Adventist doctrine resembles Trinitarian Protestant theology, with premillennial and Arminian emphases. Adventists uphold teachings such as the infallibility of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, the resurrection of the dead and justification by faith alone, and are therefore often considered evangelical. They believe in baptism by immersion and creation in six literal days. The modern Creationist movement started with Adventist George McCready Price, who was inspired by a vision of Ellen White.

 

There is a generally recognized set of "distinctive" doctrines which distinguish Adventism from the rest of the Christian world, although not all of these teachings are wholly unique to Adventism:

·         Law (fundamental belief 19)—the Law of God is "embodied in the Ten Commandments", which continue to be binding upon Christians.

·         Sabbath (fundamental belief 20)—the Sabbath should be observed on the seventh day of the week, specifically, from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

·         Second Coming and End times (fundamental beliefs 25–28)—Jesus Christ will return visibly to earth after a "time of trouble", during which the Sabbath will become a worldwide test. The second coming will be followed by a millennial reign of the saints in heaven. Adventist eschatology is based on the historicist method of prophetic interpretation.

·         Wholistic human nature (fundamental beliefs 7, 26)—Humans are an indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit. They do not possess an immortal soul and there is no consciousness after death (commonly referred to as "soul sleep").

·         Conditional immortality (fundamental belief 27)—The wicked will not suffer eternal torment in hell, but instead will be permanently destroyed.

·         Great Controversy (fundamental belief 8)—Humanity is involved in a "great controversy" between Jesus Christ and Satan. This is an elaboration on the common Christian belief that evil began in heaven when an angelic being (Lucifer) rebelled against the Law of God.

·         Heavenly sanctuary (fundamental belief 24)—At his ascension, Jesus Christ commenced an atoning ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. In 1844, he began to cleanse the heavenly sanctuary in fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.

·         Investigative Judgment (fundamental belief 24)—A judgment of professed Christians began in 1844, in which the books of record are examined for all the universe to see. The investigative judgment will affirm who will receive salvation, and vindicate God in the eyes of the universe as just in his dealings with mankind.

·         Remnant (fundamental belief 13)—There will be an end-time remnant who keep the commandments of God and have "the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17). This remnant proclaims the "three angels' messages" of Revelation 14:6–12 to the world.

·         Spirit of Prophecy (fundamental belief 18)—The ministry of Ellen G. White is commonly referred to as the "Spirit of Prophecy" and her writings are considered "a continuing and authoritative source of truth", though ultimately subject to the Bible.

 

Theological spectrum

The conservative end of the theological spectrum is represented by historic Adventists, who are characterized by their opposition to theological trends within the denomination, beginning in the 1950s. They object to theological compromises with evangelicalism, and seek to defend what they consider to be traditional Adventist teachings such as the human post-fall nature of Jesus Christ, an investigative judgment, and character perfectionism. Historic Adventism is represented by some scholars, is also seen at the grassroots level of the church and is often promoted through independent ministries.

 

The most liberal elements in the church are typically known as progressive Adventists.They tend to disagree with more traditional views concerning the inspiration of Ellen White, the doctrine of the remnant and the investigative judgment. The progressive movement is supported by some scholars and finds expression in bodies such as the Association of Adventist Forums and in journals such as Spectrum and Adventist Today.

 

Sabbath activities

·        To keep the weekly Sabbath holy, Adventists abstain from secular work on Saturday. They will also usually refrain from purely secular forms of recreation, such as competitive sport and watching non-religious programs on television. However, nature walks, family-oriented activities, charitable work and other activities that are compassionate in nature are encouraged.

·        Much of Friday might be spent in preparation for the Sabbath; for example, preparing meals and tidying homes. Some Adventists gather for Friday evening worship to welcome in the Sabbath, a practice often known as Vespers.

·        Saturday afternoon activities vary widely depending on the cultural, ethnic and social background. In some churches, members and visitors will participate in a fellowship (or "potluck") lunch and AYS (Adventist Youth Service).

 

Worship service

The major weekly worship service occurs on Saturday, typically commencing with Sabbath School which is a structured time of small-group study at church. Most Adventists make use of an officially produced "Sabbath School Lesson", which deals with a particular biblical text or doctrine every quarter. Special meetings are provided for children and youth in different age groups during this time (analogous to Sunday school in other churches).

 

After a brief break, the community joins together again for a church service that follows a typical evangelical format, with a sermon as a central feature. Corporate singing, Scripture readings, prayers and an offering, including tithing (or money collection), are other standard features. The instruments and forms of worship music vary greatly throughout the worldwide church.[31] Some churches in North America have a contemporary Christian music style, whereas other churches enjoy more traditional hymns including those found in the Adventist Hymnal. Worship is known to be generally restrained.

