Seventh-day Adventist interfaith relations

Seventh-day Adventist interfaith relations

This article describes the relations between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other Christian denominations and movements, and other religions. 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." [ [ 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]


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 ] 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.

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. [ World Church: Leaders to Cultivate 'Relationship of Relating' Between Adventists and Major Faith Groups] . Adventist News Network. Retrieved 2007-10-17] This involved more than a change of name, representing a desire for increased dialog with other religions.

Religious liberty

"Seventh-day Adventists believe that freedom of religion is a basic human right." [ [ A Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Religious Liberty, Evangelism, and Proselytism] , an [ Official Statement] by the church] 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

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

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 Fundamental 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." :cite web
last = Beach
first = Bert
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement
work =
publisher = General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
date = June 1985
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-10

While not being a member church of the World Council of Churches, the Adventist church has participated in its assemblies in an observer capacity. [cite news
title = World Church: Adventists Observe World Council of Churches Assembly
publisher = Adventist News Network
date = March 7, 2006
url =
accessdate = 2007-01-10

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. ["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, p10–12]

Interfaith dialog

Relations with Roman Catholicism

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 recognise 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." [ [ The AntiChrist: Is the Adventist interpretation still viable?] by Woodrow Whidden] 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. []

Adventist Samuele Bacchiocchi is the only 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 1883925045, and another article. []

Relations with Lutheran World Federation

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. []

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". []

Relations with World Alliance of Reformed Churches

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." []

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 [] .

Relations with World Evangelical Alliance

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." [ [ World Church: Adventists, Evangelicals Commence Dialogue in Prague ] ]

Representatives from the WEA and the Adventist church met at Andrews University from August 5–10, 2007. [ [ Adventist Church expects joint statement with World Evangelical Alliance] . Retrieved 2007-10-17] 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. [ [ WEA - World Evangelical Alliance Est 1846 ] ]

Relations with French Protestant Federation (FPF)

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. [ [ France: Joining Protestant Group Puts Adventists on Equal Theological Footing, Church Leaders Say ] ]

Relations with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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 [] .

Relations with Salvation Army

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

"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." []

Relations with World Council of Churches

While not being a member church of the World Council of Churches, the Adventist Church has participated in its assemblies in an observer capacity. [cite news
title = World Church: Adventists Observe World Council of Churches Assembly
publisher = Adventist News Network
date=March 7, 2006
url =
accessdate = 2007-01-10

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

Willow Creek

Willow Creek Association runs worshops, conferences, and one large annual conference. According to one article, "Seventh-day Adventist pastors and church members have been attending these conferences for years". [cite journal
last = Byrd
first = Alita
authorlink =
title = The Year of SDA Congregationalism
journal = Spectrum
volume = 26
issue = 4
pages = 3–10
publisher = Adventist Forums
location = Roseville, California
issn = 0890-0264
date = January 1998
url =
format = PDF
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2008-08-06

Relation to other groups and individuals

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. [cite book
title=Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed)
publisher=Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
] 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..." ["Fundamentalism" in "Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia", vol. 10 in the Commentary Reference Series, p.577-78.] [See also Johnsson, William G, "Are Adventists fundamentalists?" "Adventist Review" v158 (January 8, 1981), p14. McIver, Robert K., "Are Adventists fundamentalists?" "Record" v97 (December 12, 1992), p6–7]

However one stream of Adventist thought is often considered fundamentalist.

Baptist scholar Clark Pinnock gave very favourable reviews of Alden Thompson's "Inspiration", [cite journal
last = Pinnock
first = Clark
authorlink = Clark Pinnock
title = Alden Thompson's "Inspiration": Why Is It A Cause Célèbre?
journal = Spectrum
volume = 23
issue = 4
pages = 51–52
publisher = Association of Adventist Forums
date = January 1994
url =
format = PDF
id = ISSN 0890-0264
accessdate = 2006-11-21
] and Richard Rice's theology textbook "Reign of God". [Pinnock, Clark H. " [ Rice's "Reign of God": An SDA Theology for the Masses?] " (review of Richard Rice, "The reign of God: an introduction to Christian theology from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective") in "Spectrum" 18:3 (1988), p. 56–58] 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. [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] Pinnock also wrote the foreword to "Immortality or Resurrection?" by Samuele Bacchiocchi.

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. [" [ 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]

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 the Bible College of Queensland) because of his association with Adventists. [" [ The Truth of Paxton’s Thesis] " by Desmond Ford. "Spectrum" [ 9:3 (July 1978)] ]

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. [ [ World Church: Campolo Critiques, Challenges at Adventists-in-the-Community Conference ] ]

Evangelical author Philip Yancey gave a presentation at Avondale College Church on October 20, 2001, which was broadcast throughout the South Pacific Division. [" [ Best-Selling Author Speaks to Adventist Churches] ". Adventist News Network] He returned to speak again at Avondale College in 2007. [ [ News :: Welcome to Avondale :: ] ]

Other religions

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. [ [ Directory of Organizations] from ""]

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. []

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. [" [ New York Adventists Cooperate With Muslims to Promote Peace] " by Robert Darken]


"Ministry" magazine is sent to over twice as many non-Adventists as Adventists. [ [ Ministry, International Journal for Pastors : Welcome ] ]

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


The Adventist church has received criticism along several lines, including its allegedly heterodox doctrines, in relation to Ellen G. White and her status within the church, and in relation to alleged exclusivist attitudes and behaviour. [cite web
title = Seventh-day Adventist Church profile
publisher = Religious
] Many high profile critics of the church are former Adventists, such as D. M. Canright, Walter T. Rea and Dale Ratzlaff.

