Released November 18, 2016
The Seventh-day Adventist Church entrusts the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department (PARL) with the work of interfaith relations and forming relationships with a variety of political and religious leaders. Since this department was formed in 1901, it has worked to share the values and beliefs of the Adventist Church with people of influence in society and to dispel misconceptions and misinformation about our faith community.
It is vital to note, however, that PARL does not involve itself — nor has it ever involved itself — in any activities that compromise or dilute our God-given and prophetic identity, message, and mission as His remnant church fulfilling the qualifications found in Revelation 12:17. There are many resources available that explain PARL’s approach to building relationships with public leaders, including leaders of other religious groups. These documents explain why the church has a PARL department, and the very clear theological mandate which guides its work. You can visit www.adventistliberty.org to access these resources.
Recently, there has been some concern expressed about reports that the PARL director, Dr. Ganoune Diop, met with a number of leaders of other religious denominations.
Since 2014, Dr. Diop has been the secretary of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions (CS/CWC). For almost 50 years, the Adventist Church has been represented at the annual meetings of this group. It’s important to note that the CS/CWC exists as a loosely organized group for Christian leaders to share information, concerns, and reports. Doctrinal issues are not on the agenda and it is purely a consultative group, which doesn’t pass resolutions. In this, it is very different to the World Council of Churches — an ecumenical organization to which the Adventist Church has never belonged. You can read more about the CS/CWC on the Biblical Research Institute website. A 2012 Adventist Review article by Dr. Bill Johnsson also gives a useful description of how the Adventist Church interacts with the CS/CWCS.
The CS/CWC meets once a year in different cities around the world. Dr. Diop, in his capacity as secretary of the group, attended a meeting this past October in Rome. The following week, also as CS/CWC secretary, he attended the commemoration of the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden, which was co-organized by the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics. While at these events, Dr. Diop met the other religious leaders who were also present.
As Dr. Diop explains, meetings such as these are about “introducing people to Adventist beliefs and values in our own words, rather than letting other, sometimes hostile voices, interpret who we are.”
“This is not about diluting the church’s identity or prophetic voice—absolutely not,” he adds. “In fact, it’s about being faithful to the mission Christ has given His church.”
“It is impossible for the Adventist Church to fulfill its mission without mingling with other people; being salt and light to every person, no matter who they are or what position they hold,” he says. “And so, we must be prepared to meet political leaders, Christian leaders, other religious leaders, atheists, and others, and to be able to give an account of the faith that is within us.”
Through the work of PARL the Adventist Church has many opportunities to meet and share our story with leaders from across the religious and political spectrum. Over the years, this bridge-building work has often proved invaluable in supporting the church’s global operations and mission activities — especially in challenging regions of the world. These interfaith meetings, and meetings with political leaders, are also opportunities to share the Adventist Church’s prophetic understanding, biblical light, and the three angels’ messages of hope with the world found in Revelation 14:6-12. “This is what drives and motivates me to meet these people,” says Dr. Diop. “And this responsibility to be salt and light to everyone, everywhere is what drives the work of PARL. The fear of losing our flavor — the fear of syncretistic alliance — should never stifle the vitality of the Advent message, or blunt our faithfulness to our prophetic and unique heaven- entrusted mission of sharing the promise of our Lord’s Second Coming with the world.”
Please visit www.adventistliberty.org to read more about the mission and work of PARL.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to read “Interfaith Engagement and Faithfulness to the Three Angels’ Messages,” an interview with Dr. Diop.