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Seventh-day Adventist Church
Adventist Symbol.svg
The Seventh-day Adventist logo
ClassificationProtestant
OrientationAdventist
TheologyArminianism, Seventh-day Adventist theology
PolityPresbyterian/Episcopal
PresidentTed N. C. Wilson
RegionWorldwide
Founder
OriginMay 21, 1863; 159 years ago (1863-05-21)
Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S.
Branched fromMillerites
Separations
Congregations
  • 95,297 churches[1]
  • 72,975 companies[1]
Members21,760,076[1]
Pastors20,924[1]
Hospitals229[1]
Nursing homes129[1]
Aid organizationAdventist Development and Relief Agency
Primary schools6,623[1]
Secondary schools2,640[1]
Tertiary institutions118[1]
Other name(s)Adventist church, SDA (informal)
Official websiteadventist.org

The Seventh-day Adventist Church[a] is an Adventist Protestant Christian denomination[2][3] which is distinguished by its observance of Saturday,[4] the seventh day of the week in the Christian (Gregorian) and the Hebrew calendar, as the Sabbath,[3] and its emphasis on the imminent Second Coming (advent) of Jesus Christ. The denomination grew out of the Millerite movement in the United States during the mid-19th century and it was formally established in 1863.[5] Among its co-founders was Ellen G. White, whose extensive writings are still held in high regard by the church.[6] Much of the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church corresponds to common evangelical Christian teachings, such as the Trinity and the infallibility of Scripture. Distinctive post-tribulation teachings include the unconscious state of the dead and the doctrine of an investigative judgment. The church places an emphasis on diet and health, including adhering to Kosher food laws, advocating vegetarianism, and its holistic view of human nature—i.e. that the body, soul, and spirit form one inseparable entity.[7] The Church holds the belief that "God created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day". Marriage is defined as a lifelong union between a man and a woman. The second coming of Christ, and resurrection of the dead, are among official beliefs.[8]

The world church is governed by a General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, with smaller regions administered by divisions, unions, local conferences and local missions. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is currently "one of the fastest-growing and most widespread churches worldwide",[3] with a worldwide baptized membership of over 21 million people, and 25 million adherents. As of May 2007, it was the twelfth-largest religious body in the world, and the sixth-largest highly international religious body. It is ethnically and culturally diverse, and maintains a missionary presence in over 215 countries and territories.[9][10] The church operates over 7,500 schools including over 100 post-secondary institutions, numerous hospitals, and publishing houses worldwide, a humanitarian aid organization known as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and tax-exempt businesses such as Sanitarium[11] which fund the church's charitable and religious activities.

History

Main article: History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the largest of several Adventist groups which arose from the Millerite movement of the 1840s in upstate New York,[12] a phase of the Second Great Awakening.[13] William Miller predicted on the basis of Daniel 8:14–16[14] and the "day-year principle" that Jesus Christ would return to Earth between the spring of 1843 and the spring of 1844. In the summer of 1844, Millerites came to believe that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844, understood to be the biblical Day of Atonement for that year. Miller's failed prediction became known as the "Great Disappointment".[12][13]

Hiram Edson and other Millerites came to believe that Miller's calculations were correct, but that his interpretation of Daniel 8:14 was flawed as he assumed Christ would come to cleanse the world. These Adventists came to the conviction that Daniel 8:14 foretold Christ's entrance into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary rather than his Second Coming.[13] Over the next few decades this understanding of a sanctuary in heaven developed into the doctrine of the investigative judgment, an eschatological process that commenced in 1844, in which every person would be judged to verify their eligibility for salvation and God's justice will be confirmed before the universe. This group of Adventists continued to believe that Christ's second coming would continue to be imminent, however they resisted setting further dates for the event, citing Revelation 10:6,[15] "that there should be time no longer."[16]

Development of Sabbatarianism

As the early Adventist movement consolidated its beliefs, the question of the biblical day of rest and worship was raised. The foremost proponent of Sabbath-keeping among early Adventists was Joseph Bates. Bates was introduced to the Sabbath doctrine through a tract written by Millerite preacher Thomas M. Preble, who in turn had been influenced by Rachel Oakes Preston, a young Seventh Day Baptist. This message was gradually accepted and formed the topic of the first edition of the church publication The Present Truth, which appeared in July 1849.[17]

Organization and recognition

For about 20 years, the Adventist movement consisted of a small, loosely knit group of people who came from many churches and whose primary means of connection and interaction was through James White's periodical The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. They embraced the doctrines of the Sabbath, the heavenly sanctuary interpretation of Daniel 8:14, conditional immortality, and the expectation of Christ's premillennial return. Among its most prominent figures were Joseph Bates, James White, and Ellen G. White. Ellen White came to occupy a particularly central role; her many visions and spiritual leadership convinced her fellow Adventists that she possessed the gift of prophecy.[citation needed]

