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Burin North Ministerial Association

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

"Called to proclaim the mighty acts of God"

Welcome Statement for Christian Unity Worship Service 2016

Statement Prepared by Pr. Victor M. Reyes-Prieto on January 8, 2016, and Posted on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.
Note: The event to took place at the Marystown, NL, Seventh-day Adventist Church on January 18, 2016 at 7 PM.

Dear friends in Christ,

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was first proposed in 1908 as an observance within the Roman Catholic Church by Fr Paul Wattson, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Graymoor, New York. In November of 2014, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed the cause for Fr Wattson’s canonization.

“Since the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948, many other Christian denominations around the world have come to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and since 1968, the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have collaborated to produce materials for use over this eight-day period.  Every year, the Commission on Faith and Witness of the Canadian Council of Churches assembles an ecumenical writing team to adapt these materials for the Canadian context, and to create additional planning resources.

This year’s resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by an ecumenical team in Latvia, representing various churches and religious organizations. They have chosen as their theme “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of God”, inspired by 1 Peter 2:9 – “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” They invite Christians around the world to reflect on what it means to be the people of God, and how we are called both to proclaim and to respond to the acts of God in the world.”  —The Canadian Council of Churches.

In the Burin Peninsula, it is the first time this event is celebrated within the premises of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  So, in a way, this night is historic for us here in Newfoundland.  The Adventist Church has been in the business of calling the people of God to unity since its inception back in 1863, and even further back to 1844 as followers of Baptist preacher and evangelist, William Miller. We recognize that in the book of Revelation, chapter 14:6-7, it is God’s calling for unity to all His true followers worldwide.  So, the idea of unity was born in the eternal mind of God Almighty:

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ ”

Adventist Founder and prolific writer Ellen White, once wrote:
Christian unity is a mighty agency. It tells in a powerful manner that those who possess it are children of God. It has an irresistible influence upon the world, showing that man [and women] in [their] humanity may be [partakers] of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. We are to be one with our fellow [beings] and with Christ, and in Christ one with God. Then of us can be spoken the words, "Ye are complete in Him.”  — My Life Today - Page 281

It might be of interest to many of you that between 1994 and 1998, the Adventist Church entered formal conversations with the Lutheran World Federation which represents 95% of Lutherans world-wide.  These talks covered the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone as central to both Lutherans and Adventists; the importance of God’s Law and the biblical balance of Law and Grace.  They also found much commonality in Ecclesiology and Church Authority as well as Eschatology (prophecies pertaining the end time).  Lutherans also recognized that, indeed, Seventh-day Adventists faithfully hold to the 16th Century Reformers’ Evangelical view of Scripture.

As a result Lutherans and Adventists committed themselves to make some significant recommendations.  I will quote:

In our conversations we have achieved significant convergences in our understanding of the Christian faith. We do not want to conceal the existing doctrinal differences, but we nevertheless think that the following recommendations can be made to our churches:

We recommend that Adventists and Lutherans mutually recognize the basic Christian commitment of each others' faith communions. This general recognition is specified as follows:

We recommend that Lutherans in their national and regional church contexts do not treat the Seventh-day Adventist church as a sect [as some who are not properly informed do] but as a free church and a Christian world communion [with 18.8 million adherents as of June 30, 2015; over 1 million baptisms per year or over 3000 a day worldwide]. This recommendation is based both on the Adventist understanding of water baptism in the name of the Triune God, an understanding which for Lutherans means that baptism is valid, and further on the joint conviction that "faithful Christians can be found in other churches" (see chapter II, section "Ecclesiology"), a view which is compatible with CA VIII.

We also recommend that Adventists in their relationship with other Christian churches seek to have this conviction consistently affirmed. This recommendation can be seen as an expression of the SDA General Conference's Working Policy 1996/1997 § O 75 which unequivocally speaks of "other Christian churches" and recognizes "those agencies that lift up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for evangelization of the world." [Which is the goal of the World Council of Church which sponsors this event] Furthermore, according to the Adventist understanding of the Lord's Supper, Lutherans as "believing Christians" (FB 15) are welcome to participate in the Adventist communion service [as well as others Christians without distinction].

