Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, February 04, 2012

National Council of churches when politic become Ecumenism

Spectrum magazine online had a recent couple of articles on the National Council of Churches former President's presentation by Dr. Michael Kinnamon he gave a talk entitled, “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved.”

What I find more interesting is what is the reason behind the NCC, if you read their website you see that though the language is very couched it has an overriding concern for liberal politics. In point 4 listed in the Spectrum article you read the following:

In seeking to manifest the unity we have in Christ, ecumenical churches refuse to separate theological truth from social justice; they integrate theology and justice.

Social Justice has become one of the code words of liberal politics (other such words, Environmental Justice, Economic justice etc). As you read the above sentence why would anyone include “social justice” in the first part of the clause and then theology and justice in the last part? (See my articles on Social Justice and here.) The insertion of “social justice” is to inform the listener/reader that  political aspects are being referred to. This reflects the Rev. Jim Wallis view that social justice is the heart of the gospel. So theology and social justice must be equated and social justice is the political lefts answer to the gospel therefore it is equal with theology, they cannot be separated. Likely no one would have a problem with the statement of justice, justice being doing what is right and fair but the political left is not trying for equal justice thus the favored term social justice.

A good quote on the subject is found from the Christian News Wire. Com:
IRD President James Tonkowich commented,

"Edgar's view of the church's role in society usually involved a more expansive federal government. While some hailed him as a prophetic voice on issues of war, poverty and environment, what he advocated exclusively pointed to liberal politics and human institutions as the answer.

"Edgar placed the council on a firmer financial footing by seeking funding from secular liberal foundations that were interested in a leftist political agenda, not the spread of the gospel.

"The NCC's ever-reluctant member communions were unconvinced by Edgar that they needed to further bear the financial burden of the activities done in their name. Clearly, the NCC's increasingly political agenda did not appeal to many of the member denominations, many of whom declined to contribute any financial support to the organization.

"Edgar often dismissed the precipitous membership plunge of many of the NCC member communions, saying that influence was more important than numbers. Both however seemed equally in decline as the national media, policymakers and everyday churchgoers increasingly directed their attentions toward mainstream Evangelical voices and away from older mainline leadership and tired institutional ecumenism.
"During Edgar's tenure, the NCC continued to prove unappealing to more orthodox faith groups, with evangelicals wary of the NCC's agenda and one member denomination choosing to permanently disassociate itself from the council.

"Bob Edgar's legacy is a financially sound council, but unfortunately not a strengthened ecumenism."
The Institute on Religion and Democracy is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches' social witness in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings.

In 2005 in reply to such charges as the above Edgar responded:
“There are those who try to dilute our witness and mislead our friends by suggesting that the National Council of Churches is a partisan, left-leaning organization,” said Rev. Edgar. “But you know who it is that calls us to pursue peace, fight poverty and injustice, and care for the earth. It is the Prince of Peace who each day of his life showed his bias for the poor and prayed to the Creator who gave us this beautiful world,” he said.”

This always sounds good, as if right leaning organization don't want peace, don't fight poverty and injustice or care about the earth. It seems that only the political left uses this kind of logic. As most people of good will would agree with those goals the question is always how to arrive at them. Only when you start to think that your politics are the will of God do you become intolerant and become obsessed with seeing things only one way. Edgar went from his NCC position to the political liberal organization Common Cause.

During the recent so called budget debate (The US Senate has not passed a budget in over 1000 days) over the rise in the debt ceiling the leaders of the NCC took it upon themselves to protest:

The National Council of Churches out-radicalized even Jim Wallis, boasting about arrests of its officials in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in protest against budget "cuts." "Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad," hyperventilated the NCC's former president after his arrest. Another arrested NCC official explained, "We are citizens first and foremost of the realm of God," When steps Congress is taking contradicts our call as followers of Jesus Christ, we must take action." Interestingly, Wallis, despite many arrests in his colorful past, declined to join the civil disobedience this time.

It may, in the short run seem that the way to protect the poor is to keep devaluing money or borrowing money from China but that may not be correct. But it does point out that there are differences in how people respond to problems. To claim that your way is the only way or the way that Jesus would do it is most often simply a gratuitous assertion, but it becomes even worse when it becomes attached to theology.

Unfortunately for Adventism, Spectrum and Adventist Today magazine and online have become havens for this kind of politics as theology. Thinking that Progressive Adventist is more about politics then theology and then equating the politics with theology has left them with with little momentum to deal with the actual theological problems in the Adventist church.

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