The Race to Define Seventh-day Adventists for the Public

The Race to Define Seventh-day Adventists for the Public

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Published:
October 28, 2015

With Dr. Ben Carson narrowly, but undeniably in the lead among Republican contenders for the White House, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America finds itself in a somewhat precarious new place. Thanks in part to a backhanded comment from Donald Trump suggesting that Carson’s Adventist faith was suspect, Adventists have the attention of the national media and a large portion of the American electorate. The opportunity and challenge of defining the denomination for the public has landed squarely at the feet of the North American Church.

Adventists have held high public offices elsewhere around the world, of course. Jioji K. “George” Konrote, the Fijian president-elect, is a Seventh-day Adventist.

In Jamaica, the Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, is an Adventist minister, and Floyd Morris, the president of the Jamaican Senate is also an Adventist.

In the United States, Adventists in public service include Senate Chaplain Barry Black, and Reps Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) in the United States House of Representatives.

Still, the Adventist Church remains unknown to most Americans, and following Trump’s comments, the race to define Adventism has begun.

Speaking on Glenn Beck’s talk radio program on October 22, Alex Bryant, Secretary of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists described Adventists primarily in terms of their Christocentric theology.

 

We believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again. We’re part of the Christian faith community. We believe that God’s grace encompasses all of humankind, their entire world. And that God loves everyone. We are Bible-believing people. We base our beliefs, our faith, our actions, and our behavior on the Bible. We’re also Seventh-day Adventist, where we keep the Sabbath and we believe in a second coming of Christ. But we’re part of the larger Christian community and the Christian family who uplifts the name of Jesus Christ. And we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to lift humanity into hope and wholeness out of our brokenness.”

 

Beck asked Bryant whether Adventists believe that we are literally living in the latter days (Beck is a Mormon, he stated before asking). “Absolutely. We believe that we’re living in the last days,” Bryant said.

Beck asked if Adventists believe in the antichrist and the devil and “all of that stuff from the Book of Revelation.”

Bryant said of Ben Carson, “...his life has been very inspiring to us from the beginning, even before the run for presidency. And we are very proud of what God has done through him. And how God has used him.”

Bryant spoke to NPR for a piece published October 27th examining the Adventist denomination in greater depth, including its emergence from Millenarian Millerism.

“How many Seventh-day Adventists are there?” the article asked. “What makes Adventists unique?” “Are Adventists forbidden to do anything on Saturdays and to eat any meat?” “Do their beliefs differ from traditional evangelicals?” “Where does the church stand on abortion and other social issues?” “Does the Adventist Church endorse Carson?”

Bryant spoke with the New York Times as well, casting Carson’s candidacy as a moment ripe for evangelizing:

“We do not endorse any candidates, and we do not use our church for political reasons,” Alex Bryant, the secretary of the North American division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said of Mr. Carson’s candidacy. “But we do look at it as an opportunity to tell the world, tell this country about Seventh-day Adventism, our beliefs and our desire to lift up Jesus Christ.”

On Meet the Press Bryant told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the Adventist Church fits within the Protestant tradition in the United States, and “believes strongly in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and Salvation only through him.”

If Alex Bryant has become an official spokesperson for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, he’s not the only one defining Adventism to the media and to the American public.

Mark A. Kellner, former news editor for the Adventist Review, most recently affiliated with the Deseret News Service, wrote a guest editorial first published in USA Today and subsequently picked up by numerous news outlets.

In his article, Kellner highlighted the positive contributions Adventists have made not only in the United States, but also around the world.

Adventists have given the world breakfast cereal (thanks Kelloggs for that). Adventists are leaders in health care, Kellner pointed out. And Adventists are not just healthy people, they are Blue Zone healthy, outliving their peers by as much as seven years. Kellner highlighted Adventist education and its ability to lift people out of poverty. Concerning Adventist religious belief and practice, Kellner noted Adventist adherence to Scripture, buttressed by Ellen White’s prolific pen, and he extolled Adventists’ commitment to religious liberty.

With Carson enjoying newly-found frontrunner publicity, there will be many more opportunities for the Adventist Church in North America to tell its story on one of the world’s largest platforms.

 
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
 

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