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REH417: SDA Church History


REH417: SDA Church History Lecture 22: Seventh-day Adventists & War The Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded by pacifists. Some early Adventists believed that to ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: REH417: SDA Church History

REH417 SDA Church History
  • Lecture 22 Seventh-day Adventists War

  • The Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded by
    pacifists. Some early Adventists believed that to
    even touch a weapon was sinful. While most
    Seventh-day Adventists favoured the abolitionist
    cause, the Civil War was not seen as their
    struggle. In 1862, James White reminded readers
    of the Review Herald that involvement in war
    was incompatible with keeping the fourth the
    sixth commandments. He also pointed out that
    pacifism could be taken to far, and once an
    individual was drafted, the government assumes
    the responsibility of the violation of the law of
    God, and it would be madness to resist.

  • Whites editorial caused an outcry from pacifist
    members like Henry Carver who argued that Whites
    position was illogical dangerous If the
    government can assume the responsibility now for
    the violation of two of the Ten Commandments,
    and we go clear, why may not the same government
    assume the responsibility for the violation of
    the Sabbath law and we go clear when the edict
    goes forth that all shall observe the first day
    of the week?
  • White did not make the argument again.

Ellen White commented on the Civil War I was
shown that Gods people...cannot engage in this
perplexing war, for it is opposed to every
principle of their faith. In the army they cannot
obey the truth and at the same time obey the
requirements of their officers. Testimonies I,
1863, 361.
Seventh-day Adventists usually chose to avoid the
draft by paying the standard commutation fee of
300, and churches helped poor members raise this
sum. When provision for noncombatant service was
passed in February 1864, the church initially
made no attempt to gain recognition as
noncombatants under the act because they were
generally using the commutation fee to avoid
service. Only in July of 1864, when the
privilege of buying commutation was restricted to
those recognized as conscientious objectors, did
the church act to secure such recognition for
itself. (Ron Graybill, This Perplexing War
Why Adventists avoided military service in the
Civil War. Insight, October 10, 1978, 6.)
There was never an agreed moral stance on
military service during the Civil War, but later,
the churchs policy was clarified as one of
noncombatancyhelped by an 1864 law that made
special provisions for those against bearing
arms. In 1864, the General Conference executive
Committee wrote to the governor of Michigan
stating The denomination of Christians calling
themselves Seventh-day Adventists, taking the
Bible as their rule of faith and practice, are
unanimous in their views that its teachings are
contrary to the spirit and practice of war
hence, they have ever been conscientiously
opposed to bearing arms. If there is any portion
of the Bible which we, as a people, can point to
more than any other as our creed, it is the law
of the ten commandments, which we regard as the
supreme law, and each precept of which we take in
its most obvious and literal import.
The fourth of these commandments requires
cessation from labor on the seventh day of the
week, the sixth prohibits the taking of life,
neither of which, in our view, could be observed
while doing military duty. Our practice has
uniformly been consistent with these principles.
Hence, our people have not felt free to enlist
into the service. In none of our denominational
publications have we advocated or encouraged the
practice of bearing arms, and, when drafted,
rather than violate our principles, we have been
content to pay, and assist each other in paying,
the 300 commutation money. The governor
replied I am satisfied that Seventh-day
Adventists are entitled to all the immunities
secured by law to those who are conscientiously
opposed to bearing arms, or engaging in
war. Similar letters were sent to other state
On May 23, 1865, the Review Herald published a
General Conference resolution (composed following
the civil war) stared that Seventh-day Adventists
are compelled to decline all participation in
acts of war and bloodshed as being inconsistent
with the duties enjoined upon us by our divine
Master toward our enemies and toward all
In 1886 Ellen White wrote from Europe concerning
the Draft You inquire in regard to the course
which should be pursued to secure the rights of
our people to worship according to the dictates
of our own conscience. This has been a burden of
my soul for some time, whether it would be a
denial of our faith and an evidence that our
trust was not fully in God. But I call to mind
many things God has shown me in the past in
regard to things of a similar character, as the
draft and other things. I can speak in the fear
of God, it is right we should use every power we
can to avert the pressure that is being brought
to bear upon our people.Letter 55, 1886.
That same year she wrote concerning compulsory
military training in Switzerland We have just
said farewell to three of our responsible men in
the office who were summoned by the government to
serve for three weeks of drill. It was a very
important stage of our work in the publishing
house, but the government calls do not
accommodate themselves to our convenience. They
demand that young men whom they have accepted as
soldiers shall not neglect the exercise and drill
essential for soldier service. We were glad to
see that these men with their regimentals had
tokens of honor for faithfulness in their work.
