participants in this consultation that the churches will give an early and prayerful consideration to the recommendations made in this report, as a step towards preparing for a united witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Participants:

1. Dr. Bert Beach, U.S.A. (for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists);

2. Metropolitan Damaskinos (Papandreou), Switzerland (for the Ecumenical Patriarchate)

3. Canon John Halliburton, United Kingdom (for the Anglican Communion)

4. Rev. Fayiz Y. Henain, Syria (for the Evangelical Churches in the Middle East)

5. Fr. Datev Mikaelian, Syria (for the Armenian Orthodox Church)

6. Archbishop Boutros Marayati, Syria (Armenian Catholic Church) (for the Middle East Council of Churches)

7. Ven. Dr. Koenraad Ouwens, Netherlands (for the Old-Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht)

8. Msgr. John Radano, Vatican City (for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity)

9. Mr. Alexander Sologoub, Syria (for the Patriarchate of Moscow)

10. Archbishop Dr. Gunnar Weman, Sweden (for the Lutheran World Federation)

11. Metropolitan Elias Yusef, Syria (for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch)

Hosts:

Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch)

Mr. Razek Syriani (Syrian Orthodox Church / MECC)

Consultants:

Prof. John H. Erickson, U.S.A. (Orthodox Church in America)

Rev. Dr. Ronald Kydd, Canada (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada)

WCC Staff:

Fr. Dr. Thomas FitzGerald (Ecumenical Patriarchate)

Rev. Dr. Dagmar Heller (Evangelical Church of Germany, United)

ADVENTIST ELECTED TO OFFICE BY UNITED STATES

CHRISTIAN LEADERS

Asheville, North Carolina Adventist News Network {ANN] March 7, 2000– The "Meeting of U.S. Church Leaders," an annual gathering of heads of Christian churches from around the nation, has elected Seventh-day Adventist Dr. Bert B. Beach as the vice chair of the group's steering committee. More than 30 church leaders participated in the February 23-25 meetings, including leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches in the USA.

Dr. Bert B. Beach

"This ongoing appointment is an indication of the growing esteem in which the Seventh-day Adventist Church is held by many of the titular heads of the churches in the United States," says Beach, a past director of the Church's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department. Beach, who has represented the Adventist Church at the meetings for the last 15 years, sees the annual gatherings as an invaluable way of connecting with national church leaders in an environment of informal fellowship.

"We pray together, enjoy devotional meetings, and form friendships," says Beach, who adds that no substantive decisions are made at the annual meetings. "It's simply an opportunity to meet, consult, and recharge; to put away hostilities and worship together as fellow Christians."

The February meeting of the "U.S. Church Leaders" at Asheville, North Carolina, was a special millennial gathering where speakers explored the "Gift of the Holy Spirit." A prayer, written by meeting participants, asks God to use United States Christians "In preparing Your Kingdom, That Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven."

Beach, Inter-Church Relations director for the Adventist Church, has been a Church administrator and religious liberty advocate for over 48 years. He currently also serves as vice president of the International Religious Liberty Association, and is the elected secretary of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions-an office he has held for the past 29 years. [Bettina Krause]

ADVENTIST SUNDAY CHURCH REACHING THE

UNCHURCHED IN LAS VEGAS

by C. Elwyn Platner

It's early Sunday morning Nov. 7, and more than a dozen members of the Las Vegas Mountain View church are busy mixing pancake batter, setting our dishes and other tableware, preparing breakfast in a local public elementary school auditorium. Outside, signs posted earlier on street corners and in the parking lot point the way to the Higher Grounds Community Church.

By 10 a.m. the smell of frying pancakes greets the first visitors from the surrounding community as they approach the school, many of them for the first time. They've come as a result of a mass mailing of invitations to homes a local postal zip code co-attend Sunday morning religious services. Service begins as the crowd grows and enjoys pleasant conversation around two dozen small tables scattered throughout the auditorium, members of a music group follow Pastor Tim Dunfield to the platform and begin taking their places.

