In this week’s Adventist news round-up, stories about Adventists appeared in Christianity Today and NPR, plus news from New Zealand and Dakota Adventist Academy.
Almost Half of Seventh-day Adventists Believe Health Message “Ensures Salvation.” Christianity Today reports that Seventh-day Adventist researchers have found that many members in South Asia believe salvation is ensured two ways: through Jesus Christ (92%), and through giving up meat, animal products, alcohol, and tobacco (80%). Within the denomination’s East-Central Africa Division — which has the second-most vegan or vegetarian members (42%) — three-quarters of members (74%) maintain that dietary choices contribute to salvation. Globally, 47% of Adventists agreed that the health message “ensures salvation.”
The recent findings come from research conducted by teams at Adventist universities in 13 regions around the world to measure global church members’ perception of the “health message,” as it’s called within the denomination. More than 63,700 members across 60 languages were given the survey, mainly at church services in 2017 and 2018.
“The data suggest that Adventist Church leadership needs to engage in further member education to differentiate and avoid confusion between the benefits of adhering to the Adventist Health Message and the Church’s belief that the actual source of salvation is through Jesus Christ alone,” wrote McBride. Overall, 95 percent of Adventists globally held to salvation “through Christ alone,” and adherents in North America and Europe were far less likely to believe their healthy lifestyle contributes to salvation. While over half of Adventists in North American are vegetarian or vegan — more than any other region of the church — just four percent see the diet as necessary for salvation.
From Christianity Today, “Many Adventists in Asia and Africa Believe You Must Be Vegan to Be Saved.”
Equality Act Could Restrict Adventist Institutions. NPR reported that a potential revision of federal civil rights law to extend protection to LGBTQ people could soon get a long-delayed vote in the U.S. Senate, but concerns about its implications for religious freedom cloud its prospects for final passage. The Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has twice passed the House. Republicans in the Senate have until now blocked its consideration, but Democratic control there should finally ensure at least a hearing.
Faith groups are deeply split over the proposal. Mainline Protestant denominations and other progressive faith groups have lined up in support of the legislation. Despite large majorities of the U.S. population favoring expanded LGBTQ rights, many faith groups still hold conservative ideas about marriage and sexuality and fear the Equality Act would punish them for adhering to those beliefs. Among those in opposition are the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Coalition for Jewish Values, representing Orthodox rabbis. Together, the groups represent a broad swath of U.S. religious denominations.
“The Equality Act as written actually is devastating to the institutions that I represent,” says Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, institutions that engage in racial discrimination can be barred from receiving federal funds. The Equality Act would extend that provision to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Many faith-affiliated schools, however, require that students abide by strict moral codes related to sexual conduct, or they have gender-segregated housing that does not accommodate transgender people.
Critics of the Equality Act say such policies would mean that students attending those schools could lose access to government aid programs. “I couldn’t have gone to Southern Adventist University without student loans, which I'm still paying off,” says Todd McFarland, associate general counsel for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “The threat is there, that we would lose that funding and the ability of our students to get Pell Grants, to get student loans.”
New Zealand SDAs Create Controversy Distributing Book Warning Against National Sunday Law. According to NeighborWebSJ, New Zealand Seventh-day Adventists are distributing a National Sunday Law book and helping to warn people about the mark of the beast (Sunday laws) while encouraging them to embrace the seal of God (Saturday). Recently, Bob Larsen, President of the North New Zealand Conference, disavowed the National Sunday Law book in an interview with the local media. The media reported his response: “The book was not endorsed by the church. The [church] had no involvement in the publication or distribution of the book… The church does not endorse or recommend this book.”
The news sought an official response from the Seventh-day Adventist Church about a mass distribution campaign currently underway in New Zealand because some in the community were “horrified” and “disgusted” with the National Sunday Law book that was being labeled an “extreme and insidious propaganda” and a “conspiracy theory.”
Dakota Adventist Academy Recommended on Study International Website. Dakota Adventist Academy (DAA), located just outside of Bismarck, North Dakota, is recommended second of four on a list of U.S. boarding schools founded on religious principles that build character through rigorous academics and spiritual maturity. The list was published on the Study International website.
DAA students represent an array of backgrounds — coming from local towns across the U.S. and around the world. A Seventh-day Adventist school, with over 100 years of experience, the academy encourages the development of a Christ-centered life by providing a comprehensive academic and enriching vocational education.
From Study International, “Boarding schools in the US focused on building character and faith.”
Please note: Spectrum news round-ups are an aggregation of regional, national, and international publications around the world that have reported on stories about Adventists. As such, the accuracy of the information is the responsibility of the original publishers, which are noted and hyperlinked at the end of each excerpt.
Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.
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