The church was formally established in Battle Creek, Michigan, on May 21, 1863, with a membership of 3,500.[5] The denominational headquarters were later moved from Battle Creek to Takoma Park, Maryland, where they remained until 1989. The General Conference headquarters then moved to its current location in Silver Spring, Maryland.[18]

The denomination in the 1870s turned to evangelism through missionary work and revivals, tripling its membership to 16,000 by 1880 and establishing a presence beyond North America during the late 19th century. Rapid growth continued, with 75,000 members in 1901. By this time the denomination operated two colleges, a medical school, a dozen academies, 27 hospitals, and 13 publishing houses. By 1945, the church reported 210,000 members in the US and Canada, and 360,000 elsewhere; the budget was $29 million and enrollment in church schools was 140,000.[19]

The church's beliefs and doctrines were first published in 1872 in Battle Creek, Michigan as a brief statement called "A Synopsis of our Faith".[20] The church experienced challenges as it formed its core beliefs and doctrines especially as a number of the early Adventist leaders came from churches that held to some form of Arianism (Ellen G. White was not one of them).[21] This, along with some of the movement's other theological views, led to a consensus among conservative evangelical Protestants to regard it as a cult.[22][23][24][25] According to Adventist scholars, the teachings and writings of White, ultimately proved influential in shifting the church from largely semi-Arian[26] roots towards Trinitarianism.[27] Adventists, for the most part, credit her with bringing the Seventh-day Adventist church into a more comprehensive awareness of the Godhead during the 1890s. The Adventist Church adopted Trinitarian theology early in the 20th century and began to dialogue with other Protestant groups toward the middle of the century, eventually gaining wide recognition as a Protestant church. Christianity Today recognized the Seventh-day Adventist church as " the fifth-largest Christian communion worldwide" in its January 22, 2015 issue.[28]

Although her husband claimed that her visions did not support the Trinitarian creed,[29] her writings reveal a growing awareness on the "mystery of the GodHead".[30] Adventists, for the most part, credit her with bringing the Seventh-day Adventist church into a more comprehensive awareness of the Godhead during the 1890s. Through continued Bible study, and decades-long debate, the denomination eventually concluded that Scripture does explicitly teach the existence of a triune God, and it affirmed that biblical view in the non-credal 28 Fundamental Beliefs.[31]

However, mainstream scholarship remains unconvinced that Ellen White was Nicene Trinitarian.[29][32] In her own opinion, Jesus did not begin as equal to God the Father but was at a certain moment promoted to equality with the Father, which triggered Lucifer's rebellion (as explained in her book Spirit of Prophecy).[33]

Beliefs

Main article: Seventh-day Adventist theology

A pastor baptizes a young man in Mozambique.
A pastor baptizes a young man in Mozambique.

The official teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination are expressed in its 28 Fundamental Beliefs.[12] This statement of beliefs was originally adopted by the General Conference in 1980, with an additional belief (number 11) being added in 2005.[34] Almost all of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs are the same as other evangelical Protestant denominations. The Adventist beliefs that evangelicals consider heterodoxy is worshiping God on Saturday, the gift of prophecy by Ellen G. White and the sanctuary doctrine.[13]

The church believes God created Earth in six days and rested on the seventh day Saturday.[35][36] The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes in baptizing new members by immersion.[13] It believes the Bible to be the most important book.[13] They believe when humans die, that they remain asleep until they are brought back to life. Eternal life is given to people who accept Jesus as their Savior. The church believes that you receive salvation through only Jesus.[36] It believes that the investigative judgment will take place in heaven before Jesus returns to earth.[36] The church believes in the Apocalypse of John will bring on the Second Coming of Jesus[37] and that the righteous Christians will be taken to heaven.

It believes that the United States government, apostate protestants and the Roman Catholic Church will unite to persecute and imprison those who keep Saturday as the Sabbath.[38] The church believes in prophecy and it believes that the writings of Ellen G. White to be proven accurate.[36]

Culture and practices

Sabbath activities

See also: Sabbath in Seventh-day Adventism

Part of Friday might be spent in preparation for the Sabbath; for example, preparing meals and tidying homes. Adventists may gather for Friday evening worship to welcome in the Sabbath, a practice often known as vespers.[39]

Worship service

The major weekly worship service occurs on Saturday, typically commencing with Sabbath School which is a structured time of small-group bible study at church. Adventists make use of an officially produced "Sabbath School Lesson", which deals with a particular biblical text or doctrine every quarter.[40]

After a brief break, the community joins together again for a church service that follows a typical evangelical format, with a sermon as a central feature. Corporate singing, Scripture readings, prayers and an offering, including tithing (or money collection), are other standard features. The instruments and forms of worship music vary greatly throughout the worldwide church.[41]

