Seventh-day Adventist Interfaith Relations

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This article describes the relations between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other Christian denominations and movements, and other religions. Adventist resist the movement to full ecumenical integration with other churches, believing that such a transition would result in a renouncing of its foundational beliefs and endanger its distinctive message. According to one church document,

"The ecumenical movement as an agency of cooperation has acceptable aspects; as an agency for organic unity of churches, it is much more suspect."[1]


Adventists have often been skeptical of other faiths. The Millerite movement, which gave birth to Seventh-day Adventism, experienced rejection and hostility from the majority of North American Christian churches of the time. Early Adventists experienced similar hostility because of their unique views about the Sabbath. They consequently came to see themselves as an obedient remnant which was encountering the wrath of the dragon, as prophesied in Revelation 12:17. Subsequent developments in Adventist eschatology saw the Sunday-keeping churches identified with Babylon the Great (Revelation 17-18). A central aspect of the Adventist mission was to call people out of Babylon, and into the remnant church, as signified by the second of the three angels' messages.

The Review and Herald (now Adventist Review) October 12, 1876 contains an "amazing"[2][3] article on cordiality between the Adventist pioneers and the Seventh Day Baptists. James White pointed out that the two bodies agreed on the two great tests of the Christian life, i.e. the divine law and redemption from its transgression through the Son. The main difference between them, White observed, was the question of immortality. Even though differences existed between the two groups, White recommended, "that there be no controversy between the two bodies." He continued, "we further recommend that Seventh-day Adventists in their agressive [sic] work avoid laboring to build up Seventh-day Adventist churches where Seventh-day Baptist churches are already established..." He said it is much better to seek union with Seventh Day Baptists on the points they agree than to sacrifice that union by urging on them peculiar Adventist sentiments.[4]

While the Adventist church matured and institutionalized in the 20th century, opposition from other churches also declined. By the 1950s, Adventists and American conservative Christians were ready to begin a dialogue. A series of discussions between Adventist and conservative leaders led to greater understanding and acceptance on both sides.[5] Even after these milestone events, however, Adventists continued to resist full ecumenical cooperation with other churches, believing that such cooperation would endanger its distinctive message.[6]

Bert Beach was the main Adventist involved with interreligious dialogue.

On January 22, 2007 church leaders voted to rename the Council on Inter-church/Inter-faith Relations to the Council on Inter-church/Inter-religion Affairs.[7] This involved more than a change of name, representing a desire for increased dialogue with other religions.[7]

Religious liberty[edit]

"Seventh-day Adventists believe that freedom of religion is a basic human right."[8] The Adventist church has been active for over 100 years advocating for freedom of religion for all people, regardless of faith. In 1893 its leaders founded the International Religious Liberty Association, which is universal and non-sectarian. The Seventh-day Adventist Church State Council serves to protect religious groups from legislation that may affect their religious practices.

The church publishes the magazine Liberty.

Theological conferences[edit]

The church has two professional organizations for Adventist theologians who are affiliated with the denomination. The Adventist Society for Religious Studies (ASRS) was formed to foster community among Adventist theologians who attend the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion. In 2006 ASRS voted to continue their meetings in the future in conjunction with SBL. During the 1980s the Adventist Theological Society was formed by Jack Blanco to provide a forum for more conservative theologians to meet and is held in conjunction with the Evangelical Theological Society.

Adventists and ecumenism[edit]

The Adventist church generally opposes the ecumenical movement, although it supports some of the goals of ecumenism. The General Conference has released an official statement concerning the Adventist position with respect to the ecumenical movement, which contains the following paragraph:

"Should Adventists cooperate ecumenically? Adventists should cooperate insofar as the authentic gospel is proclaimed and crying human needs are being met. The Seventh-day Adventist Church wants no entangling memberships and refuses any compromising relationships that might tend to water down her distinct witness. However, Adventists wish to be "conscientious cooperators." The ecumenical movement as an agency of cooperation has acceptable aspects; as an agency for organic unity of churches, it is much more suspect."
"The New Testament presents a qualified church unity in truth, characterized by holiness, joy, faithfulness, and obedience (see John 17:6, 13, 17, 19, 23, 26). "Ecumenthusiasts" (to coin a word) seem to take for granted the eventual organic unity and communion of the great majority of the churches. They emphasize the "scandal of division," as if this were really the unpardonable sin. Heresy and apostasy are largely ignored. However, the New Testament shows the threat of anti-Christian penetration within "the temple of God" (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). The eschatological picture of God's church prior to the Second Coming is not one of a megachurch gathering all humankind together, but of a "remnant" of Christendom, those keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus (see Rev. 12:17)." :
"Adventists see the Bible as the infallible revelation of God's will, the authoritative revealer of doctrinal truth, and the trustworthy record of the mighty acts of God in salvation history (see Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists: 1. The Holy Scriptures). Adventists see the Bible as a unity. For many WCC leaders the Bible is not normative and authoritative in itself. The emphasis is on Biblical diversity, including at times demythologization of the Gospels. For a large number of ecumenists, as is the case for liberal Christianity in general, inspiration lies not in the Biblical text but in the experience of the reader. Propositional revelation is out; experience is in."  :[6]

While not being a member church of the World Council of Churches, the Adventist church has participated in its assemblies in an observer capacity.[9]

Three Adventist leaders (John Graz, John Kakembo and Bill Johnsson) attended the Global Christian Forum of 250 Christian leaders from more than 70 nations, held in Limuru (near Nairobi), Kenya in 2007.[10]

Interfaith dialogue[edit]

Relations with Roman Catholicism[edit]

The official beliefs of the church (28 Fundamentals) do not mention the papacy or Roman Catholicism. An official statement "How Seventh-day Adventists View Roman Catholicism" was released in 1997. Adventists are concerned about the institution of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, yet recognize many sincere individual Catholics.

Woodrow Whidden wrote, "we must forthrightly affirm that many positive things have taken place in Roman Catholicism". According to him, the papacy "is a mixed bag morally and ethically... All human organizations (including our own 'enfeebled and defective' denomination) are sadly sinful." He concludes, "the Roman Catholic religious system" or "papal Rome is still the great power envisioned in Daniel 7 and 8; 2 Thessalonians 2; and Revelation 13."[11] See the companion article By Grace Alone? by Clifford Goldstein.

More moderate scholars... Progressive Adventists typically reject these traditional identifications. See Spectrum 27, issue 3 (Summer 1999): 30–52.

There was a number of meetings between Seventh day Adventist and Catholic theologians including now Cardinal Walter Kasper and Msgr John Radano. A short report by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez was released.[12]

Adventist Samuele Bacchiocchi was the first non-Catholic to have graduated from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

See also Reinder Bruinsma, Seventh-day Adventist Attitudes Toward Roman Catholicism 1844–1965 (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1994) ISBN 1-883925-04-5, and another article.[13]

Relations with Lutheran World Federation[edit]

There was constructive theological dialogue between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and The Lutheran World Federation. Conversations started in 1994 and ended in 1998. The main issues discussed and described by the final report published in 2000 included Justification by Faith, Scripture and Authority in the Church and Eschatology.[14]

Final report concluded that "Lutherans in their national and regional church contexts" should recognize the Seventh-day-Adventist Church no longer "as a sect but as a free church and a Christian world communion".[15]

Relations with World Alliance of Reformed Churches[edit]

There is active theological dialogue between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In 2001 report on dialogue has been published as well, among other statements it declared that:

"We are happy to conclude that our conversation has been productive in a number of directions. We have affirmed the common doctrinal ground on which we stand, and we have specified some of the ways in which our teachings have developed over time. We have sought to dispel mutual misunderstandings concerning doctrine. We have eschewed the sectarian spirit, and have not questioned one another's status as Christians."[16]

There were also informal meetings between Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Adventist leaders, Nyomi told them that he has experienced the positive witness of the Adventist Church.[17]

Relations with World Evangelical Alliance[edit]