They were trustworthy young men. These did not go
from choice, but because the laws of their nation
required this. We gave them a word of
encouragement to be found true soldiers of the
cross of Christ. Our prayers will follow these
young men, that the angels of God may go with
them and guard them from every temptation.Manusc
ript 33, 1886.
During the Spanish-American War of 1898-1899,
Seventh-day Adventists continued their pacifist
stance. Former Army Sergeant A. T. Jones stated,
Christian love demands that its possessor shall
not make war at all.Christians are one sort of
people warriors are another and different sort
of people. Percy Magan criticized American
foreign policy in his book The Peril of the
Republic, pointing out that American actions in
the Philippines were an example of colonial
greed and rapacious lust. Magan argued that it
would be better for a few missionaries to lose
their lives at the hands of heathen savages than
for heathen savages to lose their lives at the
hands of those calling themselves Christians.
Importantly, Seventh-day Adventist critiques of
American foreign policy at this time were
eschatologically focussed. America was viewed as
the beast of Revelation 1311-16. Then I saw
another beast which rose out of the earth it had
two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.
It exercises all the authority of the first beast
in its presence, and makes the earth and its
inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal
wound was healed. It works great signs, even
making fire come down from heaven to earth in the
sight of men and by the signs which it is
allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it
deceives those who dwell on earth, bidding them
make an image for the beast which was wounded by
the sword and yet lived and it was allowed to
give breath to the image of the beast so that the
image of the beast should even speak, and to
cause those who would not worship the image of
the beast to be slain.
The outbreak of WWI in 1914 brought new
problemsparticularly for Seventh-day Adventists
in Europe. European church leaders had not
attempted to acquaint their governments with the
Seventh-day Adventist position on military
servicemany governments, (including Russia
Germany) made no provision for conscientious
objectors. Faced with this reality, on August
14, 1914almost immediately after the outbreak of
war, the president of the East German Conference
informed the German War Ministry that
conscripted Seventh-day Adventists would bear
arms as combatants and would render service on
the Sabbath in defense of their country.
Despite this being in direct opposition to the
stance taken by the General Conference, many
German Seventh-day Adventists complied with the
policy. Many of those who disagreed with the
stance of the German church and refused to bear
arms were expelled from the church. There were
about 4,000 Adventists in Germany and other parts
of Europe that were disfellowshipped. Attempts at
reconciliation were made at the conclusion of the
war, and again in 1920 and 1922. Later the
Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement was
organized as a separate church on July 14-20,
In countries outside mainland Europe, Seventh-day
Adventists generally had an easier time. In
England, Seventh-day Adventists could be assigned
to the Noncombatant Corps without difficulty, but
faced public ridicule persecution. Many also
faced problems with Sabbath duty and were
imprisoned for their stand.
Seventh-day Adventist prisoners in Dartmoor
Prison, England. Back row from left Fred Cooper,
Albert Pond, Walter Marson, Ron Andrews, Claude
Blenco, ?, Rutherford. Front row Davies, ?, Jack
Howard, and Hector Bull.
Similar situations existed in Australia, New
Zealand, Canada. In South Africa, the refusal
of Seventh-day Adventists to work on Sabbath
resulted in prison sentences, but paved the way
for a change in policy. (See Francis M. Wilcox,
Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War, 318-323.)
The US did not enter the war until 1917, however,
alert to the possibility of American involvement,
the General Conference did advise Seventh-day
Adventists to volunteer for a medical role if
drafted and the church established several
training centres in the US to prepare members for
such service. Following Americas declaration of
war, the General Conference executive met to
decide what the churchs response would be. The
committee ratified the Churchs positions of 1864
1865noncombatancy and lodged this statement
with the US War Department. While provision was
made for conscientious objectors, the rules were
not well known unevenly applied.
Because Conscientious Objectors could be assigned
to the Medical, Quartermaster, or Engineering
Corps, keeping the Sabbath was still a problem
for some Seventh-day Adventist soldiers. A
request to release Seventh-day Adventist soldiers
from Sabbath duty was refused by the army in
1917 however, this decision was reversed less
than a year later, and Seventh-day Adventist
soldiers were released from unnecessary Sabbath
duties. In the course of the war however, nearly
200 Seventh-day Adventist soldiers were
court-martialled for failing to obey orders.