While the visitors finish their breakfast, Dunfield welcomes the rowing crowd of almost 50 people by this time for the first meeting in their new location. Led by Brad Reed and Wally Hanson, the band provides accompaniment for singing for the next 20 minutes. "It's a high tech "seeker, "style" service, not designed for Adventists, but for Anglo Boomers and GenXers who may not be acquainted with the inside of any church," explained David Gemmell, pastor of the nearby Las Vegas Mountain View church which is sponsoring this creative evangelism project. "Most Adventists would not be comfortable in this service with its contemporary band and laid-back style," he remarked. "But this type of service has already proved highly successful with three other rapidly growing churches in Las Vegas.

"If the thesis holds true," Gemmell wrote in requesting evangelism endowment funds last year, "by the end of the 52-week evangelistic campaign, there will be a regular attendance of about 600 at the weekly evangelistic meetings. Of those 600 at least 20 percent will have officially been baptized and will be worshiping with their Adventist brothers and sisters on Sabbath."

"Sunday morning evangelism may sound unconventional or even radical. Gemmell said. Yet the concept has roots in solid theology. Jesus did not confine his ministry to Sabbath services at the temple. Some of his greatest ministry opportunities occurred in secular times and places with worldly people," Gemmel's project proposal said.

"Sunday morning Evangelistic Project will bring the gospel to unchurched people at a time when they are most receptive to religious things. This project will not be a worship service for the believers, but instead will be an evangelistic meeting that believers can bring their unchurched friends to." The seekers will be gradually drawn into a home cell church where they can begin to grow in their walk with Christ and their understanding of the Fundamental beliefs of the Adventist Faith. Deeply committed members of the 600-member Mountain View church launched their experiment on Easter weekend at a school in the rapidly growing Summerland area of the city. Their initial invitation went by mail to 30,000 homes and drew 150 people that Sunday. As the plan unfolded Dunfield was recruited from Williams Lake, British Columbia, where he was a Bible teacher and chaplain at Caraboo Adventist Academy. He had coordinated a similar program titled Blue Rock while attending the Adventist seminary in Berrien Springs, Mich.

Each Sunday Dunfield presents a clearly Adventist message which is aimed at people who "don't know how to talk church, people whose lives have fallen apart with divorce or terms in prison. "We want to be seen as having something they will want," Dunfield said. "Each one is invited to participate in a small group to build friendships with other new people who come to the service." Gemmell and Dunfield see a bright future for Higher Grounds Community Church because Las Vegas is growing at the rate of 5,000 a month. They hope that this model can be replicated in other cities across the country.

As they donned their helmets after their first service at Higher Grounds Community Church, that Sunday morning, four members of the local Christian Motorcycle Association, all dressed in their black leather jackets and pants, commented, "We're really excited about what we saw and heard here this morning. We're comin' back next week and we're bringing our kids." Pacific Union Recorder, February 2000, pp. 34, 35

CHURCHES IN BRITAIN VOW BEFORE QUEEN TO WORK FOR UNITY
"VERY HISTORIC MOMENT," SAYS ANGLICAN

LONDON, JUNE 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Leaders of all the Christian denominations in England signed a covenant in the presence of Queen Elizabeth committing themselves to working for unity, the Times reported.

The four presidents of Churches Together in England, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, signed the document Sunday at Windsor Castle, at the end of a service marking the golden jubilee of the queen's coronation.

The other three signatories were the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey; the Reverend Tony Burnham, moderator of the Free Churches; and the Reverend Esme Beswick, representing the smaller churches. The event began Saturday with a meeting of 25 representatives from the Church of England, of which the queen is supreme governor.

The covenant, which quotes Ephesians 4, referring to the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," sets out the churches' common belief in the triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In it, the leaders promise to persevere in seeking a common understanding of the Christian message of salvation, and to work toward "visible unity" of their churches. They undertake to "pray, study and work together for the unity and mission of the Church" and to speak with one voice where possible, the Times said.

Dr. Carey told BBC Radio: "It is a very historic moment in the journey of the churches. I can still recall when I started in the ministry 40 years ago a degree of elitism on the part of the Church of England. We have come a long, long way on that journey."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "The ecumenical path we are engaged on is a serious one. What does matter is what unites us. What divides us is still to tackle."

The big question is, were the Seventh day Adventist part of this gathering? Considering the next article the answer would seem to be most likely yes. However, even if there were not involved in this event they were involved in a similar event 7 days latter as reported below.

