Everett Brown, Guest Columnist
Father Richard Ho Lung's article on Sunday, December 16, 2012, 'Do Adventists hate Catholics?', has puzzled many well-thinking citizens. While one is not imputing motive, it is strange that the godly priest chooses to ask that question in public without first making contact with the church.
Had he done that, he would have got the simple sincere answer: Adventists do not hate Catholics, and we do not teach our members to hate them or any other religious or non-religious group. Furthermore, we do not label church leaders as devils.
To further clarify for the public our position on the issues raised by Father Ho Long, I have included the Seventh-day Adventist Church's official statement on how we view Roman Catholicism:
The Seventh-day Adventist position on Roman Catholicism was made clear from her inception and is not hidden from public scrutiny. In recent times (April 15, 1997), it was framed into a statement and made public and can be accessed at adventists.org. It reads thus:
Seventh-day Adventists regard all men and women as equal in the sight of God. We reject bigotry against any person, regardless of race, nationality, or religious creed. Further, we gladly acknowledge that sincere Christians may be found in other denominations, including Roman Catholicism, and we work in concert with all agencies and bodies that seek to relieve human suffering and to uplift Christ before the world.
Seventh-day Adventists seek to take a positive approach to other faiths. Our primary task is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of Christ's soon return, not to point out flaws in other denominations.
The beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists are rooted in the biblical apostolic teachings and thus share many essential tenets of Christianity in common with the followers of other Christian churches. However, we have a specific identity as a movement. Our compelling message for Christians and non-Christians alike is to communicate hope by focusing on the quality of life that is complete in Christ.
As Adventists relate to Roman Catholicism in particular, both the past and the future enter into our thinking. We cannot erase or ignore the historical record of serious intolerance and even persecution on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic system of church governance, based on extrabiblical teachings such as papal primacy, resulted in severe abuses of religious freedom as the Church was allied with the State.
Seventh-day Adventists are convinced of the validity of our prophetic views, according to which humanity now lives close to the end of time. Adventists believe, on the basis of biblical predictions, that just prior to the second coming of Christ, this earth will experience a period of unprecedented turmoil, with the seventh-day Sabbath as a focal point.
In that context, we expect that world religions - including the major Christian bodies as key players - will align themselves with the forces in opposition to God and to the Sabbath. Once again, the union of Church and State will result in widespread religious oppression.
To blame past violations of Christian principles on one specific denomination is not an accurate representation of either history or the concerns of Bible prophecy. We recognise that, at times, Protestants, including Seventh-day Adventists, have manifested prejudice and even bigotry. If, in expounding on what the Bible teaches, Seventh-day Adventists fail to express love to those addressed, we do not exhibit authentic Christianity.
Adventists seek to be fair in dealing with others. Thus, while we remain aware of the historical record and continue to hold our views regarding end-time events, we recognise some positive changes in recent Catholicism, and stress the conviction that many Roman Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.
ADVENTISTS DO NOT HATE CATHOLICS
Let me state categorically that Adventists do not hate Catholics or teach our members to hate Catholics, irrespective of our doctrinal differences. If the truth be told, the issue is not that of hating Catholics but that which the author alluded to, the doctrines and practices of the system which is called Roman Catholicism.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church will continue to present the truth as it is in the Bible to let people know of the love of God and His plan to save them in His kingdom. In addition, we extend an open invitation to Father Ho Lung, and all Jamaica, to worship with us at their convenience at any of our over 712 worship centres scattered throughout our beautiful island. A warm welcome awaits you.
Everett E. Brown is president of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.