Several distinctive Adventist doctrines have been identified as heterodox by critics. Teachings which have come under repeated scrutiny are the annihilationist view of hell, the investigative judgment (and related view of the atonement), and certain eschatological views. Adventists have often been accused of legalism, because of their emphasis on law-keeping and strict Sabbath-observance. [cite web
author= Zinke, R
publisher=Adventist Review
] [cite web
title=The move away from legalism
author=Robin A.Brace
publisher=UK Apologetics

While some Christians are inclined to classify Adventism as a sectarian group on the basis of its atypical doctrines, others (such as Walter Martin and Donald Barnhouse) have considered it a truly Christian church. Notably, Billy Graham invited Adventists to be part of his crusades after "Eternity", a conservative Christian magazine edited by Barnhouse, asserted that Adventists are Christians in 1956. [Donald Grey Barnhouse, "Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?" Eternity, September 1956, 7.] Martin’s "The Truth about Seventh-day Adventists" (1960) marked a turning point in the way Adventism was viewed. [cite web
title=The Day Adventists Became Christians
author=Loren Dickinson

Ellen G. White’s status as a modern day prophet has often been criticised. It is argued that the authority attached to her writings by the church contradicts the Protestant "sola scriptura" principle. In response, Adventists have asserted that the concept of a contemporary prophet is not prohibited by Scripture, and that Scripture remains the ultimate authority to which White’s writings are also subject. Walter T. Rea and other critics have accused White of plagiarism. [cite book
title= The White Lie
author= Walter T. Rea
publisher=Moore Publishing Co
] After a ten year study of White's book "Desire of Ages", Adventist scholar Fred Veltman found that for the chapters he studied, there was content which derived from other sources without citation. [cite web
author=Veltman, Fred
date=November, 1988
title=Life of Christ Research Project
] The nature of the literary dependence must however be taken in the context of what was accepted at the time. It has also been argued that the sources she borrowed from were known to her readers, eliminating the likelihood of an intention to deceive.cite journal
title= An Author Replies to His Critics
author= Ronald L. Numbers
journal= Spectrum Magazine
volume= 8
issue= 2
year= 1977
month= January
pages= 27–36
format= PDF
] [Attorney Vincent L. Ramik, a specialist in patent, trademark, and copyright cases. After researching about 1,000 copyright cases in American legal history, Ramik issued a 27-page legal opinion in which he concluded "Ellen White was not a plagiarist, and her works did not constitute copyright infringement/piracy." [] ]

Finally, it is alleged that certain Adventist beliefs and practices are exclusivist in nature. Specifically, concern has been raised about the Adventist claim to be the “remnant church”, and the traditional characterization of other Christian churches (Roman Catholicism in particularcite web
title =How Seventh-day Adventists View Roman Catholicism
publisher =General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Administrative Committee
date =1997-04-15
url =
accessdate = 2007-01-11
] ) as "Antichrist" and "Babylon". [cite web
title=Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church a Cult?
author=Robert K. Sanders
publisher=Truth or Fables
] [cite web
title=Seventh-Day Adventism
publisher=Catholic Answers
] [See also Questions on Doctrine, chapters 20 and 21.] These apparently sectarian attitudes are said to legitimize the proselytising of Christians from other denominations. [cite web
title=SDA church claims to be the remnant
] In response to such criticisms, Adventist theologians have stated that the doctrine of the remnant does not preclude the existence of genuine Christians in other denominations. [cite web
title=The Remnant and the Adventist Church
author=Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
date=October 2002
publisher=Biblical Research Institute

See also

* Ecumenism
* Seventh-day Adventist theology

External links

Voted statements and similar documents:
* [ Relationships with Other Christian Churches and Religious Organizations] , a document in the General Conference Working Policy
* " [ Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement] " (first appeared in "Pattern for Progress, The Role and Function of Church Organization" by Walter Raymond Beach and Bert Beverly Beach)
* [ Declaration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Church-State Relations]
* [ Safeguarding Mission in Changing Social Environments] , voted by the General Conference Annual Council session of 2007
* [ A Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Religious Liberty, Evangelism, and Proselytism]
* [ Religious Minorities and Religious Freedom: A Statement of Commitment and Concern]
* [ A Statement on Religious Freedom]

Other links:
* " [ What Evangelicals Say About Seventh-day Adventists] " by Larry Christoffel in "Adventist Today"
* Bert Beach. Evangelicals:
* " [ The Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement] " by Cosmas Rubencamp. "Spectrum" 2:4 (Autumn 1970)
* " [ An Adventist Response to 'the Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement'] " by Raoul Dederen. "Spectrum" 2:4 (Autumn 1970)


Other resources:
* Bert B. Beach, "Ecumenism-Boon or Bane?" (Review and Herald, 1974)

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