(Some Seventh-day Adventists draftees had refused
to perform any type of military service.) Many
were sentenced to long terms of jailin one case
99 years of hard labour. Most Adventists were
released at the end of the war on November 11,
1918, some total pacifists however, were not
released until May 1919.
Following WWI, the Seventh-day Adventist
commitment to not taking life remained, yet
church leaders increasingly referred to
Adventists as conscientious co-operators
Refusing to be called conscientious objectors,
Seventh-day Adventists desire to be known as
conscientious co-operators. (Review and Herald,
1941. Quoted in Ron Lawson, Onward Christian
Soldiers? The Issue of Military Service Within
International Adventism. Review of Religious
Research, 373 (1996), 97-122. The medical
training undertaken in America had assisted
American Seventh-day Adventist draftees to gain
positions in the Army Medical Corps. In 1939, as
war broke out in Europe, the church in the US
established a formal training program, the
Seventh-day Adventist Medical Cadet Corps.
Seventh-day Adventist Medical Cadets Training
However, the Seventh-day Adventist noncombatancy
stand was already being compromised again in
Germany, where Adventists praised Hitler and his
National Socialists with enthusiasm, and many
conscripts bore arms willingly even though they
had been accorded the right to opt for orderly or
medical duties. Seventh-day Adventists attempted
to distance themselves from the Jews by labelling
the Sabbath the Rest day and Sabbath School as
Bible School. In so doing they sharply reduced
the tension between their church and the state,
surviving untouched in spite of the similarity of
several of their beliefs and practices to
Judaism. Their experience was in marked contrast
to that of the Reformed Adventists and the
Jehovahs Witnesses, who suffered greatly, often
to death, because of their unswerving commitment
to their pacifist positions.
Nevertheless, during World War II the General
Conference affirmed once more that throughout
their history Seventh-day Adventists have been
noncombatants...the noncombatant position thus based on deep religious
conviction. (Quoted in Ron Lawson, Onward
Christian Soldiers? The Issue of Military
Service Within International Adventism. Review
of Religious Research, 373 (1996), 97-122.) Some
12,000 American Adventists served during World
War II as non-combatants in medical branches of
the services. Church leaders were especially
proud of their military heroes such as Desmond
Doss, whose bravery earned him a Congressional
Medal of Honor.
Desmond Doss receiving the Congressional Medal of
Honor from President Harry Truman.
When the war was over, the immediate incentive
for the Medical Cadet Corps was no longer
present, and in most places the training was
dropped. A few schools continued to offer it,
among them Union College. In 1950, the General
Conferencein view of the war brewing in
Koreareactivated the Seventh-day Adventist
Medical Cadet Corps. Soon Seventh-day Adventist
Medical Cadet Corps were founded in many
countries around the world Canada, Brazil, Cuba,
Puerto Rico, Dominica, Cuba, Lebanon, Japan,
Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines.
During the Korean War, conscripted American
Adventists served in large numbers in medical
units. The major innovation during this time was
the appointment by the church of military
chaplains, who were paid by the armed forces and
had military careers. During World War II the
General Conference had refused to endorse
Adventist clergy for such posts, which had had
the effect of keeping them from being appointed.
However, it now not only agreed to endorse them,
but also to give financial aid to some would-be
chaplains in order to help with their ministerial
training and to ordain them immediately on
graduation, since this was necessary for their
appointment as chaplains, rather than having them
wait several years, as was the normal procedure
with Adventist clergy.
South Korean Adventists were also taught during
the Korean War that it was the churchs position
not to undergo military training with armsa
position that was reinforced by visiting General
Conference officials. Consequently, following the
American model, the Adventist college there gave
basic medical training to those expecting to be
drafted, who then asked the authorities to assign
them to medical units or other non-combatant
positions where they did not have to bear arms.
But not all were able to obtain such positions,
and the unlucky ones sometimes found themselves
with an unsympathetic commander who would not
respect their religious restrictions. Two of
these were executed at the front line during the
war when they refused to bear arms, and about 100
Adventists were sent to prison for as long as 7
years during the 1950s and 1960s for failure to
obey orders concerning arms or Sabbath
activities many more were beaten or otherwise
In 1954, following the Korean War, the General
Conference, session voted a statement which both
confirmed the traditional noncombatant position
and provided for it to be included in the Church
Manual as a fundamental belief throughout the
world field The breaking out of war among men
in no way alters the Christians supreme
allegiance and responsibility to God or modifies
his obligation to practice his beliefs and put
God first. This partnership with God through
Jesus Christ, who came into this world not to
destroy mens lives but to save them, causes
Seventh-day Adventists to take a noncombatant
position, following their divine master in not
taking human life, but rendering all possible
service to save it. In their accepting the
obligations of citizenship, as well as its
benefits, their loyalty to government requires
them to serve the state in any noncombatant
capacity...asking only that they may serve in
those capacities which do not violate their
conscientious convictions.