The first meeting with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) was in 2006. "Although we come from different religious traditions, there was much that we shared in common and was useful to both parties" said Angel Rodriguez. "The meetings were designed to gain a clearer understanding of the theological positions of each body; clarify matters of misunderstanding; discuss frankly areas of agreement and disagreement on a Biblical basis; and explore possible areas of cooperation. The group also enjoyed a visit to several sites in Prague related to Protestant reformer Jan Hus."[18]

Representatives from the WEA and the Adventist church met at Andrews University from August 5–10, 2007.[19] While the Adventist participants agreed with the WEA Statement of Faith and the discussions were described as warm and cordial, there was disagreement over certain distinctive Adventist beliefs (see: Seventh-day Adventist theology). The "Joint Statement..." was released in September.[20]

Clark Pinnock believes Adventists are evangelical.[21]

Relations with French Protestant Federation (FPF)[edit]

Seventh-day Adventist church is a member of French Protestant Federation, now representing over 900,000 French Protestants and consisting of 17 churches.

"Now we can enjoy the same rights as traditional Protestant churches and we are considered theologically equal with other religious movements in our country," said Jean-Paul Barquon, secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in France.[22]

Relations with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)[edit]

There was a meeting between delegates from Seventh day Adventist Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the Presbyterian Church's national headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky August 22 to 24 (2007) to affirm common beliefs and dispel stereotypes.

“The Adventist church has a responsibility to clear up misconceptions other Christian denominations might have of us, and meetings such as this one give us an opportunity to do so,” said Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, director of the Biblical Research Institute[3].

Relations with Salvation Army[edit]

There is active dialogue and friendly relation between Salvation Army and Seventh day Adventist Church. Theologians from both denominations met several times [4].

"It was most important to see the very similar approaches to the Gospel message that we have; very compatible lifestyles and Christ-centeredness in The Salvation Army and the Seventh-day Adventist Church," Dr. Beach told ANN. "Adventists have always had considerable respect for the work of Salvationists, and I hope that in the future we would increase our knowledge of each other and our cooperation in meeting many of humanity's crying spiritual and material needs."[5]

Relations with Serbian Orthodox Church[edit]

In 2003 there was meeting in Belgrade between Jan Paulsen (president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church), Patriarch Pavle and Stanislav Hočevar, Roman Catholic archbishop of Belgrade.

"Mutual respect must continue between the Adventist Church and the Orthodox Church in Serbia in order to protect religious liberty, Paulsen said. The conversation between the two leaders was informal, amicable and cordial, and covered brief exchanges on world affairs and also the Adventist position on health.

Paulsen also visited Stanislav Hocevar, Roman Catholic archbishop of Belgrade. The prelate's numerous questions about the faith and theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church gave Paulsen an in-depth opportunity to explain the church's understanding of Bible teachings."[6]

Relations with World Council of Churches[edit]

While not being a member church of the World Council of Churches, the Adventist Church has participated in its assemblies in an observer capacity.[23]

World Council of Churches see Seventh-day Adventist Church as "a denomination of conservative evangelical Christians"[7].

Willow Creek[edit]

Willow Creek Association is an international, evangelical Christian association that runs workshops, conferences, and one large annual conference. According to one article, "Seventh-day Adventist pastors and church members have been attending these conferences for years".[24]

Relation to other groups and individuals[edit]

Adventist theology is distinctly Protestant, and holds much in common with Evangelicalism in particular. However, in common with many restorationist groups, Adventists have traditionally taught that the majority of Protestant churches have failed to "complete" the Reformation by overturning the errors of Roman Catholicism (see also Great Apostasy) and "restoring" the beliefs and practices of the primitive church—including Sabbath-keeping, adult baptism and conditional immortality.[25] The Adventist church is thus classified as a Restorationist sect by some religion scholars. On the same basis it may be associated with the Anabaptists and other movements of the Radical Reformation.

Prominent Adventist evangelist George Vandeman affirmed other churches in What I Like About... The Lutherans, The Baptists, The Methodists, The Charismatics, The Catholics, Our Jewish Friends, The Adventists.

Adventists typically do not associate themselves with Fundamentalist Christianity:

"Theologically, Seventh-day Adventists have a number of beliefs in common with Fundamentalists, but for various reasons have never been identified with the movement... On their part, Adventists reject as unbiblical a number of teachings held by many (though not all) Fundamentalists..."[26][27]

However one stream of Adventist thought is often considered fundamentalist.

