A Southern Baptist professor quoted in Baptist Press denounced an ecumenical body that includes nearly all the world’s Orthodox and numerous Protestant denominations as a “boutique of paganism in Christian garb” with “the spirit of antichrist.”
The official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday published a news story quoting Russell Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, commenting on the recently completed 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Porto Alegre, Brazil.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“The World Council of Churches has long been a boutique of paganism in Christian garb,” Moore said. “This year’s assembly happenings, including the recognition of ‘the Holy Spirit’ working in non-Christian world religions, only continues the downgrade.”
The BP story cited coverage of the assembly by the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a group organized to “reform” mainline churches by countering “leftist ideology and liberation theologies of the National and World Council of Churches.” Part of IRD’s work, according to its Web site, is to monitor religious leaders that “claim to speak for millions but really represent only an extreme few.”
The IRD report quoted Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church and moderator of the World Council of Churches, from a lengthy report that included a discussion of Christian self-understanding in pluralistic societies.
“According to biblical teachings, God’s gift of salvation in Christ is offered to the whole humanity,” Aram said. “Likewise, according to Christian pneumatology [study of spiritual phenomena], the Holy Spirit’s work is cosmic; it reaches in mysterious ways to people of all faiths.”
Moore, who has a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary and teaches theology at the school, said Aram suggested that the Holy Spirit “operates in non-Christian religions.”
“Regenerate believers across the world, whatever their denomination or communion, recognize the spirit of the World Council for what it is: the spirit of antichrist,” Moore said. “The only differences between the WCC of today and the WCC of the mid-20th century are first one of degree and second one of relevance. No one listens to the World Council of Church anymore, and for that we should be thankful to God.”
According to his full text, Aram went on to say, “Therefore, the church is called to discern the signs of the ‘hidden’ Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in other religions and in the world, and bear witness to God’s salvation in Christ.”
Aram said “our truth claims cannot be compromised” in inter-religious dialogue. “Affirming our faithfulness to Christ, however, must not preclude engaging in dialogue and collaboration with other religions,” he said.
Aram said the “specificity and integrity of each religion should be respected in dialogue.”
“To make our dialogue credible and set it on a solid basis, we must deepen our common values and accept our differences,” he explained. “While the need for religions to speak together on issues of common concern from the perspective of common values is growing with acute urgency, the ambiguity of religion’s role in society and misuse of religion are ever increasing. The churches are caught in this dilemma. This ambivalent situation makes inter-religious dialogue even more imperative. The churches and the ecumenical movement must take most seriously the inter-religious dialogue.”
While the last seven years of the WCC have been marked by “upheaval” from global developments, Aram said, the need for Christian unity is stronger than ever.
“A divided church cannot have a credible witness in a broken world; it cannot stand against the disintegrating and disorienting forces of globalization and enter into a meaningful dialogue with the world,” he said. “Speaking with one voice and assuming together the church’s prophetic vocation are, indeed, essential requirements of ‘being church’ in a polarized world.”
Organized in 1948, the World Council of Churches claims membership of 340 churches, denominations and church fellowships in over 100 countries and territories throughout the world, representing some 550 million Christians. The largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church, is not a member of the WCC, but has worked closely with the organization for more than three decades and sends observers to major gatherings.
North American members include major U.S. denominations like the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church.
Membership also includes major Baptist groups like the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., National Baptist Convention of America and National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Tyrone Pitts, general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., also a WCC member body, is a member of the organization’s executive committee.
The WCC describes itself as “the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement,” a movement that promotes the building of Christian unity in keeping with Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 for his followers to be one, “so that the world may believe.”
The BP story also cited expressions of “anti-American sentiments” by delegates at the WCC assembly, such as criticizing the war in Iraq. Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention made similar charges against the Baptist World Alliance in ending ties with that international group in 2004.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.