JOHN SURRIDGE, COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR THE ADVENTIST CHURCH IN BRITAIN, REPRESENTED THE CHURCH AT AN INTER-FAITH RECEPTION AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE.

Representatives from a broad spectrum of religious groups attended a royal reception at Buckingham Palace June 10. The event was part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, and highlighted Britain's respect for the freedom of religion and worship. The reception, hosted by the Queen, was attended by leaders of the Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian, and Christian communities, along with members of Britain's royal family.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was represented by John Surridge, communication director for the church in Britain, who has worked in the field of inter-faith relations for more than 10 years.

"At an event like this you obviously can't hope to discuss inter-faith matters in very much depth," said Surridge, speaking after the reception. "But it is nevertheless an important opportunity to express and reinforce those values which we do share: peace, love, and respect for mankind."

The reception follows a series of national events that have marked Queen Elizabeth II's 50 years on the British throne. On June 1, the London Adventist Chorale was one of 10 guests who were invited by the Queen to perform in a classical music concert held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Adventist News Network. June 11, 2002 London, England .... [BUC Staff/ANN]

FUTURE BECOMES CLEARER FOR CHURCHES TOGETHER

"Last Weekend 22-24 April, Some sixty representatives of the member churches of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland [CTBI] met in Swansea for their biannual Churches Representatives Meeting. Than main item on the agenda was the restructuring of CTBI which has become necessary as the larger member churches reduce their budgets in line with falling membership. After many hours of discussion, it became clear that the preferred model for the future of Inter-church relations in the United Kingdom is a devolved structure, with most activity taking place in each of the four nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

"Representing the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the meeting was Pastor John Surridge, who also led the evening worship service on Saturday. ‘As we have a presence in each of the four nations, this new [ecumenical] structure would suit us quite well," he said. ‘We have a great deal that we can offer to the other churches in terms of expertise and program resources, and we can also gain a lot from them. Already many of our churches meet in buildings owned by other denominations and for this we are very grateful. It may be that interacting with church leaders at the four-nations level will lead to even greater cooperation and understanding.'" British Union newsletter, May 4, 2005

Faith Communities Pledge Support for World

Congress on Religious Freedom

February 21, 2002. Manila, Philippines [IRLA News]… Representatives from many faith communities pledged their support for the upcoming World Congress on Religious Freedom at an evening meeting February 21.

The International Religious Liberty Association's World Congress is scheduled for June 10-13 in Manila, and will bring together a unique group of international experts and national leaders in the area of religious freedom, comments Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, IRLA's deputy secretary general who chaired the meeting.

"I am delighted at the response to our invitation, which came at very short notice," says Gallagher. "We had representation from many different faith communities, demonstrating broad-based support for the importance of religious liberty here in the Philippines. Our message is that religious intolerance must be combated, and this can only be done by making sure that we are sitting at the same table and giving each other mutual respect and understanding."

Commenting on the current world situation, Gallagher said that recent events made it clearer than ever that religious extremism posed a great threat. "In the words of the Congress theme, 'Religious Liberty: a Basis for Peace and Justice,' we need to develop practical methods to make sure religious intolerance does not lead to the violence and war that so many fear."

The 50 guests included those from a number of Islamic organizations, and churches including Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Orthodox, Evangelical, Episcopal, Unification; as well as Hindu and Hare Krishna representatives. Also attending was a member of Congress, human rights activists, and a representative of the indigenous peoples.

The congress will bring together diplomats, experts, and religious leaders. Invited speakers include president of the Philippines Dr. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, United Nations Undersecretary General Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance Professor Abdelfattah Amor, along with many other high-level representatives, government officials, and scholars from more than 50 countries. The last world congress was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1997. For more information on the upcoming Congress, visit the Association's website at www.irla.org.

Ok so there is an interfaith meeting in the Philippines but the IRLA has nothing to do with the Seventh-day Adventist church, or does it? Again from the IRLA web sight they say:

"The World Congress is taking place at the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel in Manila. Other speakers include: Ambassador Robert Seiple, president, Institute for Global Engagement; Professor Alberto de la Hera, Department of Religious Affairs, Spain; and Anatoly Krasikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, University of Moscow, as well as local dignitaries. Other religious freedom experts from the Philippines, Mexico, Russia, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Trinidad, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, Korea, the United States and other countries are also participating."