Holy Communion

Adventist churches usually practice open communion four times a year. It commences with a foot washing ceremony, known as the "Ordinance of Humility", based on the Gospel account of John 13.[42] The Ordinance of Humility is meant to emulate Christ's washing of his disciples' feet at the Last Supper and to remind participants of the need to humbly serve one another. Participants segregate by gender to separate rooms to conduct this ritual, although some congregations allow married couples to perform the ordinance on each other and families are often encouraged to participate together. After its completion, participants return to the main sanctuary for consumption of the Lord's Supper, which consists of unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice.[43]

Health and diet

Corn flakes package from 1906
Corn flakes package from 1906
Sanitarium products for sale
Sanitarium products for sale
The main dining room of the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded in Michigan by Adventists and run by John Harvey Kellogg. The sanitarium only served vegetarian meals.
The main dining room of the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded in Michigan by Adventists and run by John Harvey Kellogg. The sanitarium only served vegetarian meals.

Since the 1860s when the church began, wholeness and health have been an emphasis of the Adventist church.[44] Adventists are known for presenting a health message that advocates vegetarianism and expects adherence to the kosher laws,[45] particularly the consumption of kosher foods described in Leviticus 11,[46][47] meaning abstinence from pork, rabbit, shellfish, and other animals proscribed as "unclean".[48][47] The church discourages its members from consuming alcoholic beverages, tobacco or illegal drugs since the 1800s (compare Christianity and alcohol).[48][49] In addition, some Adventists avoid refined foods, sweeteners, and caffeine.[48]

The pioneers of the Adventist Church had much to do with the common acceptance of breakfast cereals and meat alternatives into the Western diet. John Harvey Kellogg started the meat alternative movement by creating Protose at Battle Creek Sanitarium, which was later sold through mail order by Battle Creek Food Company. The Battle Creek Food Company mostly manufactured meat alternatives for the guests at Battle Creek Sanitarium.[50][51] Will Keith Kellogg and John Harvey Kellogg invented corn flakes at Battle Creek Sanitarium, by putting stale wheat berry between rollers and baking it.[52] It was later served to the sanitarium guests. The Kellogg brothers also invented Bran flakes and Rice Krispies.[52] Later in 1906, Will Keith Kellogg founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in Battle Creek, Michigan.[50] Special Foods founded in Worthington, Ohio in 1939, manufactured nut meat substitutes. After World War II, it changed its name to Worthington Foods. Worthington Foods introduced two canned meat alternatives in 1949: Soyloin Steaks and Meatless Wieners.[51] In 1960, it bought the rights to manufacture and market Battle Creek Foods Company products after John Harvey Kellogg died. In 1975, it released its frozen soy-based meatless foods nationwide.[50] In both Australia and New Zealand, Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company owned by the church manufactures such brands as So Good, Up & Go and Weet-Bix.[53]

The Adventist Health Studies indicate that the average Adventist in California lives 4 to 10 years longer than the average Californian. The research concludes that Adventists live longer because they do not smoke or drink alcohol, have a day of rest every week, and maintain a healthy, low-fat vegetarian diet that is rich in nuts and beans.[54][55] The cohesiveness of Adventists' social networks has also been put forward as an explanation for their extended lifespan.[56] Dan Buettner named Loma Linda, California a "Blue Zone" of longevity, and attributes that to the large concentration of Seventh-day Adventists and their health practices.[57][58][59] The 96,000 adults who participated in the Adventist Health Studies-2 from 2001-2007 were 30 to 112 years old, and lived in Canada and the United States. The study revealed 8% were vegans, 28% were ovo/lacto-vegetarians, 10% were pesco-vegetarians, 6% semi-vegetarian and 48% non-vegetarian. 98.9% of the participants were non-smokers and 93.4% abstained from drinking alcohol.[59][60] Those who were vegetarian had a much lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Adventists who were vegetarian had a lower risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, Coronary heart disease, Lung cancer and prostate cancer, compared to non-vegetarians.[61] Those who were vegan had a lower body mass index, compared vegetarians and meat eaters.[48][59]

Adventists' clean lifestyles were recognized by the U.S. military in 1954 when 2,200 Adventists volunteered to serve as human test subjects in Operation Whitecoat, a biodefense medical research program whose stated purpose was to defend troops and civilians against biological weapons.[62][63]

Marriage

The Adventist definition of marriage is a lawfully binding lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. The Church Manual professes the belief that marriage originated as an institution from the biblical story of Adam and Eve and that their union should be used as the pattern for all other marriages.[64]

Adventists hold that marriage is a divine institution established by God during the events of the Book of Genesis prior to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. They believe that God celebrated the union of Adam and Eve and that the concept of marriage was one of the first gifts of God to man, and that it is "one of the two institutions that, after the fall, Adam brought with him beyond the gates of Paradise."[65]

The Old and New Testament texts are interpreted by some Adventists to teach that wives should submit to their husbands in marriage.[66]

