Temperance Still Central to Church's Health Message
After surgeon general's visit, leaders pledge to reinforce message
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders and delegates from throughout the world signed a temperance pledge the afternoon of June 27, during the fifty-ninth General Conference session.
The pledge, presented in a business meeting at the Georgia Dome, commits the signer to “avoid alcohol and tobacco, as well as other harmful substances and practices.”
The small pledge card can fit in people’s wallets and purses so that they “can carry [it] around to remind [them],” said Peter Landless, an associate director of Health Ministries for the world church.
Landless and James Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate, presented the pledge to delegates shortly after U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin made an appearance and emphasized the importance of healthy living.
Nix held up a framed pledge signed by John Harvey Kellogg, a physician who made the Seventh-day Adventist sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, famous after he took over the institution in 1875. An artifact from the beginning of the church’s temperance movement, the paper hangs in Nix’s study, he said.
“Ellen White was a very, very vocal advocate for signing the temperance pledge, and we know she signed it herself,” said Nix, referring to the Adventist Church’s cofounder.
White defined temperance as dispensing “entirely with everything hurtful” and using “judiciously that which is healthful,” he added.
The pledge states, “Recognizing the responsibility both to myself and to others, by the grace of God, I pledge to avoid alcohol and tobacco, as well as other harmful substances and practices.”
In 2003 then-president Jan Paulsen and other church leaders signed the same pledge at Spring Meeting, one of two annual business sessions the Executive Committee holds each year, to highlight efforts to increase awareness of Adventist principles of healthful living.
The church has continually opposed the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs since its nineteenth-century beginnings. Abstaining from harmful substances is one of the denomination’s fundamental beliefs, which states that “since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them.”
The belief statement goes on to say that “we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness.”
Accordingly, the church and its affiliated institutions do not accept donations from the alcohol or tobacco industries. In 1992 church executives at Annual Council called for the revival of temperance principles and once again called for people and church organizations to reject donations and favors from those industries.