The IRLA, founded in 1893 by Adventist Church leaders, is a non-sectarian organization dedicated to safeguarding religious civil rights around the world. It works in cooperation with governments, the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, and other non-governmental organizations in organizing world conferences and symposiums on matters related to freedom of conscience, religion and belief.

This organization has the same address as the General Conference, and it is in fact a GC sponsored or approved organization.

Were does all this lead the Adventist church as far as giving the three angels to the world. The IRLA after convening meetings and conferences with experts in 1999 and 2000, adopted 14 points for sharing religious belief, in short, it negates the three angels messages. While on a human level some points sound reasonable, however be assured they make it impossible for the SDA church to fulfill its heaven ordained command of giving the 3 angels messages of Revelation 14:6-12. In fact, it is hoped it would be legislated into law nationally and internationally, can it be the SDA church is approving and promoting principles to stop the giving of the three angels messages? Read for your self with prayer asking for discernment.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY EXPERTS CALL FOR "RESPONSIBLE DISSEMINATION OF RELIGION OR BELIEF"

Madrid, Spain ... [IRLA News] Religious liberty experts are calling for a "Responsible dissemination of religion or belief" by members of religious communities.

A 14-point statement of "Guiding Principles" was adopted by a 25-member Board of Experts of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) who are challenging religious communities around the world to recognize the "increasing reality of religious pluralism" and an urgent need to improve the way religious convictions are shared.

"In witnessing to others or in planning missionary activity, the inviolable dignity of the addressed persons requires consideration of their history, convictions, way of life, and cultural expressions," the document states.

"With this declaration we are taking an important step forward an issue which historically has been very difficult. The issue of proselytism is touching the nerve of most religious communities," said Gunnar Staalsett, Bishop of Oslo and IRLA president for 1999. "The fact that we have addressed this issue in the context of dissemination of religion or belief makes it possible to transcend narrow definitions."

The document is presented as guiding principles and refers to "dissemination of religion or belief" rather then using the term "proselytism." The term "proselytism" is often used in a pejorative way to refer to the outreach activities of religious communities.

"Religions have differing beliefs about how they should disseminate their convictions. The question of ‘proselytizing' or making converts inevitably affects interreligious relations. The term ‘proselytism' has various meanings and connotations. To avoid ambiguity ... this document does not use it."

Reacting to the document, Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, UN Human Rights Commission, called it "a good text, but it will take time to bear fruit."

"The importance of this document will be measured by the way it is integrated into legislation, both nationally and internationally. The effectiveness will depend on the wisdom and efforts of those who will promote it," Amor said.

The principles expressed in the statement have "primarily an ethical character and provide criteria to guide individuals and communities in their relations with each other." The human rights experts conclude that these principles "also have relevance for relations between religious communities and states."

The document refers to international human rights instruments as a point of reference and calls for truthful and fair dissemination of faith or beliefs, and that adherents to a particular religion, faith, or belief should practice what they preach.

Another principle deals with the language used when referring to other religious and belief communities. The statement calls for "respectful and non-offensive terminology ."

The document speaks against competition between religious communities and calls for respect for "both the rights of majority and minority should be protected in accordance with international human rights instruments which condemn all forms of discrimination and intolerance" when religion or beliefs are shared.

The document also calls for "comparing the ideals of one's own community with the ideals of other communities, and not with the alleged failures of others."

One of the principles addresses the connection of the social and humanitarian activities with sharing of one's religious faith. Such activities "should not be linked to the dissemination of faith or beliefs in a way that exploits the poor and vulnerable members of society by offering financial or other material incentives with the intent to induce people to keep or change their religion or belief."

Coercion should never be used when one's religion is shared, comments one of the experts, Professor Alberto de la Hera, director general of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Justice of Spain.

"It is necessary to guarantee all religions the right to disseminate their beliefs, as well as the right of each individual to join a religion or belief, or change it, without coercion," he said.

He also added that "the continuous growth of religious pluralism in a wide range of countries traditionally influenced by a predominant religion, brings today the need to create a climate of respect among all religious confessions."

