Relating to Other Churches
Relating to Other Churches
From time to time we hear and read of statements by Ellen White purported to attack and/or discourage relationships with persons and leaders of other churches. Accordingly, I pose the question, “Do the writings of Ellen White discourage interchurch relations?” In my attempt to respond to this question, I declare that I will reference the book 101 Questions Adventists Ask by Dr. Bert B. Beach, retired director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and current PARL Director, Dr. John Graz.
Consider the Context
When Ellen White wrote of end time events, she “portrayed the official churches as opposed to religious freedom and to the faithful remnant.” However, it should be noted that she made “a clear distinction between systems, organizations, and sincere members.” She noted that individuals are not saved because they are “Protestants,” “Catholics,” or “Adventists.” To the contrary, she explained that individuals are saved because Jesus died for us. Nevertheless, she wrote that, “the religious organizations will become part of ‘Babylon,’ when they will unite their power to persecute those who do not accept their creed.” She regarded such acts as “wicked,” for these groups are wrong in doing the devil’s work in persecuting those “who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
Encouraging Good Relations
On the other hand, Ellen White encouraged good relations with those not of our faith. Says Mrs. White: “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers, we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock” (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 78). Certainly, this is not an anti-relations position calling for Seventh-day Adventists to isolate themselves from other religious groups. In fact she adds, “The Lord has His representatives in all churches” (Ibid., p. 70).
Additionally, she warned pastors and lay members who attack other churches: “Be cautious in your labors, brethren, not to assail the prejudices of the people too strongly. There should be no going out of the way to attack other denominations: for it only creates a combative spirit, and closes ears and hearts to the entrance of the truth. We have our work to do, which is not to tear down but to build up” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, 136.3).
Isolation Is not Encouraged
In 1911 Ellen White penned, “The Lord has not given His people the work of making a tirade against those who are transgressing His law. In no case are we to make a raid on the other churches”(Review and Herald, April 20, 1911, par. 21). Therefore it cannot be concluded that her writings encourage isolation and aggressiveness towards other churches and as such should not be misquoted or taken out of context. We are not alone on earth, and we will not be alone in heaven as noted by Beach and Graz. Having good relations with others does not mean that we favor “the current focus of ecumenism.” We should seek to have good relations with neighbors, colleagues and others, as this does not mean that we are compromising our faith. Good relations are likely create strong and positive testimonies of our relationship to God, which could augur well in wooing others to our faith. Let’s reach out in 2014.