Ministry Reports

The 1992 Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee (October 5-12) adopted guidelines on abortion and care for the dying. The Council also voted official church positions on temperance principles and the environment.

By the 1992 Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee

Statement I —guidelines on abortion

VOTED, To approve Seventh-day Adventist Guidelines on Abortion as fol lows:

Many contemporary societies have faced conflict over the morality of abortion.1 Such conflict also has affected large numbers within Christianity who want to accept responsibility for the protection of prenatal human life while also preserving the personal liberty of women. The need for guidelines has become evident, as the church attempts to follow Scripture, and to provide moral guidance while respecting individual conscience. Seventh-day Adventists want to relate to the question of abortion in ways that reveal faith in God as the Creator and Sustainer of all life and in ways that reflect Christian responsibility and freedom. Though honest differences on the question of abortion exist among Seventh-day Adventists, the fol lowing represents an attempt to provide guidelines on a number of principles and issues. The guidelines are based on broad biblical principles that are presented for study at the end of the document.2

1. Prenatal human life is a magnificent gift of God. God's ideal for human beings affirms the sanctity of human life, in God's image, and requires respect for prenatal life. However, decisions about life must be made in the context of a fallen world. Abortion is never an action of little moral consequence. Thus prenatal life must not be thoughtlessly destroyed. Abortion should be performed only for the most serious reasons.

2. Abortion is one of the tragic dilemmas of human fallenness. The church should offer gracious support to those who personally face the decision concerning an abortion. Attitudes of condemnation are inappropriate in those who have accepted the gospel. Christians are commissioned to become a loving, caring community of faith that assists those in crisis as alternatives are considered.

3. In practical, tangible ways the church as a supportive community should express its commitment to the value of human life. These ways should include: (a) strengthening family relationships, (b) educating both genders concerning Christian principles of human sexuality, (c) emphasizing responsibility of both male and female for family planning, (d) calling both to be responsible for the consequences of behaviors that are in consistent with Christian principles, (e) creating a safe climate for ongoing discussion of the moral questions associated with abortion, (f) offering support and assistance to women who choose to complete crisis pregnancies, and (g) encouraging and assisting fathers to participate responsibly in the parenting of their children. The church also should commit itself to assist in alleviating the unfortunate social, economic, and psychological factors that may lead to abortion, and to care redemptively for those suffering the consequences of individual decisions on this issue.

4. The church does not serve as con science for individuals; however, it should provide moral guidance. Abortions for reasons of birth control, gender selection or convenience are not condoned by the church. Women at times, however, may face exceptional circumstances that present serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman's life, serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital defects carefully diagnosed in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The final decision whether to terminate the pregnancy or not should be made by the pregnant woman after appropriate consultation. She should be aided in her decision by accurate information, biblical principles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, these decisions are best made within the context of healthy family relationships.

5. Christians acknowledge as first and foremost their accountability to God. They seek balance between the exercise of individual liberty and their account ability to the faith community and the larger society and its laws. They make their choices according to Scripture and the laws of God rather than the norms of society. Therefore, any attempts to coerce women either to remain pregnant or to terminate pregnancy should be rejected as infringements of personal freedom.

6. Church institutions should be provided with guidelines for developing their own institutional policies in harmony with this statement. Persons having a religious or ethical objection to abortion should not be required to participate in the performance of abortions.

7. Church members should be encouraged to participate in the ongoing consideration of their moral responsibilities with regard to abortion in light of the teaching of Scripture.

Principles for a Christian View of Human Life

Introduction

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3, NIV). In Christ is the promise of eternal life; but since human life is mortal, humans are confronted with difficult issues regarding life and death. The fol lowing principles refer to the whole per son (body, soul, and spirit), an indivisible whole (Gen. 2:7; 1 Thess. 5:23). Life: Our valuable gift from God

1. God is the Source, Giver, and Sustainer of all life (Acts 17:25, 28; Job 33:4; Gen. 1:30; 2:7; Ps. 36:9; John 1:3,4).

2. Human life has unique value be cause human beings, though fallen, are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 3:23; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 3:2; John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).

3. God values human life not on the basis of human accomplishments or contributions, but because we are God's creation and the object of His redeeming love (Rom. 5:6, 8; Eph. 2:2-9; 1 Tim. 1:15; Titus 3:4, 5; Matt. 5:43-48; John 1:3; 10:10). Life: Our response to God's gift.