"With this declaration we are taking an important step forward on an issue which historically has been very difficult," comments Staalsett. "The issue of proselytism is touching the nerve of most religious communities. The fact that we have addressed this issue in the context of dissemination of religion or belief makes it possible to transcend narrow definitions."

According to Dr John Graz, secretary general of IRLA, the document will receive wide distribution. "We will send it firstly to the religious communities around the world, but the declaration will also be of interest, we believe, to the governments and the international bodies who are concerned with making the world a better place to live," said Graz.

The participants of the discussion about the statement expressed a conviction that the churches and religious communities should be "challenged to use their spiritual resources for tolerance, reconciliation and peace."

"I believe that at the beginning of the new millennium it will be crucial to raise the human rights issues on the government and church levels, nationally and internationally. This is exactly what these guiding principles are intended for," said Staalsett.

Participants at the IRLA Board of Experts meetings included representatives of human rights organizations, faith communities, and academic centers internationally. [Ray Dabrowski]. www.irla.org/jan00.html. Accessed Sunday March 5, 2000

Guiding Principles for the Responsible Dissemination of Religion or Belief

With increasing globalization and growing interreligious and ideological strife, a constructive relationship among religions has become imperative. To deal with these issues, the International Religious Liberty Association convened meetings and conferences of experts, who met in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain in 1999 and early 2000 and adopted the following statement on specific points of agreement.

Freedom of religion or belief is a basic human right. Despite the strong support given to this universal right during the past fifty years by the various international instruments, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief of 1981, and the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities of 1992, widespread violations of this right continue to occur and are to be deplored.

Freedom of religion or belief includes the right to manifest and communicate one's faith or belief to others. Religions have differing beliefs about how they should disseminate their convictions. The question of "proselytizing" or making converts inevitably affects interreligious relations. The term "proselytism" has various meanings and connotations. To avoid ambiguity, hereinafter this document does not use it.

Accepting the increasing reality of religious pluralism and with the aim of strengthening religious liberty, tolerance, dialog, and respect for equal rights of all, the Conference of Experts suggests the following guiding principles regarding the responsible dissemination of religion or belief. These principles have primarily an ethical character and provide criteria to guide individuals and communities in their relations with each other. They also have relevance for relations between religious communities and states. These principles are based on the dignity of the human person and the person's freedom to follow the voice of conscience.

The Conference participants are convinced that the observance of the following guiding principles is invaluable in enhancing a culture of peace, social cohesion, personal and collective responsibility, and the upholding of equal rights for all.

The Conference participants hope that all individuals and religious communities will look at these principles in the light of their own beliefs and practices, and make them their own, thus being fully committed to the divine mandate or high ideals in which they believe.

PRINCIPLES

1. To teach, manifest, and disseminate one's religion or belief is an established human right. Everyone has the right to attempt to convince others of the truth of one's belief. Everyone has the right to adopt or change religion or belief without coercion and according to the dictates of conscience.

2. Aware of their common responsibilities, religious communities should build relationships through contacts and conversations, manifesting convictions with humility, respect, and honesty. Dialog should replace confrontation. In witnessing to others or in planning missionary activity, the inviolable dignity of the addressed persons requires consideration of their history, convictions, way of life, and cultural expressions.

3. Religion, faith, or belief is best disseminated when the witness of a person's life is coherent with the message announced, and leads to free acceptance by those to whom it is addressed.

4. In disseminating faith or beliefs, one should be truthful and fair towards other religions and beliefs. This requires comparing the ideals of one's own community with the ideals of other communities, and not with the alleged failures of others.

5. In the dissemination of religion or beliefs, both the rights of majority and minority should be protected in accordance with international human rights instruments which condemn all forms of discrimination and intolerance.

6. In referring to other religious and belief communities, respectful and non-offensive terminology should be used.

7. Social and humanitarian activities should not be linked to the dissemination of faith or beliefs in a way that exploits the poor and vulnerable members of society by offering financial or other material incentives with the intent to induce people to keep or change their religion or belief.

8. While the right to hold and manifest religious beliefs and convictions is recognized, interreligious strife, hatred, and antagonistic religious competition are to be avoided and replaced by dialog in truth and mutual respect.

9. No one should knowingly make false statements regarding any aspect of other religions, nor denigrate or ridicule their beliefs, practices, or origins. Objective information about these religions is always to be desired in order to avoid the spreading of ill-founded judgments and sweeping prejudices.