Adventists hold that heterosexual marriages are the only biblically ordained grounds for sexual intimacy. Adventists do not perform same-sex marriages, and individuals who are openly homosexual cannot be ordained, but may hold church office and membership if they are not actively pursuing same-sex relationships. Current church policy states that openly homosexual (and "practicing") persons are to be welcomed into the church services and treated with the love and kindness afforded any human being.[67][68]

Ethics and sexuality

The Seventh-day Adventist Church opposes abortion, believing it can have long-term negative effects on both the individuals involved and society as a whole. In an official statement on the "Biblical View of Unborn Life", the church declared that an unborn child is considered by God to be a living individual.[69] However, there are circumstances where the mother's life is at risk Seventh-day Adventist hospitals will perform emergency abortions.[70]

Adventists encourage sexual abstinence for both men and women before marriage. The church disapproves of extra-marital cohabitation.[71] Adventists oppose homosexual activities and relationships, citing the belief that scripture makes no accommodation for homosexuality.[72]

The Adventist church has released official statements in relation to other ethical issues such as euthanasia (against active euthanasia but permissive of passive withdrawal of medical support to allow death to occur),[73] birth control (in favor of it for married couples if used correctly, but against abortion as birth control and premarital sex in any case)[74] and human cloning (against it if the technology could result in defective births or abortions).[75]

Dress and entertainment

Further information: Plain dress

Adventists have traditionally held socially conservative attitudes regarding dress and entertainment. These attitudes are reflected in one of the church's fundamental beliefs:

For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.[76]

Accordingly, Adventists are opposed to practices such as body piercing and tattoos and refrain from the wearing of jewelry, including such items as earrings and bracelets. Some also oppose the displaying of wedding bands, although banning wedding bands is not the position of the General Conference.[77] In 1986, the North American Division legalized wedding rings.[78] Before that it was a source of friction, since Adventists overseas wear wedding rings.[79]

Conservative Adventists avoid certain recreational activities which are considered to be a negative spiritual influence, including dancing, rock music and secular theatre.[80][81] However, major studies conducted from 1989 onwards found that a majority of North American church youth reject some of these standards.[82]

On June 29,2000, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists adopted a resolution on gambling. The church encourages its members not to gamble and it will not accept funding from it.[83]

Youth Ministry

Missionary work with children and youth begins with the Adventurer club. The Adventurer curriculum is for children aged between 4-9 and it is divided into 6 classes which are little lamb, early bird, sunbeam, builder and helping hand. Each class builds on the previous class. The curriculum is structured in way that will interest, challenge, and provide successful experiences for children. The curriculum is divided into 5 sections which are, Basic, My God, Myself, My Friends and My World which help children to meet the objectives of the curriculum. The objectives of the Adventurer Curriculum are: to develop a Christ-like character; to experience the joy and satisfaction of doing things well; to express their love for Jesus in a natural way; to learn good sportsmanship and strengthen their ability to get along with others; to discover their God-given abilities and to learn how to use them to benefit self and serve others; to discover God’s world; to improve their understanding of what makes families strong; to develop parental support for the training of children. The club engages in witnessing, community work so as to share the love of Jesus.[84]

Pathfinders is a club for 5th to 10th grade (up to 12th in Florida Conference) boys and girls. It is similar to and based partly on the Scouting movement. Pathfinders exposes young people to such activities as camping, community service, personal mentorship, and skills-based education, and trains them for leadership in the church. Yearly "Camporees" are held in individual Conferences, where Pathfinders from the region gather and participate in events similar to Boy Scouts' Jamborees.

After a person enters 9th grade, they are eligible to join Teen Leadership Training within Pathfinders. In the 11th grade, typically after being a member of a club, they can become a Pathfinder or Adventurer staff member and begin the "Master Guide" program (similar to Scout Master) which develops leaders for both Adventurers and Pathfinders.[85]

Organization

Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California
Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California
South St. Paul Hispanic Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota
South St. Paul Hispanic Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota
Capitol Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, D.C.
Capitol Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, D.C.
Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City
Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City

Structure and polity

The Seventh-day Adventist church is governed by a form of representation which resembles the presbyterian system of church organization. Four levels of organization exist within the world church.[86][87]

  1. The local church is the foundation level of organizational structure and is the public face of the denomination. Every baptized Adventist is a member of a local church and has voting powers within that church.
  2. Directly above the local church is the "local conference". The local conference is an organization of churches within a state, province or territory (or part thereof) which appoints ministers, owns church land and organizes the distribution of tithes and payments to ministers.
  3. Above the local conference is the "union conference" which embodies a number of local conferences within a larger territory.
  4. The highest level of governance within the church structure is the General Conference which consists of 13 "Divisions", each assigned to various geographic locations. The General Conference is the church authority and has the final say in matters of conjecture and administrative issues. The General Conference is headed by the office of President. The General Conference head office is in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Each organization is governed by a general "session" which occurs at certain intervals. This is usually when administrative decisions are made. The president of the General Conference, for instance, is elected at the General Conference Session every five years. Delegates to a session are appointed by organizations at a lower level. For example, each local church appoints delegates to a conference session.