4. Valuable as it is human life is not the only or ultimate concern. Self-sacrifice in devotion to God and His principles may take precedence over life itself (Rev. 12:11; 1 Cor. 13).

5. God calls for the protection of human life and holds humanity account able for its destruction (Ex. 20:13; Rev. 21:8; Ex. 23:7; Deut. 24:16; Prov. 6:16, 17; Jer. 7:3-34; Micah 6:7; Gen. 9:5, 6).

6. God is especially concerned for the protection of the weak, the defense less, and the oppressed (Ps. 82:3, 4; James 1:27; Micah 6:8; Acts 20:35; Prov. 24:11, 12; Luke 1:52-54).

7. Christian love (agape) is the costly dedication of our lives to enhancing the lives of others. Love also respects personal dignity and does not condone the oppression of one person to support the abusive behavior of another (Matt. 16:21; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 John 3:16; 4:8-11; Matt. 22:39; John 18:22, 23; 13:34).

8. The believing community is called to demonstrate Christian love in tangible, practical, and substantive ways. God calls us to restore gently the broken (Gal. 6:1,2; 1 John 3:17,18; Matt. 1:23; Phil. 2:1-11; John 8:2-11; Rom. 8:1-14; Matt. 7:1, 2; 12:20; Isa. 40-42; 62:2-4). Life: Our right and responsibility to decide

9. God gives humanity the freedom of choice, even if it leads to abuse and tragic consequences. His unwillingness to coerce human obedience necessitated the sacrifice of His Son. He requires us to use His gifts in accordance with His will and ultimately will judge their misuse (Deut. 30:19, 20; Gen. 3; 1 Peter 2:24; Rom. 3:5, 6; 6:1, 2; Gal. 5:13).

10. God calls each of us individually to moral decision-making and to search the Scriptures for the biblical principles underlying such choices (John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 1 Peter 2:9; Rom. 7:13-25).

11. Decisions about human life from its beginning to its end are best made within the context of healthy family relationships with the support of the faith community (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 5; 6).

12. Human decisions should always be centered in seeking the will of God (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 6:6; Luke 22:42).

Statement II — historic stand for temperance

VOTED, To approve the Historic Stand for Temperance Principles and Acceptance of Donations Statement:

From the very inception of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, temperance has been a major focus, and the church has played a key role in straggling against the inroads of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and other drugs. While some Christian denominations have lessened their emphasis on temperance, Seventh-day Adventists have continued to vigorously oppose the use of alcohol, tobacco, and improper drugs. The stand of the church advocating abstinence from harmful substances is well established in the church's fundamental beliefs.

There is evidence indicating that in some areas there has been a relaxation in the promotion within the church of the principles of true temperance. This development, coupled with the relentless advertising campaigns of the alcohol and tobacco industries, has revealed that some Seventh-day Adventists have not been impervious to such negative and insidious influences.

An issue that arises from time to time is the offer of funds to religious organizations by the alcohol or tobacco industries. It is the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that such offers of funds shall not be accepted by the church, nor by any of its institutions. Such money is tainted by human misery and, in the case of the alcohol industry, "has come through the loss of souls of men" (Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, May 15, 1894). The gospel mandate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to rebuke evil and not praise or encourage those who manufacture "poisons that bring misery and ruin" and whose "business means robbery" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 337).

The Seventh-day Adventist Church reaffirms its historic stand for the principles of temperance, upholds its policies and programs supporting Article 21 of the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, and calls upon each member to affirm and reveal a life commitment to abstinence from any form of alcohol and tobacco and irresponsible use of drugs. The 1992 Annual Council calls for a revival of temperance principles within the church and urges individuals and church organizations to refuse donations and favors from identifiable alcohol or tobacco industries.

Statement III caring for God's creation

VOTED, To approve Caring for Creation—a Seventh-day Adventist Statement on the Environment as follows:

The world in which we live is a gift of love from the Creator God, from "him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water" (Rev. 14:7, NIV; cf. Rev. 11:17, 18). Within this creation He placed humans, set intentionally in relationship with Himself, other persons, and the surrounding world. Therefore, as Seventh-day Adventists, we hold its preservation and nurture to be intimately related to our service to Him.

