Something very unusual is happening in Sri Lanka. Christian churches strive for unity. They want to imitate the unity of the one God, who is the perfect union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Different denominations generally interact in a spirit of fraternity, because most of their fundamental beliefs are the same. Mainline churches often point to the ecumenical creeds of the early centuries of Christianity, as symbols of what they confess to be truth, in common with the Catholic Church.
Tensions have arisen in recent decades, however, because the desire to preserve unity has increasingly come at the cost of Christian teaching. In the mainline denominations in Europe and North America, tolerance of differences tends to mean turning a blind eye to teachings and practices that are contrary to the Christian faith. Ironically enough, this tolerance for the sake of unity also causes great divisions.
"De Lanerolle, Jerome, and Angel have in common a “Prosperity Gospel” that promises wealth to true believers, and claim the occurrence of miracles such as the sudden appearance of money in wallets or bank accounts"
Churches in Sri Lanka are not immune to the theological trends of Europe and North America. Recent events, however, point to a renewal of unity based on real agreement of what is—or at least what is not—true teaching.
In particular, some prominent mainline church leaders have rallied together with Evangelical and charismatic leaders against the teachings of Kirby de Lanerolle, of the Wow Church and Jerome Fernando of the King’s Revival Church. The latter recently renamed himself “Prophet”, and the “Spiritual son of Uebert Angel.” De Lanerolle, Jerome, and Angel have in common a “Prosperity Gospel” that promises wealth to true believers, and they claim the occurrence of miracles such as the sudden appearance of money in wallets or bank accounts.
Last February, Rev. Asiri Perera, President (Bishop) of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, published a circular letter against Jerome Fernando in particular, condemning his “so called miracles”, as coming from “the Kingdom of darkness and Satan”, and identifying his “twisted” teachings as “false doctrines”.
Evangelical, Free line and Charismatic churches are also speaking out. At a 28-29 February weekend conference organized by Colombo Theological Seminary, a panel of speakers defended traditional Christian teachings, and emphasized that it is every church leader’s duty not only to teach the truth, but also to defend and protect people from false teachings.
The chief guest, Dr. Simon Chan, one of the foremost theologians in Asia, himself coming from a charismatic background, spoke about the need to remain grounded not only in the Bible, but also in tradition. To preserve truth, he said, churches must be aware of the biblical teaching of the universal church of all generations, and remain anchored in the writings of early Church Fathers, and in the liturgical and sacramental life of the church.
Dr. Chan also commented that in all his career he had never seen such broad ecumenical cooperation against false teachings, as is now occurring in Sri Lanka.
Time will tell: Will Sri Lankan church leaders remain bold, in forging a new path of faithfulness to timeless tradition? Or will they return subserviently to the Western trend of appropriating in the church every passing novelty of the world?