Can you imagine authorities saying an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale is only a small tremor? Furthermore, what if only a small minority of people acknowledged an earthquake had happened, despite their homes lying in ruin and disaster being all around? Surely that sounds impossible. Perhaps it might be impossible in the physical realm, but on February 2 and 3, 2012, there was a grand seismic spiritual event in Adventism and hardly a spiritual seismograph noticed the quake.
The theological seminary at Andrews University invited Michael Kinnamon, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, to be their keynote speaker for the annual Seminary Scholarship Symposium. According to the university website,
Kinnamon is a prominent religious leader in the United States. He is a clergyman in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a well-known ecumenical leader and educator, as well as the Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission, Peace, and Ecumenical Studies at Eden Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. Previously, he served as the general secretary of the Consultation on Church Union and executive secretary of the World Council of Church’s Commission on Faith and Order. Kinnamon earned his PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. (http://www.andrews.edu/news/2012/01/symposium.html)
Kinnamon’s theme was “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved.” Denis Fortin, dean of the seminary, noted that the invitation was extended “after consultation with university administrators”” (http://www.andrews.edu/agenda/item/23877). Therefore, we know that the university at the highest levels approved of this invitation. The presence of Kinnamon and his theme was downplayed by Denis Fortin. On the website for Andrews Univeristy, we read:
The Seminary Scholarship Symposium is done within an academic context with academic value. Kinnamon will speak at the plenary session on Thursday evening, Feb. 2, about current trends in the ecumenical movement in America and the voice Adventism could have in the Christian world. Then Nicholas Miller, associate professor of church history and director of the International Religious Liberty Institute, will provide our students with a response on behalf of the Seminary.
Our invitation to Michael Kinnamon is also intended to reach out to the wider Michiana community in hopes of attracting local people to Andrews for this lecture and symposium. Kinnamon is very well known and respected in broad circles of Christianity. He is also very active and influential in American politics and religious life. He is known as a spokesperson on various social issues and is passionate about Christianity and religious freedom.
This invitation and lecture should not be perceived or crafted as an attempt at rewriting our historical Adventist faith. We believe in the Three Angels’ Messages and the other tenets of our faith. We continue to promote religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. This is not a first step to join the NCC or any other such organizations and we are not promoting ecumenism. People should not exploit this event to create fear in the hearts of other Adventists. (Ibid.)
This is simply doublespeak at its best. It is claimed that in the interest of academia we will have one of the main representatives of what Adventism has in the past called Babylon come and tell us why we should join Babylon and be a part of Babylon. Then the dean of the seminary says that there are no such plans and Kinnamon’s visit to the seminary should not be exploited to cause concern among believers! All in the name of academic freedom!
Beloved, when did truth cease to be important!? When did partaking of the fruit of good and evil become fashionable and acceptable in the interest of academia and for the sake of community outreach? When did the statement of Jesus, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), fail? When did the following statement become a lie?
Error is never harmless. It never sanctifies, but always brings confusion and dissension. It is always dangerous. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 292)
It is of interest that Andrews University did not choose to record these meetings or, at least, has not made recordings publicly available. However, to Dr. Kinnamon’s credit, he graciously was willing to share the prepared remarks for one of his meetings, “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved,” with us by email. Though we do not have any official recordings, we do have a transcript of this presentation. There have also been a few firsthand accounts from those who actually attended the meetings. To our knowledge, the first record of the event was published by Spectrum. While not the most favored publication by conservatives, Spectrum has, at least, provided some news on Kinnamon’s talks through the correspondence of Landon Schnabel, who is currently studying at the seminary. Some of the following key points he noted were taken from the Thursday morning talk of February 2:
Kinnamon stated that “the ecumenical movement’s aim is to make visible the unity which is our gift in Jesus Christ. Not a unity which we create, but a unity which is a gift to us in Jesus Christ.” In regard to Adventist fears of ecumenism, he said that he does not want us to lose our distinctives, but that Adventism has things to offer that other Christian churches have let atrophy and need to relearn. He made it clear that he does not want us to give up our convictions. Speaking of the Sabbath, he said,
“Heaven’s no, we don’t want you to give up the Sabbath. We need to learn from you about the Sabbath.” (http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2012/02/02/former-head-national-council-churches-speaks-andrews-seminary-symposium—part-i)
However, another source related to us that later in this talk Kinnamon made clear that it was not the day of the Sabbath that they wanted to learn about from Adventists but, rather, the spirit of keeping the day. This means they want us to teach them how to keep Sunday better. Perhaps those Adventists who accept the mark of the beast will be very glad to teach by precept and example.