God set aside the seventh-day Sabbath as a memorial and perpetual reminder of His creative act and establishment of the world. In resting on that day, Seventh-day Adventists reinforce the special sense of relationship with the Creator and His creation. Sabbath observance underscores the importance of our integration with the total environment. The human decision to disobey God broke the original order of creation, resulting in a disharmony alien to His purposes. Thus our air and waters are polluted, forests and wildlife plundered, and natural resources exploited. Because we recognize humans as part of God's creation, our concern for the environment extends to personal health and lifestyle. We advocate a wholesome manner of living and reject the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs that harm the body and consume earth's resources; and we promote a simple vegetarian diet.

Seventh-day Adventists are commit ted to respectful, cooperative relation ships among all persons, recognizing our common origin and realizing our human dignity as a gift from the Creator. Since human poverty and environmental degradation are interrelated, we pledge ourselves to improve the quality of life for all people. Our goal is a sustainable development of resources while meeting human needs.

Genuine progress toward caring for our natural environment rests upon both personal and cooperative effort. We accept the challenge to work toward re storing God's overall design. Moved by faith in God, we commit ourselves to promote the healing that rises at both personal and environmental levels from integrated lives dedicated to serve God and humanity.

In this commitment we confirm our stewardship of God's creation and believe that total restoration will be complete only when God makes all things new.

Statement IV — care for the dying

Voted, To approve A Seventh-day Adventist Statement of consensus on Care for the Dying as follows:

For people whose lives are guided by the Bible, the reality of death is acknowledged as part of the current human condition, affected by sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom 5; Heb. 9:27). There is "a time to be born, and a time to die" (Eccl. 3:2). Although eternal life is a gift that is granted to all who accept salvation through Jesus Christ, faithful Christians await the second coming of Jesus for complete realization of their immortality (John 3:36; Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:51- 54). While waiting for Jesus to come again, Christians may be called upon to care for the dying and to face personally their own death.

Pain and suffering afflict every human life. Physical, mental, and emotional traumas are universal. However, human suffering has no expiatory or meritorious value. The Bible teaches that no amount or intensity of human suffering can atone for sin. The suffering of Jesus Christ alone is sufficient. Scripture calls Christians not to despair in afflictions, urging them to learn obedience (Heb. 5:7, 8), patience (James 1:2- 4), and endurance in tribulations (Rom.5:3). The Bible also testifies to the overcoming power of Jesus Christ (John 16:33) and teaches that ministry to human suffering is an important Christian duty (Matt. 25:34-40). This was the ex ample and teaching of Jesus (Matt. 9:35; Luke 10:34-36), and this is His will for us (Luke 10:37). Christians look in anticipation to a new day when God will end suffering forever (Rev. 21:4).

Developments in modern medicine have added to the complexity of decisions about care for the dying. In times past, little could be done to extend human life. But the power of today' s medicine to forestall death has generated difficult moral and ethical questions. What constraints does Christian faith place upon the use of such power? When should the goal of postponing the moment of death give way to the goal of alleviating pain at the end of life? Who may appropriately make these decisions? What limits, if any, should Christian love place on actions designed to end human suffering?

It has become common to discuss such questions under the heading of euthanasia. Much confusion exists with regard to this expression. The original and literal meaning of this term was "good death." Now the term is used in two significantly different ways. Often euthanasia refers to "mercy killing," or intentionally taking the life of a patient in order to avoid painful dying or in order to alleviate burdens for a patient's family or society. (This is so-called active euthanasia.) However, euthanasia is also used, inappropriately in the Seventh-day Adventist view, to refer to the withholding or withdrawal of medical interventions that artificially extend human life, thus allowing a person to die naturally. (This is so-called passive euthanasia.) Seventh-day Adventists believe that allowing a patient to die by foregoing medical interventions that only prolong suffering and postpone the moment of death is morally different from actions that have as their primary intention the direct taking of a life.

Seventh-day Adventists seek to ad dress the ethical issues at the end of life in ways that demonstrate their faith in God as the Creator and Redeemer of life and that reveal how God's grace has empowered them for acts of neighbor love. Seventh-day Adventists affirm God's creation of human life, a wonderful gift worthy of being protected and sustained (Gen. 1, 2). They also affirm God's wonderful gift of redemption that provides eternal life for those who believe (John 3:15; 17:3). Thus they sup port the use of modern medicine to ex tend human life in this world. However, this power should be used in compassionate ways that reveal God's grace by minimizing suffering. Since we have God's promise of eternal life in the earth made new, Christians need not cling anxiously to the last vestiges of life on this earth. Nor is it necessary to accept or offer all possible medical treatments that merely prolong the process of dying.