10. Dissemination of religious faith or belief should respect the addressed person's freedom to choose or reject a religion or belief without physical or psychological coercion, and should not force that person to break the natural ties with family, which is the foundational component of society.

11. Using political and economic power or facilitating its spread under the guise of disseminating religious faith or belief is improper and should be rejected.

12. Responsible dissemination of religious faith or belief should accept that it may invigorate the faith of the persons or groups addressed, or lead to a free and unfettered choice to change one's religious affiliation.

13. Bearing in mind their responsibilities for the common good of society, religious communities should, where feasible and in harmony with their convictions, join in efforts aimed at improving justice and welfare, and peace among peoples and nations.

14. Where conflicts arise with respect to dissemination of religion or belief, the relevant communities should consider entering into a process of conciliation. Madrid, January 2000. www.irla.org/jan00.html. Accessed Sunday March 5, 2000.

12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600, USA Phone: (301) 680-6680 Fax: (301) 680-6695

WORLD CONFERENCE ON RELIGION FREEDOM INAGURATED BY INTER-FAITH PRAYER MEETING

New Delhi, India … [IRLA News] The International Religious Liberty Association [IRLA] began its World Conference on Religion Freedom in New Delhi, India, today (Nov. 15) with a special inter-faith prayer session at Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.

"We chose this venue because of Gandhi's total dedication to religious freedom and pluralism," said Dr. Justus Devadas, director of IRLA-India and organizer of the Conference. "The wide representation from India's many faith communities is illustrative of the broad base for religious liberty that we wish to build on during this Conference."

Prayers and songs were offered by representatives from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Baha'i, Parsi, and Christian communities in simple program.

"This event says more than words about our desire to encourage freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all," commented Dr. John Graz, general secretary of IRLA International, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. "IRLA has been working to develop commitment to religious freedom for over a century, and we are delighted to host this conference here in New Delhi. India has demonstrated a long history of religious tolerance and the right to worship according to conscience is guaranteed in the country's constitution. Today more than ever before, the world needs to understand the practical importance of such religious freedom."

The Conference meets in session from November 16 through 18 with presentations by many leading scholars and experts from India and abroad on the theme of "Religious Freedom: A Fundamental Right in the 21st Century." [Jonathan Gallagher]

Chartered in 1893, the IRLA has advocated for religious freedom for 105 years. It is incorporated as a tax-exempt educational organization. The IRLA does not identify with any political party anywhere, nor does it endorse candidates for political office. The IRLA was originally organized by leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but its purpose is universal and non-sectarian. Various religious organizations are represented on the Board of Directors. The presidency rotates annually among a panel of vice presidents. The president in 1989 was the former general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation; in 1991, the general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. The IRLA has no paid staff. Officers and directors serve voluntarily. Funding for IRLA operations comes from organizations and individuals supportive of the association's purpose.

* Offices of the IRLA are at 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600 U. S. A. Phone 301.680.6680. Fax 301. 680.6695. President (1998): Robert W. Nixon. Vice Presidents: Bert B. Beach, Matthew Bediako, Gunnar Staalsett, Denton Lotz, Leo Ranzolin. Secretary General: John Graz. Deputy Secretary General: Richard Lee Fenn.

* The IRLA maintains a United Nations liaison office at the Church Center for the United Nations, Room 9-H, 777 UN Plaza, New York, New York 10017-3585 U. S. A. Phone 212.687.6488. The IRLA is represented at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

STATEMENT OF JOINT WORKING GROUP BETWEEN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final statement of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. The Vatican Press Office issued the final statement of the JWG's plenary meeting held near Bari, Italy, from May 5-11, 2003.

The Joint Working Group (JWG) between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches (WCC) held a plenary meeting near Bari, Italy, from May 5-11, 2003. This was the fourth plenary meeting since the 1998 General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which sent out the present mandate of the JWG, under the leadership of the two co-moderators, Archbishop Mario Conti (Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Scotland) and Bishop Jonas Jonson (Lutheran Bishop of Strängnäs, Sweden).