Tithes collected from church members are not used directly by the local churches, but are passed upwards to the local conferences which then distribute the finances toward various ministry needs. Employees are compensated "on the basis of the church remuneration policy and practice in effect in the location or country in which they reside."[88]

The Church Manual[86] gives provisions for each level of government to create educational, healthcare, publishing, and other institutions that are seen within the call of the Great Commission.

Church officers and clergy

The ordained clergy of the Adventist church are known as ministers or pastors. Ministers are neither elected nor employed by the local churches, but instead are appointed by the local Conferences, which assign them responsibility over a single church or group of churches. Ordination is a formal recognition bestowed upon pastors and elders after usually a number of years of service. In most parts of the world, women may not be given the title "ordained", although some are employed in ministry, and may be "commissioned" or "ordained-commissioned".[89] However, beginning in 2012, some unions adopted policies of allowing member conferences to ordain without regard to gender.

A number of lay offices exist within the local church, including the ordained positions of elder and deacon.[86] Elders and deacons are appointed by the vote of a local church business meeting or elected committees. Elders serve a mainly administrative and pastoral role, but must also be capable of providing religious leadership (particularly in the absence of an ordained minister). The role of deacons is to assist in the smooth functioning of a local church and to maintain church property.

Ordination of women

In 1990, at their General Conference Session leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church prevented the ordination of women. They voted 1,173 against and 377 infavor. Those who supported ordaining women were from Europe and North America, while those from Africa, Asia and South America were strongly against.[90] Five years later, it turned down a request by the North American Division that its local conferences be allowed to ordain women.[91]

On July 29, 2012, the Columbia Union Conference, which has its headquarters in Maryland voted 80 percent infavor of ordaining women. On August 19, 2012, the Pacific Union Conference, which has its headquarters in California voted 79 percent to 21 percent infavor of ordaining women. The world leaders of the church were disappointed with the actions of the two conferences and considered their actions not in harmony with the world church. In 2012, there were 320 women pastors in the church, while in North America there are 120 women pastors and 4,100 male pastors.[91] In 2013, the Southern California Conference voted for the first time a woman as president.[92]

In July 8, 2015, leaders who represented the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted at their General Conference Session in San Antonio, against the ordination of women becoming pastors. They voted 1,381 against and 977 infavor. Western Adventists who are against the ban say it is keeping them from functioning in this culture, while those who support the ban get their reason for opposing from the bible. Adventists in North America, Europe and a few other areas have been ordaining women as pastors. Women are banned from leading local conferences, they also can not create or close churches.[93] Ted N. C. Wilson who was re-elected for a second five-year term as president voted no, while former president Jan Paulsen voted yes.[92]

On September 12, 2021, the Mid-America Union Conference was the third to ordain women in the North American Division. They voted 82 percent infavor and 12 percent against.[94]

Membership

Seventh-day Adventist Church membership from 1863-2021
Seventh-day Adventist Church membership from 1863-2021
Membership
Change in Adventist membership as a fraction of world population.
Adventists per million inhabitants by country.
  0-9
  10-99
  100-499
  500-999
  1000-4999
  5000-9999
  10,000-49,999
  50,000-99,999
  ≥100,000

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the world's fastest-growing organizations, primarily from membership increases in developing nations. Today much of the church membership reside outside of the United States, with large numbers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.[37] Every 30.33 seconds a new member is baptized into one of the 13 divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[61]

In 2006, over 25 million people worshiped weekly in Seventh-day Adventist churches around the world.[95] In 2011, it was reported that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the fastest-growing church in the United States. Released data showed the membership growing by 2.5% in North America, a rapid clip for this part of the world, where many christian denominations are declining.[96] On the churches 150th anniversary in April 2013, there were over 17,000,000 members.[97] In 2013, it was reported that the church lost one in three members over a fifty year period. Every one hundred people the church gains, it loses forty-three members. The reason why people leave the church is because of martial issues and unemployment.[98] In 2015, the church was the most racially diverse denomination in the United States. The ratio was 37 percent caucasion, 32 percent African-american, 15 percent hispanic, 8 percent asian and 8 percent another or mixed.[99] In 2017, the church had members in almost every country and territory in the world, except for Brunei, Comoros, Djibouti, Falkland Islands, Iran, Jersey, Maldives, Monaco, Somalia and Tokelau.[100] In 2019 the Seventh-day Adventist Church had 21,000,000 baptized members around the world.[12]

In 2020, church officials reported the lowest membership increase in 16 years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Seventh-day Adventist Church added only 803,000 members, the last time membership dropped below 1 million was in 2004.[101][102] In 2021, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had 1.2 million members worshiping in Canada and the United States.[103]