However, when the next edition of the Church
Manual was being readied for printing in 1959,
the General Conference Committee voted to omit
the above statement from it. Church leaders were
becoming more aware of the problems of observing
non-combatancy within many portions of the world
church, and some felt it would be inhumane to
discipline members in such situationsa likely
result of including the position among the
fundamental beliefs of the church.
Nevertheless, in 1963 when the Executive
Committee of the General Conference voted a
statement which was intended to inform military
officers of the Adventist position as American
involvement in Vietnam was increasing, it
affirmed once more that Seventh-day
Adventists...are noncombatants.
In 1954 US Army Surgeon General contacted the
General Conference seeking approval for the Army
to ask Adventist draftees to volunteer for a
research program designed especially for them
which would contribute significantly to the
nation's health and security. Theodore Flaiz,
Secretary of the Medical Department of the
General Conference, responded positively If any
one should recognize a debt of loyalty and
service for the many courtesies and
considerations received from the Department of
Defence, we, as Adventists, are in a position to
feel a debt of gratitude for these kind
considerations. This resulted in the formation
of Project Whitecoat, under which volunteers
from among drafted Adventist non-combatant
servicemen participated as guinea pigs in
biological warfare research for the U.S. Army at
Fort Detrick, Maryland. Thanks to the
enthusiastic encouragement of the General
Conference, 2,200 Adventists participated in the
program between 1955 and 1973.
Project Whitecoat became especially attractive in
the mid-1960s, when the majority of draftees
received assignments to Vietnam. Despite the
lofty ideals of service proclaimed by some
volunteers, the majority of Adventists
volunteered for medical research for more
pragmatic reasonprimarily the desire to stay in
the United States. The Seventh-day Adventist
Whitecoat volunteers participated in experiments
involving the study of biological warfareboth in
an offensive and defensive capacity. (See Krista
Thompson Smith, Adventists and Biological
Warfare Spectrum 253 (1996), 35-50.)
By the 1950s, American Seventh-day Adventists had
become militant patriots. They scorned
conscientious objectors, who refused to be
involved with the military in any manner and
opted for alternative service when drafted.
Carlyle B. Haynes, the director of the General
Conference National Service Organization, was
quoted by Time in 1950 We despise the term
conscientious objector and we despise the
philosophy back of it... We are not pacifists,
and we believe in force for justices sake, but a
Seventh-day Adventist cannot take a human
life. (Quoted in Ron Lawson, Onward Christian
Soldiers? The Issue of Military Service Within
International Adventism. Review of Religious
Research, 373 (1996), 97-122.)
In the late 1960s, many Seventh-day Adventist
drafteesinfluenced by the growing antiwar
movementwere choosing to register as pacifists
rather than as non-combatants. In response, the
Annual Council of the General Conference voted in
1969 that such Adventists should be told that the
historic teaching of the church was
non-combatancy and urged to consider this first.
When disagreement and debate on the military
issue persisted among American Adventists, the
General Conference formed a Study Committee on
Military Service in 1971. This large committee
received and debated many papers, and remained
deeply divided. When Annual Council took up the
matter in 1972, it chose to include both the
militant patriots and the pacifists, declaring
that military service was a matter of individual
conscience. Its vehicle in this was the statement
on military obligations voted by the General
Conference Session in 1954, which it transformed
by adding to it a new ending This statement is
not a rigid position binding church members but
gives them guidance, leaving the individual
member free to assess the situation for himself.
Adventism in America had backed away from the
serious teaching of non-combatancy through
Sabbath Schools, youth programming and the church
school system. When the U.S. switched to a
volunteer army in 1973, recruiters began
emphasizing educational and vocational benefits
that appealed to lower-SES racial minorities,
including many Adventists. These began to
volunteer for military service (an act which
removed the non-combatant option available to
draftees) in unprecedented numbers. The church
now directed its main effort into chaplaincy, and
by 1992 the Adventist chaplaincy corps had grown
to a total of 44.
