• Latest statement: “Claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities.”
    • “If we use our religious liberty resources in such personal decision advocacy efforts, we believe that we will weaken our religious liberty stance in the eyes of the government and the public.”
    • “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not opposed to public safety and government health mandates.”

08 November 2021 | Recently, the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church produced another document regarding the virus COVID-19.

Perhaps the most important distinction of the Church’s latest COVID document is the addition of its legal stance on COVID-19 matters; particularly religious liberty and government mandates on vaccines. (Notably, the document was produced in conjunction with two departments that deal with legal matters: the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department (PARL) and the General Conference Office of General Counsel.)

Specifically: “The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not advocate for religious exemptions to vaccination on either a global or national basis.” (sic)

“Claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities,” the document said.

The latest statement comes in the wake of U.S. government mandates for vaccination against COVID-19,  and pushback from prominent Adventists like Ben Carson and lay-led Adventist organizations like the Liberty and Health Alliance.

“If we use our religious liberty resources in such personal decision advocacy efforts, we believe that we will weaken our religious liberty stance in the eyes of the government and the public,” said the document.

However, the document also said that “the Church’s religious liberty leaders will do what they can to provide support and counsel on a personal basis, not as a Church position, even at times assisting members in writing their own personal accommodation requests to employers and others.”

But in such situations, the Church will often “not wish its support or advocacy for the member to be reflected in public correspondence or communications.”

The current document also reaffirms much of what was in the immunization statement from April 2015 and the information on the COVID-19 vaccines shared in December 2020.

All three statements promoted “responsible immunization,” “herd immunity (pre-existing community immunity of approximately 80 percent of individuals as a result of previous infection and/or vaccination),” and really, really stressed that “THE DECISION TO BE IMMUNIZED OR NOT IS THE CHOICE OF EACH INDIVIDUAL” (sic.)

Also notable is the repetition in most of the statements that vaccines are not a mark of the beast, revealing a real concern among some members of the denomination.

Some highlights from all 3 statements:

Immunization statement from April 2015

    • “We encourage responsible immunization/vaccination, and have no religious or faith-based reason not to encourage our adherents to responsibly participate in protective and preventive immunization programs.”
    • “We value the health and safety of the population, which includes the maintenance of “herd immunity.”
    • “We are not the conscience of the individual church member, and recognize individual choices.”
    • “The choice not to be immunized is not and should not be seen as the dogma or the doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”

COVID-19 Vaccines: Addressing Concerns, Offering Counsel (Dec. 22, 2020)

    • Ellen White “modeled practical prevention in the face of the lethal disease in her era, smallpox, and took the immunization herself, as did those close to her.”
    • Vaccines are not a literal “mark of the beast.”
    • “The abiding biblical instructions forbidding the consumption of unclean food and blood (Lev 11:1–20; 17:11–12; Acts 15:20) do not apply to vaccines for the obvious reason that vaccines are produced as medication to save lives, not to serve as food.”
    • “Hopefully an effective vaccine will help to bring the current pandemic to a halt.”
    • The mRNA vaccine does not change your DNA.
    • The answer for the question, “Is the vaccine safe?” seemed a bit nebulous: “We are two months into a two-year study. Data is being carefully monitored.”
    • “We are encouraging our members to consider responsible immunization and the promotion and facilitation of the development of what is commonly termed herd immunity (pre-existing community immunity of approximately 80 percent of individuals as a result of previous infection and/or vaccination).”
    • But: THE DECISION TO BE IMMUNIZED OR NOT IS THE CHOICE OF EACH INDIVIDUAL, AND SHOULD BE TAKEN IN CONSULTATION WITH ONE’S HEALTH-CARE PROVIDER (emphasis theirs).

Reaffirming the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Response to COVID-19 (Oct. 25, 2021)

    • This document was produced by six different entities, two of which deal with legal matters: General Conference Administration, Biblical Research Institute, General Conference Health Ministries, PARL, General Conference Office of General Counsel, and Loma Linda University Health. The December 2020 statement was produced by only three entities.
    • There’s a shout-out to NEWSTART. Nice.
    • “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.”
    • “As a denomination, we have advocated the synergy of a healthy lifestyle and responsible immunization for more than one hundred years.”
    • “In the light of the global magnitude of the pandemic, the deaths, disability, and long-term COVID-19 effects that are emerging in all age groups, we encourage our members to consider responsible immunization and the promotion and facilitation of the development of what is commonly termed herd immunity (pre-existing community immunity of approximately 80 percent of the population or more as a result of previous infection and/or vaccination).”
    • “The immunity conferred by both the natural infection and the vaccine are time limited and the administration of “booster” doses may be needed. Acquiring a booster shot, upon recommendation from one’s health care provider, may further promote personal and public health. The need for such a booster shot does not indicate the “failure” of a vaccine but reflects the nature of antibody levels that may drop over time.”
    • “The decision whether to take the vaccine or not is not a matter of salvation, nor is it related, as some may suggest, to the mark of the beast.”
    • “In weighing the various options, we should also take into consideration that the benefits of vaccination extend beyond oneself and help to protect the local and global community at large.”
    • “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not opposed to public safety and government health mandates.”
    • BUT: “When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, we believe individuals have the right to state and defend their conviction whether to be vaccinated or not.”
    • “We recognize that at times our members will have personal concerns and even conscientious convictions that go beyond the teachings and positions of the Church. In these cases, the Church’s religious liberty leaders will do what they can to provide support and counsel on a personal basis, not as a Church position, even at times assisting members in writing their own personal accommodation requests to employers and others.”
    • “To avoid confusion, however, about the Church’s own positions, it will often be the case that in such circumstances the Church will not wish its support or advocacy for the member to be reflected in public correspondence or communications.”
    • “Claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities.”
    • If we use our religious liberty resources in such personal decision advocacy efforts, we believe that we will weaken our religious liberty stance in the eyes of the government and the public.
    • The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not advocate for religious exemptions to vaccination on either a global or national basis, based on its understanding of both the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, and as expressed in this statement. (sic)

(Photo: Ganoune Diop, director of PARL, is seen in this photo taken during Religious Liberty Sabbath 2021. PARL helped develop the latest statement of the Adventist Church on COVID-19 vaccinations. Photo via PARL Facebook.)

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