 

Holy Communion

Adventists usually practice communion four times a year. The communion is an open service that is available to members and Christian non-members. It commences with a foot washing ceremony, known as the "Ordinance of Humility", based on the Gospel account of John 13. The Ordinance of Humility is meant to symbolize Christ's washing of his disciples' feet at the Last Supper and remind participants of the need to humbly serve one another. Participants segregate by gender to separate rooms to conduct this ritual, although some congregations allow married couples to perform the ordinance on each other and families are often encouraged to participate together. After its completion, participants return to the main sanctuary for consumption of the Lord's Supper, which consists of unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice.

 

Health and diet

Since the 1860s when the church began, wholeness and health have been an emphasis of the Adventist church. Adventists are known for presenting a "health message" that recommends vegetarianism and expects adherence to the kosher laws in Leviticus 11. Obedience to these laws means abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other foods proscribed as "unclean". The church discourages its members from consuming alcoholic beverages, tobacco or illegal drugs (compare Christianity and alcohol). In addition, some Adventists avoid coffee, tea, cola, and other beverages containing caffeine.

 

The pioneers of the Adventist Church had much to do with the common acceptance of breakfast cereals into the Western diet, and the "modern commercial concept of cereal food" originated among Adventists.[33] John Harvey Kellogg was one of the early founders of Adventist health work. His development of breakfast cereals as a health food led to the founding of Kellogg's by his brother William. In both Australia and New Zealand, the church-owned Sanitarium Health Food Company is a leading manufacturer of health and vegetarian-related products, most prominently Weet-Bix.

 

Research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health has shown that the average Adventist in California lives 4 to 10 years longer than the average Californian. The research, as cited by the cover story of the November 2005 issue of National Geographic, asserts that Adventists live longer because they do not smoke or drink alcohol, have a day of rest every week, and maintain a healthy, low-fat vegetarian diet that is rich in nuts and beans. The cohesiveness of Adventists' social networks has also been put forward as an explanation of their extended lifespan.[36] Since Dan Buettner's 2005 National Geographic story about Adventist longevity, his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest, named Loma Linda, California a "blue zone" because of the large concentration of Seventh-day Adventists. He cites the Adventist emphasis on health, diet, and Sabbath-keeping as primary factors for Adventist longevity.

An estimated 35% of Adventists practice vegetarianism, according to a 2002 worldwide survey of local church leaders.[39][40]

 

Adventists' clean lifestyles were recognized by the U.S. military in 1954 when 2,200 Adventists volunteered for Operation Whitecoat to be human test subjects for a range of diseases the effects of which were still unknown:

 

The first task for the scientists was to find people willing to be infected by pathogens that could make them very sick. They found them in the followers of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Although willing to serve their country when drafted, the Adventists refused to bear arms. As a result many of them became medics. Now the U.S. was offering recruits an opportunity to help in a different manner: to volunteer for biological tests as a way of satisfying their military obligations. When contacted in late 1954, the Adventist hierarchy readily agreed to this plan. For Camp Detrick scientists, church members were a model test population, since most of them were in excellent health and they neither drank, smoked, nor used caffeine. From the perspective of the volunteers, the tests gave them a way to fulfill their patriotic duty while remaining true to their beliefs.

 

Ethics and sexuality

The official Adventist position on abortion is that "abortions for reasons of birth control, gender selection, or convenience are not condoned." At times, however, women may face exceptional circumstances that present serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman's life or health, severe congenital defects in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest; in these cases individuals are counseled to make their own decisions.

 

According to official statements from the General Conference, heterosexual marriages are the only biblically ordained grounds for sexual intimacy. Adventists do not perform same-sex marriages, and individuals who are openly homosexual cannot be ordained and may be disfellowshipped from the church membership. An extramarital affair is one of the sanctioned grounds for a divorce, although reconciliation is encouraged whenever possible. Adventists believe in and encourage abstinence for both men and women before marriage. The church disagrees with extra-marital cohabitation.[45] The New Testament texts are interpreted by some Adventists to teach that wives should submit to their husbands in marriage and that "husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it".

 

The Adventist church has released official statements in relation to other ethical issues such as euthanasia (against active euthanasia but permissive of passive withdrawal of medical support to allow death to occur), birth control (in favor of it for married couples if used correctly, but against abortion as birth control and premarital sex in any case) and human cloning (against it while the technology is unsafe and would result in defective births or abortions).

