Seventh Day Adventist Church - Adventist

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (also known as "Adventist") is a Protestant Christian denomination that holds Saturday as the Sabbath (the "seventh day") whereas nearly all other Christian denominations hold Sunday as Sabbath. This denomination grew out of the Millerite movement in the United States in 1863. Among its founders was Ellen G. White, whose extensive writings are held in high regard by the church. The Adventists are Trinitarian and biblical, similar in many respects to other protestant evangelical denominations, apart from the Sabbath observance. Other specific Adventist teachings include the unconscious state of the dead, the doctrine of an investigative judgment, emphasis on diet and health,  and promotion of religious liberty. It is generally considered a culturally conservative church.

The world church is governed by a General Conference; smaller regions administered by divisions, union conferences and local conferences. It currently has a worldwide membership of over 14 million people, has a missionary presence in over 200 countries and is ethnically and culturally diverse. The church operates numerous schools, hospitals and publications worldwide, as well as a prominent humanitarian aid organization known as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

Seventh-Day Adventist Church History
The Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of the Millerite movement of the 1840s which was a revival in the United States known as the 'Second Great Awakening' and originated with William Miller, a Baptist preacher from New York. Miller predicted (on the basis of Daniel 8:14)
that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on October 22, 1844. Miller used  the "day-year principle" to arrive at this. When the Second Coming failed to occur most of his following disbanded and returned to their original churches. Following the "Great Disappointment" (as it came to be known), some Millerites came to believe that Miller's predictions were correct, but that his interpretation of Daniel 8:14 was flawed.  These Adventists believed that Daniel 8:14 foretold Christ's entrance into the "Most Holy Place" of the heavenly sanctuary rather than his Second Coming to Earth. This theology developed into the doctrine of  'Investigative judgment':  where Christians will be judged to determine their eligibility for salvation. The Adventists still believe that Christ's second coming is due, but no longer predict dates for the event.


Saturday Sabbath
Early in the Adventist movement questions about the biblical day of rest and worship surfaced. Retired sea captain Joseph Bates was introduced to the "Seventh Day" Sabbath doctrine by Thomas M. Preble a Millerite preacher, who himself had been influenced by Rachel Oakes Preston, a young Seventh Day Baptist. Bates is attributed to the Saturday Sabbath doctrine of the Adventists, which was first published in 1849 in the church's first edition of its church publication called 'The Present Truth' (now called the 'Adventist Review').


Organization and recognition
At first the Adventist movement was a loose knit group who shared beliefs on the Sabbath, the "heavenly sanctuary" interpretation of Daniel 8:14, conditional immortality and the expectation of Christ's return (this time predicted as happening by the year 2000). Prominent were James S. White, Ellen G. White and Joseph Bates. Ellen White came to be principal leader, her many visions and strong leadership convinced her fellow Adventists that she possessed the gift of prophecy. A formally organized church called the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was established in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA, on May 23, 1863, with an initial membership of 3,500. Through the evangelistic work of its ministers, members and the leadership of Ellen G. White, the church quickly grew and soon established a presence beyond North America. In 1903, the denominational headquarters were moved to Maryland, USA. In its early years the Adventist church was dominated by Arianism (see Unitarian Church page). This reluctance to hold the Trinity and the movement's other unique theological views, meant other Christian denominations regarded it as a sect. When the Adventist church adopted the Trinity in 1908 and later began dialogue with other Protestant groups at the time of the second world war, the Adventists gradually became recognised as an "orthodox" Christian denomination.


Beliefs
The official teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination are expressed in its 'Twenty Eight Fundamental Beliefs'. This statement of beliefs was adopted by the General Conference in 1980, with belief number 11 being added in 2005. Acceptance of either of the church's two baptismal vows is a prerequisite for membership. Adventist teaching is similar to many protestant denominations such as the infallibility of Scripture, the Trinity, the substitutionary atonement, the resurrection of the dead and justification by faith alone. They also hold to baptism by immersion and creation in six days (
in common with certain other Christian churches).

There is a generally recognized set of "distinctive" doctrines which distinguish Adventism from the rest of the Christian world, although these teachings are not 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, i.e. 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. Holistic human nature (fundamental beliefs 7, 26) - Humans are an indivisible unity of body, mind and spirit. They do not possess an immortal soul, and death is an unconscious sleep (which Adventists call "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 theory 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 is worthy of salvation, and vindicate God 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 Diversity
A variety of groups, movements or subcultures within the church exists, as in any denomination, representing different viewpoints on beliefs and lifestyle.

The conservative end of the theological spectrum is represented by "Historic Adventists", who are opposed to recent (post 1950) theological trends within the denomination. They tend to view modern Adventist theology as a compromise with evangelicalism, and defend older teachings such as the fallen nature of Jesus Christ, incomplete atonement, and character perfectionism. Historic Adventism is represented mainly at the "grassroots" level and is often promoted through independent ministries, but has considerably less support among Adventist scholarship.

The "liberal" elements in the church are known as "Progressive Adventists" (but they do not identify with liberal Christianity). They hold a "modernized" view on issues like the inspiration of the founder Ellen White, the doctrine of the "remnant" and the investigative judgment. This progressive movement is strong amongst the scholarship of the denomination, and finds expression in the Association of Adventist Forums and in journals such as Spectrum and Adventist Today.


Adventist organizations
The Biblical Research Institute is the official theological college of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church has two professional organizations for Adventist theologians: The Adventist Society for Religious Studies (ASRS) was formed to foster community among Adventist theologians who attend the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion. The Adventist Theological Society was formed in 1983 to provide a forum for more conservative theologians to meet and is held in conjunction with the Evangelical Theological Society.

Sabbath activities
To keep the Sabbath, Adventists abstain from secular work and business on Saturday, from purely secular forms of recreation, such as competitive sport and watching non-religious programmes on television. Worship, nature walks, family-oriented activities and charitable work are accepted. Much of Friday may be spent preparing for the Sabbath—for example, preparing meals and tidying homes. Some Adventists meet for Friday evening worship to welcome in the Sabbath, a practice often known as Vespers.
Saturday afternoon activities vary widely and in some churches, members and visitors will participate in a fellowship lunch.

Worship service
The principal weekly worship services occur on Saturday (the Sabbath), often 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 series of particular biblical texts or doctrines. Special meetings are provided for children and youth in different age groups during this time (like Sunday school in other churches). Then the groups join together for a church service that follows a typical protestant evangelical format, with a sermon, hymn singing, Scripture readings, prayers and a money collection (or offering). The instruments and forms of worship music vary greatly throughout the worldwide church. Many youth-focused churches in the Western world have a contemporary Christian music style, whereas other churches enjoy more traditional hymns (official hymnbook: Adventist Hymnal). Many churches hold week day services too, but do not open their churches at all on a Sunday, to do so would dilute their Sabbath beliefs.


Holy Communion
Adventists usually practice Holy Communion four times a year. The communion is open to members and Christian non-members alike. It commences with a feet washing ceremony, known as the "Ordinance of Humility", based on John 13, and symbolizes 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, using unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice.


Links
Seventh Day Adventist Church Headquarters
Seventh Day Adventist Church UK

Seventh Day Adventist Church AsiaPacific

Seventh Day Adventist Church Singapore
Seventh Day Adventist Network