In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
“The historic positions on biblical unity and biblical confrontation of errors that the Alliance has stood for over a hundred years seem now to be eroded and replaced by ecumenical attitudes”. World Evangelical Alliance responds: “The concerns raised are being taken very seriously”.
The Evangelical Alliances of Italy, Spain and Malta have signed an open letter to the World Evangelical Alliance denouncing what they believe is an “ecumenical agenda” that is contrary to the historic vision and positions of the body representing more than 600 million evangelical Christians in the world.
The Italian Evangelical Alliance (AEI), the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE) and the Evangelical Alliance Malta (TEAM), are members of the European Evangelical Alliance and of the World Evangelical Alliance.
The 8 page long letter is entitled Is the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Moving Away from its Historic Position on Unity? and was issued on December 1. Read the letter.
“The historic positions on biblical unity (among born-again Christians) and biblical confrontation of errors (deviant teachings and practices) that the [World Evangelical] Alliance has stood for over a hundred years seem now to be eroded and replaced by ecumenical attitudes that revolve around a kind of ‘unity’ that is in conflict with historic evangelical convictions”, the signatories say.
According to these three national Alliances, “millions of evangelicals (…) do not see any biblical reason to move towards ‘greater oneness’ with the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church”.
The representatives of the three countries say there have been cases which have “caused embarrassment in our constituencies for undiscerning, wrong-headed and emotionally-driven statements on Popes and ecumenical activities”.
CRITICISM OF THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
According to AEI, AEE and TEAM, the reason for writing the open letter is twofold: “First, apart from generic and inconsequential assurances that our voice was heard, there has been a progressive implementation of an ecumenical agenda in WEA without proper discussion at a grass-root level and without involving the different parts of the Alliance in the decision-making process”.
Furthermore, “we sense that this ecumenical trajectory of WEA is about to reach a tipping point in 2018 (unfortunately without being informed by WEA leadership), and we want to exercise responsibility in protecting the heritage and the future of the Alliance from what seem like dangerous moves towards an unqualified ‘ecumenical unity’”.
Specifically, the letter demands “to stop the process leading the WEA to sign the 2018 statement on ‘greater oneness’ with Rome and the Word Council of Churches. Doing so will contradict the historic position of the WEA, without any discussion within, or voting from a General Assembly; it will be something not even discussed, let alone voted for by a General Assembly. Doing so will cause immense damage in the evangelical constituency world-wide”.
The letter goes on to say: “When a few people decide a question of this magnitude on their own without a serious discussion with the people they supposedly represent, it is the beginning of the end of this historical evangelical network and a transformation into a top-down hierarchical organization, which is a completely different thing”.
EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE ALBANIA SUPPORTS THE LETTER
The Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance Albania (VUSH), Ylli Doci, added his support to the open letter: “I endorse the open letter to the WEA leadership signed by the EAs of Italy, Spain and Malta because we are concerned that we have a good discussion of the theological implications before we change any position with regard to going deeper in any doctrinally relevant ecumenical involvement with the Catholic Church”.
THE WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE RESPONDS
On December 7, the World Evangelical Alliance responded in a brief statement on the WEA’s website.
“The WEA offers assurance that the concerns they raised in their letter are being taken very seriously. I can confirm without a doubt that there are no plans to sign such a statement as described on page 7 of their open letter or anything that would resemble it”, the Secretary General of the WEA Efraim Tendero writes.
“We appreciate the zeal for theological integrity of these evangelical alliances and hope that they will contact us directly to learn more about our plans and activities”, he added.
In October, Evangelical Focus reported about the Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s document Definition of our relationship with the Roman Catholic Church: An evaluation of some of its main doctrines, which expressed the “concern” of Spanish evangelicals over the “ecumenical” approach to Roman Catholicism of the World Evangelical Alliance.
The Spanish body of evangelicals then said: “Sadly, the theology of the Roman Catholic Church has not substantially changed in the last 500 years to correct the doctrinal errors that triggered the Reformation”, and therefore, “the truth can never be subordinated to strategic issues”, it stated.
In October 2016, a number of European evangelical leaders also signed the manifesto “Is the Reformation Over?”, which called to uphold central Christian doctrines unearthed by Martin Luther and the other reformers, such as justification by faith alone.
Some weeks later, the European Evangelical Alliance commented on the joint Lutheran-Catholic Reformation commemoration in Lund (Sweden) with a press statement entitled “When a Pope understands Luther better than many Protestants do”.
Read more news and opinion articles about the issue of ecumenism.