Using Kinnamon’s notes as a source, we find the second session, entitled “The Ecumnical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved,” included the following appreciation about Adventists, after he first stated an appreciation of the welcome he had received:
It is important to say at the outset that there is much I appreciate about the Adventist tradition, including your network of schools and emphasis on education for all, your initiatives on behalf of religious liberty, your tradition of volunteer service, your support of hospitals and concern for the ministry of healing, and your celebration of the diversity of the human family. (Michael Kinnamon, “The Ecumnical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved,” paper delivered to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, February 2, 2012)
Kinnamon noted that Dean Fortin suggested that he talk about trends in the ecumenical movement, but to Kinnamon that seemed to be putting “the cart before the horse.” Kinnamon then went on to discuss seven points that explained what ecumenism is and what it is not:
1. Ecumenism is not a movement aimed at creating the unity of the church.
2. It follows that ecumenism is by no means the same as tolerant cooperation.
3. . . .ecumenism is not a matter of tinkering with the church through negotiations, but of repentance and conversion to a new way of seeng one another—namely, as sisters and brothers in God’s one church.
4. In seeking to manifest the unity we have in Christ, ecumenical, at its best, refuses to split doctrinal reconciliation from active commitment to justice. (Ibid. Emphasis is in the original)
Before proceeding to points 5–7, we would note that the point in number 4 is that the church does not separate theological truth from social justice, rather the church is to bring theology and justice together. Kinnnamon continues:
5. Ecumenism should not be the province of specialists who gather periodically in places like New York and Geneva. The ecumenical movement began as a lay-driven protest against the way the church has so often succumbed to the divisions of the world.
6. . . . ecumenism cannot be identified with the various structures that give it expression.
7. Ecumenism is not to be confused with interfaith relations. . . . interfaith engagement is not simply a wider circle of ecumenism, which, as I have indicated, seeks to make visible the koinonia Christians have with one another through Christ in order to witness more faithfully and effectively to the gospel. (Ibid.)
After discussing these seven points, Kinnamon then suggested two reasons why Seventh-day Adventists have “resisted fuller involvement” in the ecumenical movement:
1. An underemphasis on the “givenness” of the church.
2. . . . an overemphasis on your hold on truth. (Ibid.)
Within these points Kinnamon noted:
This is the key insight of the ecumenical movement: Christians bear witness to the unity of God, to God’s uniting power and grace, not just by what we say or by what we do (important as these can be), but by what we are–by the way we live with one another. Nietzsche once said that he might believe in their Redeemer if only Christ’s followers would look more redeemed! Let’s put it in scriptural terms: “By this will they know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
By the way, there are a number of ecumenically-involved churches that claim to be the true remnant or, simply, the true church. The Orthodox, for example, insist that membership in a council of churches does not necessarily mean that they accept the other members as “churches” in the full theological sense of the term.
The Orthodox, however, are able to participate with integrity because, at their best, they recognize that the boundaries of the church, to use their language, are charismatic not canonical. It is the presence of the Spirit, not canonical or even doctrinal restrictions, that determines the contours of the church. “We know where the church is,” they say in effect, “we just don’t know where it isn’t.” And so they enter into conciliar life and other dialogues with a certain humility, open to discern the Spirit’s movement in places they may not have expected. I offer this for your consideration. (Ibid.)
Kinnamon introduced the concept of Laodicea which believes it has prospered and needs nothing from others, implying that we think we have no need to learn from others:
Paul is quite clear in I Corinthians: The danger is not that the members of the body will say, “You have no need of me,” but that they will say, “I have no need of you.” One of the saddest statements in all of scripture is that attributed in Revelation to the church at Laodicea: “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” (Ibid.)
Kinnamon concluded his remarks by stating:
My concern, if I can put it this way, is with your grammar. “Adventist” is a wonderful adjective, but an idolatrous noun. You are not “Seventh-Day Adventists” but “Seventh-Day Adventist Christians.” This is the noun that defines us—a recognition that we have communion with all those who have communion with him. This is a gift. And it is very Good News!
Kinnamon’s closing statement matches what he said in earlier talks using other denominations, such as the Methodists. To be known as Seventh-day Adventists is idolatrous to Kinnamon, but in the spirit of academia, we have invited those who worship a false god on a false day to speak to our future priests, so they can better serve their flocks!
To the credit of some in the congregation, we learned that later in the session “Kinnamon asked if Saturday is the key, or if to make more of an impact on other churches we can speak about Sabbath-keeping with the question of the particular day as a secondary issue.
The tension in the room rose and a resounding ‘no!’ could be heard throughout the auditorium. Kinnamon then said that if we hold to the ‘no,’ then we are outside the ecumenical movement as it had been discussed” (http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2012/02/02/former-head-national-council-churches-speaks-andrews-seminary-symposium—part-ii).
We have been told that “It is a backsliding church that lessens the distance between itself and the Papacy” (The Signs of the Times, February 19, 1894). When we cuddle up to the papacy or her daughters, there comes a point when we are not simply backsliding, but backslidden!
Courtesy of: Allen Stump http://www.smyrna.org