The Advance Conference: Jesus and the Church’s Health Ministry

Fortified by the evening meal they were enjoying, 100 persons met after the close of the One Project proper on Monday to consider how the church’s medical and gospel missions can “blend.” One mark of One Project idealism was that the event brochure defined “blending” as the making of “one new object in which the original entities are no longer distinguishable.”

The jaw-dropping part had to do with the question of assisted suicide.

The five speakers, all with jobs in healthcare, considered ministry to patients not just from the standpoint of Jesus’ own work but also from that of their own life stories. One was John Sackett, president of Shady Grove Hospital and Chief Operating Office of Adventist Healthcare in Maryland, who has far exceeded his expected lifetime as someone who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

Another was Mark B. Johnson, a physician and the executive director for Jefferson Country Public Health in Colorado, who shared a perspective on medical work shaped by the late A. Graham Maxwell’s understanding of God and the atonement. Still another was Michael Knecht, who recently became chief operating officer at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas, told a story about him and his new neighbors that underscored the importance of listening and asking questions.

Jason Wells, a vice president at Park Ridge Health in North Carolina, had been, with his family, the recipient of model care as he stood by his wife through an extremely dangerous pregnancy. Sandy Wyman Johnson, who directs “patient and family experience” for the Kettering Health Network in Ohio, drew from her long immersion not only in the perspective of Scripture and Ellen White but also of such writers as Rachel Naomi Remen, the physician pioneer of “relationship-centered care.”

Kirra Moser, who works for Peace Hospice Care in United Kingdom, took her assignment as opportunity to suggest, if not exactly argue, that assisted suicide may be an appropriate treatment under the most difficult of patient conditions. Her remarks include a video account, compressed into a harrowing minute, of an incurable disease that renders the sufferer pain-ravaged and unspeakably contorted, though still in possession of a healthy brain.

Moser’s perspective underscored the relevance of conversation about health ministry, as did printed discussion questions on matters that were mostly untouched during the three-hour event. What about U. S. health policy and Adventist medical ministry? How can Adventist institutions survive ever tightening financial pressures while continuing to embody their distinctive mission? Or, to take one more example, how do you “balance” the legacy of Adventist healthcare with the need for communities to “feel ownership” of their hospitals?

One Project leaders are planning on more such conferences.

Charles Scriven is Board Chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
1 Like

A ministry of healing is integral to the life and mission of the Church that wants to meet persons at the point of their needs. The vision of health as a shared endeavor rests in a biblical view that wholeness is a blessing that God intends for all people. In this vision. Such a shared endeavor means each person bears some responsibility for his or her own health, but health and health care also depend upon other people and conditions in society and our communities.

In the SPECTRUM article “The Advance Conference: Jesus and the Church’s Health Ministry-18 February 2016 by Charles Scriven, asked some goo questions. Is anyone listening?
“What about U. S. health policy and Adventist medical ministry? How can Adventist institutions survive ever tightening financial pressures while continuing to embody their distinctive mission? Or, to take one more example, how do you “balance” the legacy of Adventist healthcare with the need for communities to “feel ownership” of their hospitals?”

Is anyone really studying these issues in AHS or are we engaging in defensive apologetics about our intentions.

The top ethical challenges in healthcare that we are all facing in today’s health care are

  1. Improving Affordability and Access to care
  2. Addressing end-of-life
  3. Balancing care quality and efficiency
  4. Building and sustaining the healthcare workforce of the future
  5. Allocating limited medications and donor organs

We have to think proactively and carefully on all of these issues.

On five-top-ethical-issues:

IF we truly believed in our “Health Message”, at least as a North American church,
EVERY LOCAL CHURCH would be organized to be having programs on the 8 Laws
Of Health as promoted in the Ministry of Healing.
The Adventist LOCAL churches would be noted for The Healing of Body, Mind and Spirit.
We laud our huge medical centers around the world. But of necessity THEY are required
to be pretty non-religious. I say this because length-of-stay under insurance in most cases
only allows a couple of days, depending on the diagnoses. Also as has been mentioned,
out of necessity for staffing, most of the staffing is NOT SDA. Physicians are not SDA.
And some of the hospitals are viewed as their Community Hospital by the users.

Until EACH Local Church Body becomes a Team of Healing, the “church” HAS NO Health
We only delude ourselves, and have been deluding ourselves since 1866 when the first
Battle Creek Sanitarium opened.
Every Local Church should be open 7 days a week as a place to go for Healing and
Learning “How to Live Life More Abundantly” through better Physical, Mental, Emotional,
Spiritual Health.
Every church should be renting space to AA, NA, Ala-non groups. Eating habits are the
biggest offender of most U.S. health issues – Diabetes, Cardiovascular, some Cancers.
The Bible has THIS to SAY ----
“Where there IS NO Vision, the people perish”.
BOTH the Corporate and the Local Seventh-day Adventist Churches HAVE NO VISION!!!

One last item. We should be knocking on doors of Sunday Keepers and having our Health
Message presentations in THEIR fellowship halls, as well. We should be sharing in our
neighbor’s buildings, offering them more abundant living in their church facility.
Yes, I have been preaching to myself for a while. And it is finally sinking in. This next
Thursday at 7PM I will begin an 8-week program on Reversing Type II Diabetes at my
Sunday Episcopal church. My advertisements come out in the newspaper Today. I will
be putting up my Road Side Banner today. It has cost me money to do this. But I see
the money spent as a Monetary Offering to God. Just as if I had put money in the offering
plate to pay someone else to do this.
When I was a kid the Catholics had a program on, with a visual and a song about “lighting
one little candle, what a bright world this would be” and showed one single lit candle in the
One single flickering flame in the dark organizes the dark. It allows for perspective of what the
dark is and one’s location in the dark, and how to get around in the dark. The candle, the lit
match, then allows us to find the Flashlight, the Light Switch.

PS: The Diabetes program has ONLY 3 Messages. 1. Eat Fiber – at least 20 grams per day, work up to 30 to 40 per day [at least 9 1/2 cup servings of fruits and vegetable per day]. 2. Drink Water – 10 to 12 glasses of water or non-surgary flavored water daily. 3. Body Movement to increase heart and respiration for 20 minutes a day. [the ADA says 3 - 10 minute activities after eating are as good as one 30 minute activity a day].


Thank you Chuck, for this report.
Maybe you could expand more on the question of assisted suicide. It was not clear from your brief summary whether the group was in favor, opposed, or divided.

Adventists and other Christians/Muslims/Jews have no compunction when they have a suffering pet or farm animal, in taking the creature to the vet for a humane life termination…

The Netherlands was one of the first countries to humanely adopt assisted suicide. (I am proud to be of Dutch extraction).
More recently, Oregon, Washington, California and Vermont legislatures have enacted laws allowing physicians in their states to participate in DEATH WITH DIGNITY.

Many end of life situations in this modern era, are anything except death with dignity. Many occur in an intensive care setting, with tubes in every orifice, and often ventilators, tube feedings and intravenous infusions to protract and extend life when the semi comatose and unresponsive patient has no input as to whether he/she should be kept so ignominiously alive.

I am happy to have a home in Oregon, and if I am terminally ill with great pain and suffering, it is of great comfort to me that my dying will not have to be protracted and agonizing.
Why should we treat ourselves and our loved ones with less compassion than we treat our pets??