Official Statements: Introduction
Questions frequently come-- "What does the church say about...?" These enquiries come from the Seventh-day Adventist believers themselves, church pastors and also from the general public or media. Reflecting on the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 1980s and 90s, we recognize an active interest in many church circles to develop and publicize the church's position statements on specific topics or issues. Often, these are a reaction to a prominent public agenda issue. It goes without saying that the church as a moral force in the society is expected to clarify or express its stance, or even develop a particular concern. Adventists, as members of the society at large, often mirror the challenges and needs of those around them. Some of the issues are not new, but they are more pressing today, perhaps. The documents available here represent a whole spectrum of these issues and concerns.
The denomination's history dates back to the 1860s when the church organization was formally established. From the early years, and through its history, Seventh-day Adventists have been recognized as a group of conscientious Christians who are vocal about and prominent in taking up a stand for a number of causes and issues. The list of these is quite impressive -- civil rights and anti-slavery stance, religious liberty, health and temperance reform, leadership in prevention of alcoholism and drug dependency, anti-tobbacco lobby, education, welfare, aid and development, and so on.
Though the past heritage sees Adventists as reform-minded, it also shows the church leadership as sometimes reluctant to take public position. Exceptions include such issues as religious freedom and temperance. It was typical for Adventists to emphasize that changes in the society are best effected through the changing of personal lives of the individuals. Public pronouncements or action were not the preferred approaches in influencing the social agenda.
So, though Adventists successfully used the church pulpit and the classroom to speak against social ills or promote Christian values, they have not, until recently, formalized their official position through public statements. It was a non-creedal approach at the outset, with the "fundamental beliefs" being formulated into a "doctrinal statement" only in the 1930s.
This web site presents statements and guidelines discussed, approved and voted by the church leadership since 1980. These were written with a different public in mind, some reflecting a particular internal interest of the church. Here you will find documents issued by the General Conference in session, by the General Conference Executive Committee, by the Administrative Committee of the General Conference, or by the Office of the General Conference president. The documents accessible here fall into three categories:
- Position statements, including the Mission Statement of the
- Seventh-day Adventist Church;Guidelines; and
- Other documents, such as a study paper on AIDS, or a document explaining the church's view on inter-church relations and the so-called ecumenical movement.
As the church continues to grow and make an influence, its role in the society will require that its views and what it holds true becomes known. Such will continue be the demands of the society, and such will be the need to define Adventism's relevance, or present truth, to those who are asking questions and seeking answers to their dilemmas and problems.
The documents presented here are not an end in themselves, but a reflection of a movement sensitive to its calling and the people who "know how to answer everyone" (Col 4:6 NIV).
The importance of these documents can be thus summarized -- actions speak louder than the words.
[Rajmund Dabrowski, Director, Communication Department, World Church Headquarters]