In our discussions we have reached a comprehensive consensus on Scripture as the sole foundation of church authority and on Christ as the head of the church. The creedal and confessional documents are for Lutherans derived norms of faith (norma normata). In an analogous manner the writings of Ellen G. White represent for Adventists an authority which is derived from Scripture and which is to be tested by the Scripture. We reaffirm the importance of giving Scripture priority in preaching and daily life. We consider personal Bible study to be a fundamental part of Christian life and encourage members of our churches to engage in joint study of the Bible.

…We recommend that Lutherans and Adventists encourage and nurture consultative linkage for the good of the total Christian community, understanding, and the betterment of humanity. Several areas of cooperation for a joint witness suggest themselves, such as:

Alleviating the suffering of humanity
Religious liberty endeavours (most recent Adventist lawyers have advocated the cause of Muslims and Sikhs in the US.)
Ministerial associations / pastoral gatherings
Joint prayer events
Bible Society work [such as collaboration with the Society of Biblical Literature, contributing scholarly work to Bible commentaries and working together with Logos and Accordance Bible software]

Cartigny, Switzerland, 15 May 1998.

Besides our Lutheran brothers and sisters, Adventists have been in conversation with other Christian denominations, such as theologians from the Roman Catholic Church.  We held conversations with Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Msgr John Radano who served in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1984-2008. In addition, we have also engaged in conversation with the following Christian organizations which represent a large segment of the Christian world:

World Alliance of Reformed Churches
World Evangelical Alliance
French Protestant Federation (FPF)
Serbian Orthodox Church
World Council of Churches [which sponsors this event]
Willow Creek

Adventist have also met with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
“After three rounds of conversations, representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church say they have found more than enough common ground to continue their talks, perhaps even drawing in representatives of other Reformed denominations. “Our differences are not of such a nature as to preclude fellowship with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ,” said the Rev. Carlos Malave, associate for ecumenical relations in the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly, “or cooperation in selected areas of joint concern.” [someone has estimated that about 98% of Presbyterian beliefs are in harmony with Adventist theology]

Last but not least, Adventists maintain an active dialogue and friendly relation with the Salvation Army. Theologians from both denominations have met on several occasions.

"It was most important to see the very similar approaches to the Gospel message that we have; very compatible lifestyles and Christ-centeredness in The Salvation Army and the Seventh-day Adventist Church," Dr. B.B. Beach told ANN. "Adventists have always had considerable respect for the work of Salvationists, and I hope that in the future we would increase our knowledge of each other and our cooperation in meeting many of humanity's crying spiritual and material needs."

One wonders, with so much theological commonality, why so much division among us?  The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary reports that as of 2014 there are approximately 45,000 Christian denominations in the world.  It is expected in the year 2025 the brokenness of Christianity will reach 55,000.  All or most claim their teachings to be faithful to the Scriptures.  I pray that when we speak of unity, we do not mean to destroy the diversity among us or to violate the conscience of anyone, but that we endeavour to affirm one another in Solus Christus (Christ alone) and Sola Scriptura, the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures.

It is with great pleasure, then, that the Seventh-day Adventist Church welcomes all of you to this wonderful occasion with Christian camaraderie as we wish to be "conscientious cooperators” with all of you, our brothers and sisters in Christ. In particular we welcome the ministers that represent the various Christians denominations in the Burin Peninsula:

Fr. Cecil Critch (Roman Catholic), Rev. Gloria Wendover and Rev.Terry Caine (Anglican), Rev. Japhet Ndhlovu, Rev. Robert Tuck (United), Lieuts. Devin and Laurie Reid (Salvation Army); last but not least, Pr. Jamie Warren (Calvary Pentecostal). 

We pray that the biblical message brought to us by Rev. Simon Muwowo (United) will serve the purpose of our God to unite His people of faith, those who choose to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  May the Creator of the universe be exalted tonight.  May all the glory and power be to the One “who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

I am  your servant and host, Pr. Victor Reyes-Prieto.