 

Dress and entertainment

Adventists have traditionally held socially conservative attitudes regarding dress and entertainment. These attitudes are reflected in one of the church's fundamental beliefs:

For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christ like purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.

 

Accordingly, many Adventists are opposed to practices such as body piercing and tattoos and refrain from the wearing of jewelry, including such items as earrings and bracelets. Some also oppose the displaying of wedding bands, although banning wedding bands is not the position of the General Conference. Conservative Adventists avoid certain recreational activities which are considered to be a negative spiritual influence, including dancing, rock music and secular theatre. However, major studies conducted from 1989 onwards found the majority of North American church youth reject some of these standards.

Some Adventists cite the writings of Ellen White, especially her books, Counsels on Diet and Foods, Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, and Education as inspired sources for Christian deportment. The Adventist church officially opposes the practice of gambling.

 

Organization: Structure and polity

The Seventh-day Adventist church is governed by a form of representation which resembles the Presbyterian system of church organization. Four levels of organization exist within the world church.

1.     The local church is the foundation level of organizational structure and is the public face of the denomination. Every baptized Adventist is a member of a local church and has voting powers within that church.

2.     Directly above the local church is the "local conference" or "local mission". The local conference/mission is an organization of churches within a state, province or territory (or part thereof) which appoints ministers, owns church land and organizes the distribution of tithes and payments to ministers.

3.     Above the local conference is the "union conference" or "union mission" which embodies a number of local conferences/missions within a larger territory.

4.     The highest level of governance within the church structure is the General Conference which consists of 13 "Divisions", each assigned to various geographic locations. The General Conference is the church authority and has the final say in matters of conjecture and administrative issues. The General Conference is headed by the office of President; in June 2010 Dr. Jan Paulsen retired leading to the selection of Dr. Ted N.C. Wilson by the General Conference Nominating Committee. The General Conference head office is in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Each organization is governed by a general "session" which occurs at certain intervals. This is usually when administrative decisions are made. The president of the General Conference, for instance, is elected at the General Conference Session every five years. Delegates to a session are appointed by organizations at a lower level. For example, each local church appoints delegates to a conference session.

 

The gathering together of local or regional church members along with experienced leaders has been valued as a source of unity. When these "sessions" take place, often presentations are scheduled to benefit the spiritual development of those in attendance.

 

Tithes collected from church members are not used directly by the local churches, but are passed upwards to the local conferences/missions which then distribute the finances toward various ministry needs. Within a geographic region, ministers receive roughly equal pay irrespective of the size of their church.

The Church Manual gives provisions for each level of government to create educational, healthcare, publishing, and other institutions that are seen within the call of the Great Commission.

 

Church officers and clergy

The ordained clergy of the Adventist church are known as ministers or pastors. Ministers are neither elected nor employed by the local churches, but instead are appointed by the local Conferences, which assign them responsibility over a single church or group of churches. Ordination is a formal recognition bestowed upon pastors and elders after usually a number of years of service. In most parts of the world, women may not be given the title "ordained", although some are employed in ministry, and may be "commissioned" or "ordained-commissioned". However, beginning in 2012, some unions adopted policies of allowing member conferences to ordain without regard to gender.

 

A number of lay offices exist within the local church, including the ordained positions of elder and deacon. Elders and deacons are appointed by the vote of a local church business meeting or elected committees. Elders serve a mainly administrative and pastoral role, but must also be capable of providing religious leadership (particularly in the absence of an ordained minister). The role of deacons is to assist in the smooth functioning of a local church and to maintain church property.

 

Ordination of women

Although the church has no written policy forbidding the ordination of women, it has traditionally ordained only men. In recent years the ordination of women has been the subject of heated debate, especially in North America and Europe. In the Adventist church, candidates for ordination are chosen by local conferences (which usually administer about 50-150 local congregations) and approved by unions (which serve about 6-12 conferences). The world headquarters—the General Conference—says that the GC has the right to set the worldwide qualifications for ordination, including gender requirements. GC leaders have never taken the position that ordination of women is contrary to the Bible, but they have insisted that no one ordain women until it is acceptable to all parts of the world church.

 

Membership

The primary prerequisite for membership in the Adventist church is baptism by immersion. This, according to the church manual, should only occur after the candidate has undergone proper instruction on what the church believes.

 

As of September 30, 2013, the church has 18,028,769 baptized members. In the last decade, around one million people per year have joined the Adventist church, through baptisms and professions of faith.

The church is one of the world's fastest-growing organizations, primarily due to increases in membership in the developing nations. Today, less than 7% of the world membership resides in the United States, with large numbers in Africa as well as Central and South America.