The meeting was held at Oasi Santa Maria, a center for spirituality, under the direction of Monsignor Colucci of the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, located just outside the town of Cassano delle Murge. Archbishop Francesco Cacucci and the whole local church welcomed the JWG in the traditional spirit of the Bari region, renowned for its history of contacts between Christians of various Churches, drawn to the Basilica of Bari which houses the tomb of St Nicholas.

Each day morning and evening prayer were celebrated according to the varied traditions of the churches and Ecclesial Community represented in the working group.

Two new members were introduced to the group: the Most Revd Brian Farrell LC, the new Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who replaces the Most Revd Marc Ouellett who has become the Archbishop of Quebec; and Monsignor Felix Machado who replaces the Most Revd Michael Fitzgerald who has become the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The representatives of the WCC and the Catholic Church met separately for a brief time for some specific orientation, then moved into full plenary to share some significant developments in the lives of the WCC and the Catholic Church since the last meeting. The WCC representatives reported on the results of the Special Commission on the Relations with the Orthodox Churches, and the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Faith and Order held in Lausanne in 2002 and shared the plans thus far for future world events such as the Faith and Order Plenary (2004), the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism (2005) and the next Assembly of the WCC itself (2006). The representatives from the Catholic Church reported on the wide scope of bilateral relations and dialogues between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, Mennonite, Pentecostal and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as well as consultations with the Seventh Day Adventists and Evangelicals.

Much of the time of the meeting was given over to the discussion and detailed examination of draft texts related to three major areas under study by the JWG: The Ecclesiological Implications of Baptism; the Nature and Purpose of Ecumenical Dialogue; and Roman Catholic Participation in National and Regional Councils of Churches. Gratitude is due to the sub-groups who had prepared these texts for discussion. Much progress has been made in these studies and mature texts are anticipated for refinement at the next plenary, to be included in the report that JWG will make to the next Assembly of the WCC, and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

A progress report was heard on the ways that the Churches and Ecclesial Community are engaging and collaborating on the Decade to Overcome Violence, and the JWG reaffirmed its commitment to supporting this important ecumenical initiative. The plenary also received updates on the matter of interchurch marriages and took note of the upcoming meeting of the International Association of Interchurch Families which will be held outside Rome in August.

The Revd Dorino Angelillo from Caritas Puglia visited the Working Group to give a comprehensive presentation on the situation related to refugees and immigrants in Italy in general and the region of Puglia in particular, highlighting the challenges that are before governments and churches as individuals and populations, of different cultures and religions, settle in the country.

This was followed by a reflection given by Professor Franco Vaccari, the President of Rondine-Cittadella della Pace, who spoke of the development of peace initiatives, particularly involving young people from areas of conflict in the world.

The rich ecumenical environment of Bari was experienced on several occasions. An opening ecumenical prayer service was held in the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cassano delle Murge, at which Archbishop Cacucci presided, with testimonies presented by local Orthodox, Waldensian, Baptist and Seventh Day Adventist participants. The whole event was organized by the Ecumenical Group of Bari under the leadership of Fr Angelo Romita. Afterwards the Mayor of Cassano delle Murge, Giuseppe Gentile, addressed the JWG and spoke of the unity of Christians as a necessary sign and encouragement to civil society in its search for greater harmony and service to the common good.

A visit was made to the Dominican Patristic Institute of Bari which is a center for ecumenical dialogue, research and learning, bringing together Christians principally from Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds. A visit to the museum of the diocese of Bari-Bitonto helped to illustrate the important crossroads that Bari has been for Christians from Byzantine, Slav, Latin and Armenian traditions for over 1000 years.

The members participated in the celebration of the translation of the relics of St Nicholas at the waterfront in Bari, presided over by Archbishop Cacucci, which highlighted the strength of popular devotion to St Nicholas, who is venerated by the Christian East and West. The evening events concluded with a festive dinner to honor the JWG, given by the Mayor and municipal authorities, in the presence of the Archbishop. On Sunday, the members of the JWG prayed at the tomb of St Nicholas and visited the Archbishop at his residence.

The co-moderators expressed to the sisters and staff of the Oasi Santa Maria the gratitude of the members of the JWG for their warm hospitality and support which contributed to the success of the plenary. The next plenary session of the JWG is planned for 6-13 May 2004.

[Translation of Italian original issued by the Vatican Press Office] ZE030519