Welcome to the Burin North Ministerial “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” Worship Service 2016.

Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of God

Homily Presented by Rev. Dr. Simon Muwowo, United Church, and Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
Note: The event to took place at the Marystown, NL, Seventh-day Adventist Church on January 18, 2016 at 7 PM.

Scriptures: Isaiah 55:1-3; 1 Peter 2:9 -10; Matthew 5:1-16

The 2016 theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian unity is “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord based on 1 Peter 2:9.

But you are a chosen people a royal priesthood. A holy nation, Gods possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

An Anglican liberation theologian called Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa, during the height of South Africa’s apartheid regime was asked:

“What keeps you going fighting for the struggle?” and “What makes you so sure that justice will prevail?"

He gave a very unusual answer with greater meaning.  He said “But I am baptized!” “Baptized into Christ, there is neither Jew, nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. This is God’s promise to us. God is faithful and God does not break promises enshrined in his word.  In other words, the baptism Tutu has in Christ, gives him the energy to stand without shame before people to testify what God has done and will do.

As a royal priesthood we have this mandate to represent our King despite our diversities. As Christian people we should recognize that deep in our hearts we have a common vision and purpose. Therefore let us put aside the things that divide us and focus on proclaiming the mighty acts of God without shame. Paul said in the letter to the Romans “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”( Romans 1:16).

The Gospel friends  is good news. Its good news Jesus said in his manifesto in Luke 4:18- “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the lords favor.” So proclamation is at the centre of our mission.

Testifying about what God has done in our lives and in the history of our faith is the most important responsibility we have in proclaiming the mighty acts of God. But we live in a very ungrateful generation that even when we receive so much from the Lord we accredit all to human wisdom and effort and we put God aside.

This year in our week of Christian Unity we say yeah! We are called to declare the mighty acts of God as a united front regardless of what the world thinks of us.  God’s word is power. 

St. Peter tells the early Church that in their search for meaning prior to encountering the Gospel they were not a people. But through hearing the call to be God’s chosen race and receiving the power of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, they have become God’s people.  In the shared Bible texts, we hear of God’s saving acts in salvation history: leading his people out of slavery in Egypt, and the great mighty act of God: the raising of Jesus from the dead, which opened new life to all of us.  As Christians seeking the unity of the body of Christ we are all called to recognize the mighty acts of God in our own lives and the life of the Church.

Jesus was clear when he said, “you are the salt and the light of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be salty again? It’s no longer good for anything.” Matthew 5:13

As Christian people we have the Bible which is God’s Book, and it has POWER to change the lives of all who read it and also has the ability to help us continue the path of proclaiming God's mighty acts in this world.  The word of God itself demonstrates such authority as to create a bland new world. It’s like:

A SWORD – it cuts into our hearts, showing us when we are wrong – Ephesians 6 : 7.

It is like a FIRE – it purifies and makes the heart to love God – Jeremiah 23 : 29.

It is like MILK – as we take it in, it makes us healthy – 1 Peter 2 : 2.

It is like a LAMP – it keeps us from taking the wrong path in life. It shows us how to live and where to go – Psalm 119:105.

It is like a MIRROR – it shows us what we are like in the sight of God, it makes us see that we are sinful people in need of a Saviour – James 1 : 22 – 25.

It is like a HAMMER – it breaks hard hearts, and makes them want to hear and obey God – Jeremiah 23 : 29.

It is like WATER – it makes us clean, it shows us how to be forgiven by God – Ephesians 5 : 26.

It is like SEEDLIVING seed. The word grows in us and produces character, strong and good and pure as Jesus is – Luke 8 : 11 and 1 Peter 1 : 23.

Friends, who we are and what we are as Christians totally depends on how we make God's Word known to the world. We will be called Christians by our unity and our love. As we enter a week of prayer for Christian Unity this week of 2016, let us remember that our faith is anchored on Jesus Christ the solid rock; all other ground is sinking sand.

Let us remember that “we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation.” Let us work as one without being ashamed to proclaim the mighty acts of God.

God bless you all.    Amen

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