The executive committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists met this week, and among its actions was approval of a statement, Safeguarding Mission in Changing Social Environments. It’s meant to address problems that may face the church and its institutions in the wake of legislation that reflects changed societal views, for example, changed legal definitions of marriage.
Legislation concerning employment practices represents one area in which Seventh-day Adventist values and beliefs may be subject to challenge. For example: societies may establish laws providing new definitions for marriage or protecting a range of expressions and behavior associated with gender identity. Seventh-day Adventists believe that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship and that the Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or lifestyle. The Church does not accept the idea of same-sex marriages nor does it condone homosexual practices or advocacy. The application and practice of these beliefs in cultures that adopt other norms for such relationships is likely to be a focal point of dispute.
In many countries, the Church enjoys freedom of religious expression and the opportunity to exercise preferential hiring practices. However, numerous offices and institutions exist in areas where, except for purely ecclesiastical roles, preferential hiring practices are not permitted. Wisdom and careful judgment is required in order that the witness of the Church is not muted by its actions nor is the opportunity to bear witness compromised by the needless arousal of opposition.
The statement provides principles for denominational institutions and personnel to follow in such times.