Baptist scholar Clark Pinnock gave very favourable reviews of Alden Thompson's Inspiration,[28] and Richard Rice's theology textbook Reign of God.[29] Pinnock was earlier impressed by Richard Rice's book The Openness of God, and later was the editor for another work of the same name, contributed by authors Rice, John E. Sanders and others. Ray Roennfeldt wrote his PhD on Pinnock's view of biblical inspiration.[30] Pinnock also wrote the foreword to Immortality or Resurrection? by Samuele Bacchiocchi.

Baptist Wayne Grudem wrote the foreword to Samuele Bacchiocchi's book Women in the Church.

At an Adventist conference, Methodist scholar Donald Dayton described himself as a "sympathetic outsider". He affirmed Adventists for being ahead of their time on certain beliefs, although not necessarily entirely correct.[31]

Anglican minister Geoffrey Paxton had significant interaction with Adventists, particularly with Robert Brinsmead. He lost his job as principal of the Queensland Bible Institute (now Crossway College) because of his association with Adventists.[32]

Defrocked Adventist minister Desmond Ford has presented sermons to a wide variety of Christian denominations.

Evangelical Tony Campolo has written about his positive experiences speaking on numerous Adventist university campuses in the forward to Adventism for a New Generation by Steve Daily. He presented at the first International Conference on Adventists in the Community, in 2004.[33]

Evangelical author Philip Yancey gave a presentation at Avondale College Church on October 20, 2001, which was broadcast throughout the South Pacific Division.[34] He returned to speak again at Avondale College in 2007.[35]

Historian Martin E. Marty describes Adventism as trans-modern, as opposed to counter-modern fundamentalists.[36]

Other religions[edit]

This section describes the interaction between the Adventist church and other religions beside Christianity.

The General Conference body Global Mission started in 1990 after a decision at the General Conference Session. The [Office of] Adventist Mission was formed in 2005, as a merger of Global Mission and the Office of Mission Awareness.[37]

Global Mission has centers specializing in the study of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, secularism/postmodernism and Islam.


See "New Directions in Adventist—Muslim Relations", a Spectrum interview with Global Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations director Jerald Whitehouse. See also.[38]

Samir Selmanovic, the pastor of Church of the Advent Hope in New York City, was honored by the group Muslims Against Terrorism for his assistance following the September 11, 2001 attacks, including holding a Christian-Muslim discussion at the peak of tensions.[39]

Non-religious organizations[edit]

As of 2009, a partnership between the Adventist church and the World Health Organization (WHO) is being explored. According to one report, "While WHO has previously partnered with other faith-based organisations, this would be the first time it could extend official relations to a church denomination."[40]


Ministry magazine is sent to over twice as many non-Adventists as Adventists.[41]

Shabbat Shalom describes itself as "The Journal of Jewish-Christian Reconciliation".

See also[edit]

End notes[edit]

