ASSEMBLIES OF GOD & WORLD COUNCIL
A recent Ecumenical News report mentioned that a World Council of Churches "continuation committee" included a "respected Pentecostal representative" from the Assemblies of God and a representative from the Roman Catholic Church. (9/21/98) The committee's objective is to form a global ecumenical forum. An inquiry to ENI as to the identity of the Pentecostal representative brought the following response:
"The World Council of Churches has informed me that the Assemblies of God member involved in talks is Dr Cecil M. Robeck. But the WCC insisted in response to my question that Dr Robeck is not officially representing either the Assemblies of God or the Pentecostal churches in these discussions."
Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. is Professor of Church History and Ecumenics in the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Robeck appears to be spearheading the ecumenical movement in the Pentecostal churches, having attended WCC conferences for several years. The web site of Pentecostal Charismatic Theological Inquiry International provides information on the ecumenical activities of the Pentecostals and, specifically, Dr. Robeck:
In 1996, Dr Robeck led a team of Pentecostal scholars to dialogue with the apostate World Alliance of Reformed Churches, initiating a five year International Reformed-Pentecostal Dialogue.
The WARC now permits member denominations to dispense with the traditional requirement for clergy to affirm the central doctrine of the Christian faith - that salvation is through "Christ alone." Instead, WARC general secretary, Dr Milan Opocensky, maintains that churches and their members must be made to understand that their "salvation is at stake" if they refuse to reject unjust economic structures. (ENI 2/13/98) Based on the new paradigm, the WARC is also seeking full communion with the Lutheran World Federation, which is in the process of uniting with the Catholic Church.
Pentecostal ministers have been meeting with the World Council of Churches since 1994. At a conference held that year, Dr. Robeck framed the discussion of Pentecostalism by taking issue with its "insensitive" approach to evangelizing (he calls it 'proselytizing') those who already profess to be Christian, especially inquiring directly of high ranking clergy if they know Jesus Christ as Savior. Dr. Robeck is also the author of "Mission and the Issue of Proselytism" a document critical of endeavors to convert Roman and Greek Catholics by Pentecostals, who assume such persons are not of the Christian faith. [I have this document on file for anyone who is interested.]
Noting the disparity in Webster's definitions of "proselytism" and "evangelism," Dr. Robeck's choice of words diminishes per se the true gospel of Jesus Christ:
Proselytism: To convert to some religion, system, opinion, or the like; to bring, or cause to come, over; to proselyte.
Evangelism: To instruct in the gospel; to preach the gospel to; to convert to Christianity; as, to evangelize the world.
Dr. Robeck has made demonstrable progress in leading Pentecostals to repentance for offending professing Christians with the Gospel. The following statement was issued by Pentecostals after attending the 1996 Costa Rica WCC meeting:
"In this meeting with the WCC, we have discussed and debated a number of mutual concerns. We were challenged, for instance, to consider how Pentecostals have sometimes proselytized other Christians. This has brought offense to the Gospel as well as to them."
Laying the groundwork with Dr. Robeck for ecumenical unity between Pentecostals and members of the World Council of Churches has been Juan Sepulveda, author of The Andean Highlands: An Encounter with Two Forms of Christianity (WCC Publications). The following ENI report summarizes his plea for ecumenical unity at the 1998 Latin American Pentecostal Meeting.
Ecumenical News International
ENI News Service
28 September 1998
Theologian tells Pentecostals to be less defensive and more ecumenical ENI-98-0436
Havana, 28 September (ENI)--Pentecostal churches should have the courage to overcome their traditional defensive attitude and re-adopt the vision and the practices that inspired the early years of the Pentecostal movement, according to Chilean theologian, Juan Sepulveda.
In a speech on "Pentecostalism and Ecumenism", given during a Latin American Pentecostal Meeting (EPLA-98) from 23 to 27 September in Cuba, Sepulveda said that Pentecostalism's origins were profoundly ecumenical. However, over time, the negative reaction of mainstream churches to Pentecostal campaigns had prompted Pentecostal churches to move further away from the mainstream and to think of themselves as churches separate from the rest of Christianity.
"Other churches were not willing to appreciate the positive aspects and the renewal that marked Pentecostal movements," said Sepulveda, according to the Latin American and Caribbean Communications Agency. "Everything was rejected, condemned and ridiculed [by other churches] and in many cases the Pentecostal experience was described as the work of the devil," he said.
This was one of the factors that forced Pentecostal groups within the mainstream churches to set up separate churches, he said. Then the gulf grew wider because of the "self-awareness" that Pentecostals began to acquire.
"The new Pentecostals felt that God had begun to return the church to its spiritual purity, and they began to view their church as a community of those who had also been restored by the power of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit," he said.
This perception led them to begin to judge other churches as "mere human institutions".
However, no church possessed the "complete Gospel", Sepulveda said,
pointing out that this mistake had been one of the causes of Pentecostal
"impoverishment". The ecumenical movement was a gift of the Holy Spirit,
he added. A return to the visions of early Pentecostalism would allow Pentecostal
churches to accompany the churches that were trying to "walk
together in ecumenical hope". [325 words]
All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.
Ecumenical News International
Tel: (41-22) 791 6087/6515 Fax: (41-22)798 1346
PO Box 2100
150 route de Ferney
CH-1211 Geneva 2