Greetings to our more than 21 million members around the world who make up the wonderful Seventh-day Adventist church family in more than 200 countries! I thank God for each one of you and want to encourage you, no matter where you are, to be an active member in your local church, and to reach out to your surrounding community, making friends as you gently yet purposefully guide people to Jesus and His love and His truth. Always remember that you are the church—that God is eagerly looking to you to reach others for Him. He has called you, and He will equip you as you spend time with Him in prayer and in the study of His word.
As you may know, at least two times a year, members of the world church’s General Conference Executive Committee gather together to discuss important spiritual and business items guiding the work of our worldwide church. The Executive Committee is made up of church leaders, teachers, pastors, and lay members from the thirteen world divisions, the Middle East and North Africa Union (MENA), and attached fields of the General Conference.
The full Executive Committee meets during what is called Annual Council, held in October of each year. A somewhat smaller group of the committee meets in April for the shorter Spring Meeting, where the focus is mainly on the finances of the church, along with related items. In addition, we also take some time to focus on important spiritual aspects, especially during the morning worship times together.
In just a few days from now, April 9 and 10, the Spring Meeting will take place here at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. You are welcome to join us during these meetings, via the livestream on the Executive Committee website at executivecommittee.adventist.org. The meetings begin with morning worship at 8:00 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time.
I would also like to tell you about a very important meeting taking place here at the world headquarters on April 10 and 11,* just after the Spring Meeting. That is The State of Military Service in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Conference: Combatants, Non-Combatants, Conscientious Objectors.
During this important conference, church leaders from around the world, along with Division and Union Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries directors, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Youth Ministries directors, will meet together to consider the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s relationship to military service.
You know, the question of military service arose early in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church, officially organized in 1863 during the height of the United States’ Civil War, had to almost immediately wrestle with how members would respond to the call of arms.
As with other difficult questions, the pioneer leaders studied the issues using the Bible as their guide and concluded the position most consistent with biblical principles was noncombatancy (the conscientious objection to bearing arms).
By 1864, the young church had successfully appealed to the United States’ federal government for an official designation of noncombatancy, a position that it has consistently held ever since.
After World War II, the Adventist Church further elaborated on its noncombatancy position by approving a document, “The Relationships of Seventh-day Adventists to Civil Governments and War,” at the General Conference Session in 1954. The statement was reaffirmed and further refined at the 1954 and 1972 Annual Councils. The statement reads, in part:
“Genuine Christianity manifests itself in good citizenship and loyalty to civil government. The breaking out of war among men in no way alters the Christian’s supreme allegiance and responsibility to God or modifies their obligation to practice their beliefs and put God first.
“This partnership with God through Jesus Christ who came into this world not to destroy men’s lives but to save them causes Seventh-day Adventists to advocate a noncombatant position, following their divine Master in not taking human life, but rendering all possible service to save it.”
In addition to taking a noncombatancy position, the Seventh-day Adventist Church encourages its members not to join the military. Nevertheless, it is not a test of church membership.
According to “Adventists in Uniform,” the website of the church’s Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, the church “does not seek to be the conscience for any member or commander, but rather seeks to inform the conscience and behavior of both, so decisions can be made with maximum understanding and thought.”
We understand that in some countries, noncombatancy options are not available, and Adventists are required to serve in their country’s military. Even then, these young believers are encouraged to find ways to be faithful to God while serving their country. If members find themselves in the military, whether by personal choice or conscription, the church, through Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, and other avenues tries to spiritually minister to them.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have maintained a historic witness in favor of peace and non-combatantcy throughout the 151 years of the church’s existence.
Furthermore, our pastors who serve as chaplains in the military have had a big impact in serving those who have chosen to serve in the military. They have been able to reach those who may not have been able to be reached in other circumstances, and we appreciate the challenging yet professional service they provide.
Once again, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to thank you for being a part of the Seventh-day Adventist world family. May God bless and encourage you, as you seek to bless others through His Spirit. Jesus is coming, I believe, very soon! Let’s do all we can to reach out to individuals who do not yet know or believe in Christ as their Savior. Maranatha!
* Correction: Please note that the dates for this conference have been changed to April 10 and 11, 2019, not April 11 and 12, as stated on the video. Thank you for taking note of this date change.