  • Within the US in the 1990s, military recruiters
    come to Adventist school campuses, and school and
    university bulletin boards display posters
    advertising the benefits of service in the armed
    forces. It is not surprising, then, that most
    young Adventist adults are unaware of the strong
    pacifist thread in the fabric of Adventist
    history. In contrast with earlier generations,
    many young Adventists have enlisted, thereby
    agreeing to kill Americas enemies if ordered to
    do so.

The office of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries
estimated the total number of military personnel
listing Seventh-day Adventist as their religious
preferencethat is, of Adventist backgroundas
6-8,000 in 1991, and that 2,000 of these
participated in the Gulf War. One Adventist
Marine, the son of a conference youth leader, was
the only survivor when his tank was hit by
friendly fire interviews. According to Charles
Scriven, Adventist attitudes became much more
openly jingoistic during the Gulf War Not only
have Adventist volunteer soldiers been to the
Persian Gulf and back they have come home to
welcoming applause in Sabbath worship services
and patriotic accolades in the churchs
publications. (Should Christians Bear Arms?,
Adventist Review, June 13, 1991.)
A number of countries still have compulsory
military service. These include Switzerland,
Israel, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and South
Korea. Seventh-day Adventist face difficulties
gaining non-combatant status in many of these
countries and may still have difficulties with
Sabbath work.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz and his wife
  • In 2001, US Marine Joel Klimkewicz began
    attending a Bible-study with Chaplain (Lt.)
    Santiago Rodriguez, a Seventh-day Adventist
    minister. As a result Klimkewicz asked for and
    received a generic Christian baptism. Then he
    began asking the chaplain about his own
    denomination. Rodriguez directed Klimkewicz to
    the Jacksonville SDA Church, where he is now a
    member. In January 2004, soon after re-enlisting,
    Klimkewicz had discovered arguments in favour of
    conscientious objection to bearing arms. In
    April, while his request for reconsideration was
    pending, he refused an order to take up a weapon
    during a training exercise. Deciding that
    Klimkewicz was simply attempting to avoid being
    posted to Iraq, the military ordered him
    court-martialled, and on Tuesday, December 14,
    2004, he was found guilty of disobeying the order
    of a superior officer. He was sentenced to seven
    months imprisonment reduced in rank to E-1, the
    lowest possible rank ordered to forfeit all pay
    and benefits while incarcerated and given a bad
    conduct discharge.

General Conference President Jan Paulsen recently
pointed out that The historic position of our
church regarding service in the armed forces was
clearly expressed some 150 years agovery early
on in our history, against the background of the
American Civil War. The consensus, expressed in
articles and documents of the time, as well as an
1867 General Conference resolution, was
unequivocal. The bearing of arms, or engaging
in war, is a direct violation of the teachings of
our Savior and the spirit and letter of the law
of God (1867, Fifth Annual General Conference
Session). This has, in broad terms, been our
guiding principle When you carry arms you imply
that you are prepared to use them to take
anothers life, and taking the life of one of
Gods children, even that of our enemy, is
inconsistent with what we hold to be sacred and
right. (Clear Thinking About Military Service,
Adventist World (March 2008), 8.)
REFERENCES I Malcolm Bull Keith Lockhart,
Seeking a Sanctuary 2nd Ed. Indiana University
Press, 2007, 273-289. Everett. N. Dick, The
Adventist Medical Cadet Corps As Seen by its
Founder. Adventist Heritage, 12, (1974) 18-27.
Ron Graybill, This Perplexing War Why
Adventists avoided military service in the Civil
War. Insight, October 10, 1978, 4-8. Ronald
Lawson, Onward Christian Soldiers? The Issue of
Military Service Within International Adventism.
Review of Religious Research, 373 (1996), 97-122.
REFERENCES II Douglas Morgan (Editor), The
Peacemaking Remnant, Adventist Peace Fellowship,
2005. Jan Paulsen, Clear Thinking About Military
Service Adventist World (March 2008),
8-10. Richard W. Schwartz Floyd Greenleaf,
Lightbearers. Rev. Ed. Mountain View Pacific
Press, 2000, 499-517. Krista Thompson Smith,
Adventists and Biological Warfare Spectrum
253 (1996), 35-50. Francis M. Wilcox,
Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War, Review and
Herald, 1936. Origin of the Seventh Day
Adventist Reform Movement http//
rigin.htm Seventh-day Adventists in the Vietnam
War http//
This PowerPoint presentation has been produced by
Jeff Crocombe for a class on SDA Church history
at Helderberg College in Semester 1, 2008. It
should not be used without giving credit to its
compiler, nor reproduced in any way without
permission. You may contact Jeff Crocombe at