Could a Seldom-Drinker Be Trusted with a Church Job?
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
There is an opening for a Pathfinder leader in our church, and only one volunteer. This man is a pillar of the church, he frequently helps others, he’s a family man and a hard worker. He would be wonderful with the Pathfinders. However, some in the church claim that he occasionally drinks a beer when he comes home from work. Should the nominating committee approve him as a leader of young people?
Signed, Fear of Beer
The reason that the Seventh-day Adventist Church disapproves of alcohol is too long to go into here, but it has partially to do with 19th-century Christian prohibitionist movements. Because it was based more on social movements and Ellen White than on the Bible, it left us rather confused about “temperance,” a word which suggests wise and moderate use rather than just abstinence.
The Bible wisely condemns drunkenness. Drunk people don’t make sound decisions, they hurt other people and themselves, they cause disruptions and property damage, and they develop serious health problems. Everyone knows someone whose life has been gravely altered because of alcoholism. Even one drink inhibits clear thinking. We are a cerebral church: we place a very high value on personal reasoning and willpower. For these reasons the Seventh-day Adventist Church stands against alcohol.
So what about the Pathfinder leader?
First, it isn’t clear whether the rumor is even true. How many times does Aunt Sevvy have to remind you people to talk directly to others rather than making assumptions about them?
But I should also warn you that the Seventh-day Adventist Church doesn’t have a category for the seldom-drinker. We’ve taken the shortcut of saying that anyone who ingests alcohol in any quantity is sinning. But while the Bible is against drunkenness, the case against prohibition is less clear. Among other things: Jesus’ first miracle involved wine, and Paul advises Timothy to drink a little of that beverage now and then.
If the rumor is true, this is a hard decision for your nominating committee. He’s not an alcoholic, he’s trustworthy and kind and committed to the Lord. He is willing to volunteer for a position for which there doesn’t seem to be a line around the block. Aunt Sevvy believes a beer in the privacy of one’s own home is hardly something to raise an alarm about. Auntie has seen church volunteers who are unkind, irresponsible, or incompetent—yet they wouldn’t for those reasons be struck off the list immediately as some would do to this man.
Yet this beer thing seems to be common knowledge. So what happens when someone makes it into a big, ugly, public stink? We have people among us who will do that.
Auntie wishes we Adventists had finer discernment for situations like this. But for all the value we say we place on clear minds and good reasoning, subtle discernment isn’t an Adventist strength. We generally make quick, hard judgments, based on a few things we think we know—whether or not they’re true.
Aunt Sevvy wishes she could give you a more encouraging answer—but Auntie knows her people.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.