Saturday, February 18, 2006

Because We Keep Getting Asked About Catholics

Almost every week, I receive at least one email or telephone call asking why we mention Roman Catholics in our Persecution & Prayer Alerts and in our monthly newsletter. In many cases (but not all), the person asking is well-intentioned and polite. Many come from Roman Catholic backgrounds and now attend Protestant churches. Many express concerns that we might be straying from our founder, Richard Wurmbrand's vision for our mission. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Since the founding of our mission in the late 1960's, the question of which denominations we support and which we do not, is one that we have been repeatedly asked. As mentioned before, these inquiries are often well-intentioned. Some are concerned when they notice that we typically do not emphasize the denominational background of those we work with. Some believe that VOMC should not provide aid or raise a voice on behalf of Christians of certain denominations, while others suspect that we discriminate against other denominations.

In 1999, The Voice of the Martyrs adopted a set of core values that both reflects many of the principles and practices that the mission had been following throughout the thirty years of our existence and, it was hoped, would provide guidance as we moved ahead into the future. It remains our constant desire to do God's work God's way and so we felt it was important for us to specify exactly what distinguishing values would guide our ministry to the Persecuted Church. The first two values that we codified are:

1. We believe and hold to an EVANGELICAL theology, based on the inspired Word of God, committed to unity in the essential beliefs of the historical Christian faith and freedom to differ in nonessentials.

2. We believe in being NON-DENOMINATIONAL in practice and scope of ministry. We will, therefore, work with and assist persecuted Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation.

From the founding of the mission in 1969, The Voice of the Martyrs has been committed to the values reflected in the statements above. As a mission, we are not financially supported or governed by any particular denomination. The same is true when it comes to whom we will work with when we minister to the Persecuted Church. As our Core Values state, "We will, therefore, work with and assist persecuted Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation."

The key word, of course, is Christians. Therefore, groups such as the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses' and other pseudo-Christian heresies are not the focus of our ministry. We are not a human rights organization that actively works on behalf of all religious groups (although we uphold the principle that religious liberty is a God-given right that must be extended to all, even - perhaps, even especially - to those whom we disagree with).

Our focus of ministry is on those who are mistreated because their persecutors consider them Christians and, therefore, they suffer imprisonment, torture, discrimination and even death. Militant Muslims, Hindus and Communists do not make the denominational distinctions that we are so prone to make. They care very little whether the church they burn down is Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran or Pentecostal. They do not ask for the believers to pull out their catechisms before they slap chains on their wrists, thereby guaranteeing that they imprison only "real" Christians. We may not agree, as evangelical Protestants, with all of the doctrinal beliefs of some of these denominations. Having said that, however, we do not believe that it is in our mandate to go beyond the boundaries of historically accepted creeds such as the Nicene Creed in defining (in the broadest sense) what Christian belief is. Were we a church or a church planting mission, this would be an entirely different matter.

We realize that the approach that we have adopted as a mission leaves us open to criticism and accusations of compromising the faith. We readily admit that it is a difficult position to maintain at times. But every day we are reminded of one unavoidable truth: the persecutors care very little for denominational distinctiveness when they go about their evil deeds. Should we, therefore, be more selective than they, in our acts of mercy and compassion?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good thoughts! As distasteful as some Roman Catholic theology may be to us, they remain our brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope that ministries like VOM are able to build bridges between evangelicals and Catholics.

-Matthew Loftus