Adventist mission

Started in the late 19th century, Adventist mission work today reaches people in over 200 countries and territories.[9] Adventist mission workers seek to preach the gospel, promote health through hospitals and clinics, run development projects to improve living standards, and provide relief in times of calamity.[104]

Missionary outreach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aimed not only at non-Christians but also at Christians from other denominations. Adventists believe that Christ has called his followers in the Great Commission to reach the whole world. Adventists are cautious, however, to ensure that evangelism does not impede or intrude on the basic rights of the individual. Religious liberty is a stance that the Adventist Church supports and promotes.[105]

Education

Main article: Seventh-day Adventist education

Moran Hall at Oakwood University
Moran Hall at Oakwood University
Student Center Building at Spicer Adventist University
Student Center Building at Spicer Adventist University

See also: List of Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities and List of Seventh-day Adventist secondary schools

Globally, the Adventist Church operates 7,598 schools, colleges and universities, with a total enrollment of more than 1,545,000 and a total teaching staff of approximately 80,000.[106]It operates the second largest school system in the world, only larger is the Roman Catholic Church school system.[61]

Health

Loma Linda University Medical Center
Tokyo Adventist Hospital
Tokyo Adventist Hospital

Main articles: AdventHealth, Adventist Health, Adventist Health International, Adventist HealthCare, and Kettering Health

See also: List of Seventh-day Adventist hospitals

Their largest medical school and hospital in North America is Loma Linda University and Loma Linda University Medical Center. Throughout the world the Seventh-day Adventist Church, runs a wide network of hospitals, clinics, lifestyle centers, and sanitariums. These play a role in the church's health message and worldwide missions outreach.[107]

Their largest medical school and hospital in North America is Loma Linda University and Loma Linda University Medical Center. AdventHealth is the largest not-for-profit Protestant health care provider in the United States.[108] It is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and cares for over 5 million patients yearly.[109][110]

Humanitarian aid and the environment

For over 50 years, the church has been active in humanitarian aid through the work of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA works as a non-sectarian relief agency in 125 countries and areas of the world. ADRA has been granted General Consultative Status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Worldwide, ADRA employs over 4,000 people to help provide relief in crises as well as development in situations of poverty.

The church embraces an official commitment to the protection and care of the environment[111] as well as taking action to avoid the dangers of climate change:[112] "Seventh-day Adventism advocates a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled over-consumption, accumulation of goods, and production of waste. A reformation of lifestyle is called for, based on respect for nature, restraint in the use of the world's resources, reevaluation of one's needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life."[113]

Media

Main article: Media ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Hope Channel logo

Adventists have long been proponents of media-based ministries. Traditional Adventist evangelistic efforts consisted of street missions and the distribution of tracts such as The Present Truth, which was published by James White as early as 1849. Until J. N. Andrews was sent to Switzerland in 1874, Adventist global efforts consisted entirely of the posting of tracts such as White's to various locations.

In the last century, these efforts have also made use of emerging media such as radio and television. The first of these was H. M. S. Richards' radio show Voice of Prophecy,[114] which was initially broadcast in Los Angeles in 1929. Since then, Adventists have been on the forefront of media evangelism; It Is Written,[115] founded by George Vandeman, was the first religious program to air on color television in March 1965 and the first major Christian ministry to utilize satellite uplink technology. Amazing Facts[116] was founded in 1965 by Joe Crews in Baltimore as a radio ministry. Amazing Facts broadcasts "Bible Answers Live" each Sunday where listeners phone or email Bible questions which are answered live.[117] Today the Hope Channel, the official television network of the church which launched in October 2003, operates 8+ international channels broadcasting 24 hours a day on cable, satellite, and the Web.[118]

Adventist World Radio[119] was founded in 1971[120] and is the "radio mission arm" of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It utilizes AM, FM, shortwave, satellite, podcasting, and the Internet, broadcasting in 77 major language groups of the world with a potential coverage of 80% of the world's population. AWR's headquarters is in Silver Spring, Maryland, with studios throughout the world. A large portion of the ministry's income is derived from membership gifts.[121]

SDA evangelists such as Doug Batchelor, Mark Finley and Dwight Nelson have undertaken a number of international satellite-broadcast live evangelistic events, addressing audiences in up to 40 languages simultaneously.[122]

In 2016, the Church released the film Tell the World.[123]

Publishing

Review and Herald Publishing Association in 1868
Review and Herald Publishing Association in 1868

The Adventist Church owns and operates many publishing companies around the world. Two of the largest are the Pacific Press and Review and Herald publishing associations, both located in the United States. The Review and Herald is headquartered in Hagerstown, Maryland.[124]

Ecumenical activity

Main article: Seventh-day Adventist interfaith relations

The Adventist Church generally opposes the ecumenical movement, although it supports some of the other goals of ecumenism. The General Conference has released an official statement concerning the Adventist position with respect to the ecumenical movement, which contains the following paragraph:

