Warsaw, Poland ... [ANN]
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church cannot be treated either as a ‘new religious movement,’ or as a sect,” declares a joint statement drawn by the Roman Catholic Church and the Adventist Church in Poland.
Adventist Headquarters in Warsaw Poland
Recognizing each other’s autonomy and independence, the document was issued following 15 years of dialogue aimed at better understanding of the teachings and practice of the Catholic and the Adventist Churches, as well as improving relations without compromising each other’s identity.
The document cites the fact that “relations between Catholics and Adventists have not been best in the past.” The statement was signed by representatives of the Churches, including Pastor Wladyslaw Polok, president of the Adventist Church in Poland, and Archbishop Alfons Nossol, chairman of the Polish Episcopate’s Commission for Ecumenical Affairs.
“With regret we recognize cases when the different religious and civic circles have denied the ecclesiastical status of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, even refering to it as a ‘sect.’ Such an approach is unacceptable and, we believe, it is highly detrimental for the mutual relations,” the document states.
“This document affirms religious liberty. We are regarding it as an important development not only for our Church in Poland. Religious minorities are too often regarded as less than what they are,” said Pastor Polok.
The statement recognizes that though the Churches can refer to similarities, they also see difference between each other’s “doctrine, practice and church policies.” However, both sides affirm a need to cultivate respect for each other and learn to understand each other. The dialogue was “conducted on the basis of partnership, care to uphold a full identity of both sides, as well as their autonomy and independence, in the spirit of mutual respect and Christian love, and in recognition of the ideals of tolerance and religious freedom.”
“This is an important turn of events for our Church,” says Prof. Zachariasz Lyko, who for many years was responsible for the Polish Adventist Church’s public affairs. “This development is not a result of criticism, public attacks or confrontation, but Christian kindness toward each other and respect for dignity of a human person.”
“Many of us can recall how we have been labeled with different names. We have been misunderstood and often ridiculed. As for us, we wanted to sit down together and recognize that Christian love requires a different kind of relation in the society we are a part of. As Seventh-day Adventists we seek to take a positive approach to other faiths. We have stated this publicly and this document affirms our attiutude,” he added.
The document does not deal with doctrinal and theological issues. During the years of meetings, both sides presented their theological views and doctrinal positions in the interest of better understanding between both confessions. “Our Church recognizes that such dialogue cannot be a dialogue of compromise, but one of cooperative spirit and common understanding,” Lyko explained. “We are doing nothing different except what the early pioneers of our Church supported and advocated. It is always better to engage in a respectful conversation than in a confrontation that often prevents achieving desired changes,” he said.
Lyko commented that “as a Church, our side was not interested in compromising any of our fundamental beliefs.”
“Over the years, however, as the exchange of information between us took place, we noted many confessional similarities but also differences. The Catholic side recognizes in the document the Christocentric character of our beliefs, and especially our belief in the Trinity, as well as ecclesiological identity of the Church, a status affirmed by an act of the Polish Parliament. On our part, we spoke of a need to change attitudes toward our denomination and recognized the openness of the Catholic Church, especially in recent times, toward the Bible,” Lyko explained. [Ray Dabrowski]