Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is the associate editor of Ministry and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

Though by no means perfect, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has become a leader in calling for the fair treatment of women. Its decades-long enditnow® campaign is based upon our fundamental belief that “distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us,” and that “we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation.”1 Yet when stating our opposition to abuse and inequity in the treatment of women, somebody said, “If you print that, you must give the other side.” Let us be clear—we don’t have another side.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a leader in calling for health reform and has joined those calling for health equity.2 The church states, “Beyond those benefits of healthy lifestyle principles and preventive public health practices, the church affirms and recommends the responsible use of vaccines as an important public health measure, especially during a pandemic. At the same time, the church respects the rights of individuals’ freedom of choice for those who choose not to be vaccinated.”3 Yet some have said, “You must present the other side.” We don’t have another side.

Sounds autocratic? It’s actually quite accommodating. There are principles and there are practices. Principles are: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19, KJV); “Woman should fill the position which God originally designed for her, as her husband’s equal.”4 As Adventists, we unequivocally align ourselves with these principles, but we may choose to show our solidarity and support through different practices.

Regarding solidarity with women, the South American Division has chosen to organize annual marches against violence.5 Regarding supporting the health message, the South Pacific Division’s approach has been a series of videos, including “COVID-19 Vaccines and Side Effects” and “Microchips, Magnets, and Mobile Phones.”6

We are committed (fixed) regarding our principles, and we are compassionate (flexible) regarding our practices. Rather like a couple getting married. Agreement on the details of our wedding is optional; alignment with the mission of our marriage is critical.

Agreement and alignment

Prepare-Enrich premarital and marital counselors say, “Agreement and alignment sound pretty similar, but in fact, they’re not completely interchangeable. Think of agreement as alignment’s uptight, perfectionist cousin—everything must be exactly perfect and in its place.

“Alignment, on the other hand, is a bit more laid back and realistic, recognizing that every tiny detail is not always as important as seeing the bigger picture.”7

While we unapologetically recommend a plant-based diet, Romans 14:3 is the bigger picture. “The meat-eater should not despise the vegetarian, nor should the vegetarian condemn the meat-eater—they should reflect that God has accepted them both” (Phillips).

Disagreement and division

I will never forget that Sabbath in Norway. Theodore Stewart (chaplain at Texas Health Huguley Hospital) and I were student canvassing and, after a church lunch, the members asked us to join them in nature. “Sure!” we chorused.

Then they said, “We’re going swimming.”

We asked, “On Sabbath?”

“Yes,” they replied. “It’s nature.” We went to the beach with them. Some will be happy to know, we steadfastly refused to take off our black suits.

Paul said, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10, NKJV). Our Norwegian brothers and sisters were passionately committed to the Sabbath. What they saw as nature, we saw as pleasure. We had disagreed—but we were not divided.

Disagreement is tolerable; division is detrimental. Agreement is preferable; alignment is essential. Differences may exist between cultures and within cultures, but our fundamental beliefs represent our alignment. Extreme positions, practices, or people do not represent the church. We want to be known as warmthearted and welcoming, sensible and sensitive. That’s the side of the church we want the world to see. In fact, we don’t have another side.

  1. “Official Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, accessed October 22, 2021, https://www.adventist.org/beliefs.
  2. AdventHealth News, “AdventHealth Vows to Keep Fighting Inequities in Health Care,” Adventist Review, September 10, 2021.
  3. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, “Reaffirming the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Response to COVID-19,” Adventist Review, October 25, 2021
  4. Ellen G. White, Adventist Home (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1952), 231.
  5. Rafael Brondani, “Thousands of Adventists March Against Domestic Violence in Brazil’s Capital,” Adventist Review, September 14, 2021.
  6. Tracey Bridcutt, “New Videos Provide Clarity Around COVID-19 Vaccination,” Adventist Record, September 14, 2021.
  7. “We Just Disagree (And That’s Okay),” Prepare/Enrich, September 29, 2021, 9.

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Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is the associate editor of Ministry and an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

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