  1. ^ Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement. This is a "study document, intended for internal church use... released in connection with the General Conference Session" of 1985
  2. ^ A Non-Adventist Church We Can Trust
  3. ^ Another link for A Non-Adventist Church We Can Trust an rtf file accessed 03-21-2011
  4. ^ White, James (October 12, 1876). "The Two Bodies: the relation which the S. D. Baptists and the S. D. Adventists sustain to each other." (PDF). Review and Herald. Battle Creek, Michigan: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association. 48 (15): 4. Retrieved July 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ Loren Dickinson. "The Day Adventists Became Christians". Spectrum. 
  6. ^ a b Beach, Bert (June 1985). "Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement". General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Archived from the original on 2006-12-06. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  7. ^ a b World Church: Leaders to Cultivate 'Relationship of Relating' Between Adventists and Major Faith Groups. Adventist News Network. Retrieved 2007-10-17
  8. ^ A Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Religious Liberty, Evangelism, and Proselytism, an Official Statement by the church
  9. ^ "World Church: Adventists Observe World Council of Churches Assembly". Adventist News Network. March 7, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  10. ^ "A New Ecumenical Wind: Will the Global Christian Forum unite the churches?" by William G. Johnsson. Adventist World April 2008; as appearing in Record April 12, 2008, pp. 10–12
  11. ^ The AntiChrist: Is the Adventist interpretation still viable? by Woodrow Whidden
  12. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  15. ^ Frank IMHOFF, Lutheran-Adventist conversations final report 1998
  16. ^ [1] Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ [2][dead link]
  18. ^ World Church: Adventists, Evangelicals Commence Dialogue in Prague
  19. ^ Adventist Church expects joint statement with World Evangelical Alliance. Retrieved 2007-10-17 Archived August 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ WEA - World Evangelical Alliance Est 1846
  21. ^ Pinnock, Clark (January 1994). "Alden Thompson's Inspiration: Why Is It A Cause Célèbre?" (PDF). Spectrum. Association of Adventist Forums. 23 (4): 51–52. ISSN 0890-0264. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-26. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  22. ^ France: Joining Protestant Group Puts Adventists on Equal Theological Footing, Church Leaders Say
  23. ^ "World Church: Adventists Observe World Council of Churches Assembly". Adventist News Network. March 7, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  24. ^ Byrd, Alita (January 1998). "The Year of SDA Congregationalism" (PDF). Spectrum. Roseville, California: Adventist Forums. 26 (4): 3–10. ISSN 0890-0264. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  25. ^ Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed). Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 2005. p. 189. 
  26. ^ "Fundamentalism" in Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, vol. 10 in the Commentary Reference Series, pp. 577–78.
  27. ^ See also Johnsson, William G, "Are Adventists fundamentalists?" Adventist Review v158 (January 8, 1981), p. 14. McIver, Robert K., "Are Adventists fundamentalists?" Record v97 (December 12, 1992), pp. 6–7
  28. ^ Pinnock, Clark (January 1994). "Alden Thompson's Inspiration: Why Is It A Cause Célèbre?" (PDF). Spectrum. Association of Adventist Forums. 23 (4): 51–52. ISSN 0890-0264. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-26. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  29. ^ Pinnock, Clark H. "Rice's Reign of God: An SDA Theology for the Masses? Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine." (review of Richard Rice, The reign of God: an introduction to Christian theology from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective) in Spectrum 18:3 (1988), pp. 56–58
  30. ^ Ray C. W. Roennfeldt, "Clark H. Pinnock on Biblical Authority" Ph.D. Dissertation: Andrews University, Berrien Springs, 1993. Published with a foreword by Pinnock, Andrews University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-943872-70-7
  31. ^ "Some Reflections on Adventist Identity by a 'Sympathetic Outsider' on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of Questions on Doctrine" by Donald Dayton. Questions on Doctrine 50th anniversary conference, 2007. Accessed 2008-04-16
  32. ^ "The Truth of Paxton’s Thesis Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine." by Desmond Ford. Spectrum 9:3 (July 1978) Archived 2008-07-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ World Church: Campolo Critiques, Challenges at Adventists-in-the-Community Conference
  34. ^ "Best-Selling Author Speaks to Adventist Churches". Adventist News Network
  35. ^ News :: Welcome to Avondale :: Archived 2009-10-08 at the Wayback Machine.
  36. ^ Martin E. Marty, Modern American Religion, Vol. 1: The Irony of It All (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1986), 255–57. As quoted elsewhere
  37. ^ Directory of Organizations from
  38. ^
  39. ^ "New York Adventists Cooperate With Muslims to Promote Peace Archived 2009-11-25 at the Wayback Machine." by Robert Darken
  40. ^ "Potential Adventist–WHO partnership 'looks promising'" by Ansel Oliver/Adventist News Network. Record 114:29 (1 August 2009), p. 7. Another quote: "The conference also gave an opportunity for Adventist Church officials to meet with WHO representatives at its Geneva Executive Meeting Room, the first such meeting between WHO and a church denomination." While "some Adventists" cited concerns, "Most attendees seemed to favour a denominational partnership with WHO."
  41. ^ Ministry, International Journal for Pastors : Welcome


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