Should Adventists cooperate ecumenically? Adventists should cooperate insofar as the authentic gospel is proclaimed and crying human needs are being met. The Seventh-day Adventist Church wants no entangling memberships and refuses any compromising relationships that might tend to water down her distinct witness. However, Adventists wish to be "conscientious cooperators." The ecumenical movement as an agency of cooperation has acceptable aspects; as an agency for the organic unity of churches, it is much more suspect.[125]

While not being a member of the World Council of Churches, the Adventist Church has participated in its assemblies in an observer capacity.[126]

Criticism

Main article: Criticism of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

The Adventist Church has received criticism along several lines, including what some claim are heterodox doctrines, and in relation to Ellen G. White and her status within the church, and in relation to alleged exclusivist issues.[127]

Doctrines

Critics such as evangelical Anthony Hoekema (who felt that Adventists were more in agreement with Arminianism) argue that some Adventist doctrines are heterodox. Several teachings which have come under scrutiny are the annihilationist view of hell, the investigative judgment (and a related view of the atonement), and the Sabbath; in addition, Hoekema also claims that Adventist doctrine suffers from legalism.[128]

While critics such as Hoekema have classified Adventism as a sectarian group on the basis of its atypical doctrines,[22][23] it has been accepted as more mainstream by Protestant evangelicals since its meetings and discussions with evangelicals in the 1950s.[129] Notably, Billy Graham invited Adventists to be part of his crusades after Eternity, a conservative Christian magazine edited by Donald Barnhouse, asserted in 1956 that Adventists are Christians, and also later stated, "They are sound on the great New Testament doctrines including grace and redemption through the vicarious offering of Jesus Christ 'once for all'".[130] Walter Martin, who is considered by many to be the father of the counter-cult apologetics movement within evangelicalism, authored The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists (1960) which marked a turning point in the way Adventism was viewed:[131][132] "it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite heterodox concept".[133]

Later on, Martin planned to write a new book on Seventh-day Adventism, with the assistance of Kenneth R. Samples.[134] Samples subsequently authored "From Controversy to Crisis: An Updated Assessment of Seventh-day Adventism", which upholds Martin's view "for that segment of Adventism which holds to the position stated in QOD, and further expressed in the Evangelical Adventist movement of the last few decades." However, Samples also claimed that "Traditional Adventism" appeared "to be moving further away from a number of positions taken in QOD", and at least at Glacier View seemed to have "gained the support of many administrators and leaders".[135]

Ellen G. White and her status

Ellen G. White in 1899
Ellen G. White in 1899

Main article: Inspiration of Ellen White

Ellen G. White's status as a modern-day prophet has also been criticized. In the Questions on Doctrine era, evangelicals expressed concern about Adventism's understanding of the relationship of White's writings to the inspired canon of Scripture.[22] The Adventist fundamental beliefs maintain that "the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested."[136]

A common criticism of Ellen White, widely popularized by Walter T. Rea, Ronald Numbers and others, is the claim of plagiarism from other authors.[137][138][139] An independent lawyer specializing in plagiarism, Vincent L. Ramik, was engaged to undertake a study of Ellen G. White's writings during the early 1980s, and concluded that they were "conclusively unplagiaristic".[140] When the plagiarism charge ignited a significant debate during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Adventist General Conference commissioned a major study by Dr. Fred Veltman. The ensuing project became known as the "Life of Christ' Research Project".[141] Veltman examined fifteen, randomly selected chapters of The Desire of Ages for evidence of literary dependence and concluded, "On an average we may say that 31.4 percent of the DA text is dependent to some extent on literary sources."[142] The results are available at the General Conference Archives.[143] Dr. Roger W. Coon,[144] David J. Conklin,[145] Dr. Denis Fortin,[146][147] King and Morgan,[148] and Morgan,[149] among others, undertook the refutation of the accusations of plagiarism. At the conclusion of his report, Ramik states:

It is impossible to imagine that the intention of Ellen G. White, as reflected in her writings and the unquestionably prodigious efforts involved therein, was anything other than a sincerely motivated and unselfish effort to place the understandings of Biblical truths in a coherent form for all to see and comprehend. Most certainly, the nature and content of her writings had but one hope and intent, namely, the furthering of mankind's understanding of the word of God. Considering all factors necessary in reaching a just conclusion on this issue, it is submitted that the writings of Ellen G. White were conclusively unplagiaristic.[150]

Exclusivism

Critics have alleged that certain Adventist beliefs and practices are exclusivist in nature and they point to the Adventist claim to be the "remnant church", and the traditional Protestant association of Roman Catholicism with "Babylon".[151][152][153] These attitudes are said to legitimize the proselytising of Christians from other denominations. In response to such criticisms, Adventist theologians have stated that the doctrine of the remnant does not preclude the existence of genuine Christians in other denominations, but is concerned with institutions.[154]

Offshoots and schisms

Throughout the history of the denomination, there have been a number of groups that have left the church and formed their own movements.