Because of their commitment to care for the whole person, Seventh-day Adventists are concerned about the physical, emotional, and spiritual care of the dying. To this end, they offer the following biblically based principles:

1. A person who is approaching the end of life, and is capable of understanding, deserves to know the truth about his or her condition, the treatment choices, and the possible outcomes. The truth should not be withheld, but shared with Christian love and with sensitivity to the patient's personal and cultural circumstances (Eph. 4:15).

2. God has given human beings freedom of choice and asks them to use their freedom responsibly. Seventh-day Adventists believe that this freedom extends to decisions about medical care. After seeking divine guidance and considering the interests of those affected by the decision (Rom. 14:7), as well as medical advice, a person who is capable of deciding should determine whether to accept or reject life-extending medical interventions. Such persons should not be forced to submit to medical treatment that they find unacceptable.

3. God's plan is for people to be nourished within a family and a faith community. Decisions about human life are best made within the context of healthy family relationships after considering medical advice (Gen. 2:18; Mark 10:6-9; Ex. 20:12; Eph. 5; 6). When a dying person is unable to give consent or express preferences regarding medical intervention, such decisions should be made by someone chosen by the dying person. If no one has been chosen, some one close to the dying person should make the determination. Except in extraordinary circumstances, medical or legal professionals should defer decisions about medical interventions for a dying person to those closest to that individual. Wishes or decisions of the individual are best made in writing and should be in agreement with existing legal requirements.

4. Christian love is practical and responsible (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13; James 1:27; 2:14-17). Such love does not deny faith nor obligate us to offer or to accept medical interventions whose burdens outweigh the probable benefits. For example, when medical care merely preserves bodily functions, without hope of returning a patient to mental awareness, it is futile and may, in good con science, be withheld or withdrawn. Similarly, life-extending medical treatments may be omitted or stopped if they only add to the patient's suffering or needlessly prolong the process of dying. Any action taken should be in harmony with legal mandates.

5. While Christian love may lead to the withholding or withdrawing of medical interventions that only increase suffering or prolong dying, Seventh-day Adventists do not practice "mercy killing" or assist in suicide (Gen. 9:5,6; Ex. 20:13; 23:7). They are opposed to active euthanasia, the intentional taking of the life of a suffering or dying person.

6. Christian compassion calls for the alleviation of suffering (Matt. 25:34-40; Luke 10:29-37). In caring for the dying, it is a Christian responsibility to relieve pain and suffering to the fullest extent possible, not to include active euthanasia. When it is clear that medical intervention will not cure a patient, the primary goal of care should shift to relief from suffering.

7. The biblical principle of justice prescribes that added care be given the needs of those who are defenseless and dependent (Ps. 82:3,4; Prov. 24:11, 12; Isa. 1:1-18; Micah 6:8; Luke 1:52-54). Because of their vulnerable condition, special care should be taken to ensure that dying persons are treated with respect for their dignity and without unfair discrimination. Care for the dying should be based on their spiritual and medical needs and their expressed choices rather than on perceptions of their social worthiness (James 2:1-9).

As Seventh-day Adventists seek to apply these principles, they take hope and courage from the fact that God answers the prayers of His children and is able to work miraculously for their well-being (Ps. 103:1-5; James 5:13-16). Fol lowing Jesus' example they also pray to accept the will of God in all things (Matt. 26:39). They are confident that they can call on God's power to aid them in caring for the physical and spiritual needs of suffering and dying individuals. They know that the grace of God is sufficient to enable them to endure adversity (Ps. 50:14,15). They believe that eternal life for all who have faith in Jesus is secure in the triumph of God's love.

1 Abortion, as understood in these guidelines,
is defined as any action aimed at the termination
of a pregnancy already established. This is
distinguished from contraception, which is intended to
prevent a pregnancy. The focus of the document is
on abortion.

2 The fundamental perspective of these guide
lines is taken from a broad study of Scripture as
shown in the following "Principles for a Christian
View of Human Life."


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By the 1992 Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee

May 1993

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