Following World War I, a group known as the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement was formed as a result of the actions of L. R. Conradi and certain European church leaders during the war, who decided that it was acceptable for Adventists to take part in war. Those who were opposed to this stand and refused to participate in the war were declared "disfellowshipped" by their local Church leaders at the time. When the Church leaders from the General Conference came and admonished the local European leaders after the war to try to heal the damage, and bring the members together, it met with resistance from those who had suffered under those leaders. Their attempts at reconciliation failed after the war and the group became organized as a separate church at a conference that was held on July 14–20, 1925. The movement officially incorporated in 1949.[155]

In 2005, in another attempt to examine and resolve what its German leaders had done, the mainstream church apologized for its failures during World War II, stating that they "'deeply regret' any participation in or support of Nazi activities during the war by the German and Austrian leadership of the church."[156]

In the Soviet Union the same issues produced the group known as the True and Free Seventh-day Adventists. This also formed as the result of a schism within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe during World War I over the position its European church leaders took on having its members join the military or keep the Sabbath. The group remains active today (2010) in the former republics of the Soviet Union.[157]

Well-known but distant offshoots are the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist organization and the Branch Davidians, themselves a schism within the larger Davidian movement.[158] The Davidians formed in 1929, following Victor Houteff, after he came out with his book The Shepherd's Rod, which was rejected as heretical. A succession dispute after Houteff's death in 1955 led to the formation of two groups, the original Davidians and the Branches. Later, another ex-Adventist, David Koresh, led the Branch Davidians, until he died in the 1993 siege, at the group's headquarters near Waco, Texas.[37]

A number of Adventists who apostatized, such as former minister Walter Rea, have become critics of the church's teachings and Ellen G. White.

Cultural influence

Main article: Seventh-day Adventism in popular culture

Postage stamp of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ryazan
Postage stamp of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ryazan

Hacksaw Ridge depicts the life of Adventist conscientious objector and Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss.[159][160] The Road to Wellville is based on a novel about Seventh-day Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg, director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.[161][162] A Cry in the Dark, a film about the death of Azaria Chamberlain, features the prejudice her parents faced due to misconceptions about their religion.[163][164] Many other forms of media include mentions of Seventh-day Adventism.

Many country postal services around the world have created postage stamps honoring the Seventh-day Adventist Church, an individual or a member. In 2020, Iraqi Post released a set of eight commemorative stamps to honor the Christian churches in the country, the set included a photograph of the Bagdad Seventh-day Adventist Church.[165]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Officially abbreviated as "Adventist", commonly abbreviated as "SDA".[166]

References

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Further reading

  • Baker, Benjamin. 2005. Crucial Moments: The 12 Most Important Events in Black Adventism. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald.
  • Bull, Malcolm and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream. (2006, 2nd edn). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. A sociological study.
  • Chaij, Fernando. Fuerzas supriores que actuán en la vida humana: el hipnotismo y el espiritismo ante la ciencia y la religión [y] el problema de la sanidad y la felicidad. Quinta ed. actualizada. Bogotá: Ediciones Interamericanas, 1976. 267 p. N.B.: Speculations about various occult phenomena, health, theology and Bible exegesis, all from a Seventh Day Adventist perspective. Without ISBN
  • Edwards, Calvin W. and Gary Land. Seeker After Light: A F Ballenger, Adventism, and American Christianity. (2000). 240pp online review
  • Land, Gary (2001). "At the Edges of Holiness: Seventh-Day Adventism Receives the Holy Ghost, 1892–1900". Fides et Historia. 33 (2): 13–30.
  • Jetelina, Bedrich. "Seventh-day Adventists, Human Rights and Social Work," Caritas et veritas, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2014), pp. 22–32 Caritas et veritas
  • Morgan, Douglas. Adventism and the American Republic: The Public Involvement of a Major Apocalyptic Movement. (2001). 269 pp.
  • Morgan, Douglas. "Adventism, Apocalyptic, and the Cause of Liberty," Church History, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Jun. 1994), pp. 235–249 in JSTOR
  • Neufield, Don F. ed. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (10 vol 1976), official publication
  • Numbers, Ronald L. Prophetess of health: a study of Ellen G. White (3rd ed. 2008)
  • Pearson, Michael. Millennial Dreams and Moral Dilemmas: Seventh-day Adventism and Contemporary Ethics. (1990, 1998) excerpt and text search, looks at issues of marriage, abortion, homosexuality
  • Schwarz, Richard. Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (3rd ed. 2000)
  • Vance, Laura L. Seventh-day Adventism Crisis: Gender and Sectarian Change in an Emerging Religion. (1999). 261 pp.
  • Van Dolson, Leo. What about Life after Death? Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978. 32 p.
  • The Adventists, Documentary film by Martin Doblmeier