The Adventist Bioethics Consortium (Day 2)

The second day of the Adventist Bioethics Conference on “Ethics of Faithfulness for 21st Century Adventist Healthcare” began with Dr. Gerald Winslow welcoming attendees with a proverb he heard on a trip to an African country: “You Europeans have watches,” said his host, “but we have time.” We have time, too, promised Winslow as he outlined the sessions for the day.

The first plenary session on “Mission and Ethics in Adventist Healthcare” was presented by Dr. Ted Hamilton, Senior Vice President for Mission and Ministry for the Adventist Health System, whose story line was built around the phone call he frequently gets from irate church members (“Always male, never female!”) who want to know why Adventist hospitals perform abortions. When the caller pauses for breath, Hamilton assures him that abortions on demand are never performed, but, following moral guidelines developed by Adventist ethicists and adopted by the world church, abortions are provided for serious threats to the mother’s life, for congenital birth defects that would result in an early death or severe disorders, and instances of rape or incest.

“The reasons we are doing this,” noted Hamilton, “are for a balance of justice and mercy.” These are issues of layered complexity, he said, and “At the end of the day it is up to the mother, perhaps in consultation with her doctor, maybe her pastor, perhaps the chaplain.” Quoting theologian and ethicist Miroslav Voth, Hamilton said, “A mother is not God, only a fragile human being living in a fragile world.”

Dr. Hamilton spoke about the influence—and responsibility—that Adventist hospitals have. “Who is responsible for the health of Central Florida?” he asked. “We have 27 hospitals in that area and 60% market share on the east coast.” When public health issues flare up, the Adventist hospital system has to step up and lead the way. Citing a publication by the Catholic Health Organizations that lays out guidelines for health care in communities, Hamilton asked, “How can we best explain who we are and what we do? How will our SDA organizations mature as they endeavor to bring institutional integrity, faithfulness to mission, social responsibility, and a healthy relationship to our church?”

He concluded his presentation with three phrases he hoped would provide a missionary model for Adventist bioethics: “Imago Dei,” recognition of the image of God in those we serve; “Imitatio Christi,” the imitation or following of Christ’s method of healing; and “Emfyto Dei,” the experience of the imminence or presence of God with us. “Will we be a prophetic voice to healthcare?” he asked.

The next plenary session was “Ethical Voices of Church Leadership,” featuring Angeline David, Peter Landless, and Katia Reinert, directors in the Health Ministries Departments of the North American Division and General Conference.

Landless began with an aside to Ted Hamilton, “Those calls that you get once a month, Ted—I get them every day!” He spoke about the anger that is directed his way by church members who do not understand why the Adventist church provides abortions. “The abortion statement is under siege constantly,” he warned, “But abortion is something we need to be transparent about.” That kind of honesty can only flourish when Adventist health care professionals, pastors, and church administrators work together as a team, he noted.

The theme of integrated practices, mission objectives, and cooperation between these three groups was a constant in the morning presentations. “When we meet together,” said Landless, “we meet as equals.” With a flair for phrasing, he referred to a presentation the previous day by saying “It’s not disparities and inequities—it’s iniquities.”

Katia Reinert, the Associate Director of Health Ministries for the General Conference, spoke of the need to understand the many cultures in the global church and the challenges they pose for accurately presenting health care information. For example, patient autonomy, one of the pillars of biomedical ethics, is not a concept that translates easily to some cultures. “What can we do,” she asked, “to help people understand the statements and guidelines that are already there?” Reinert assured the conference that Health Ministries, at both the division and General Conference levels, was there to support the efforts of those in the health care fields.

Angeline David presented the results of an informal survey she conducted on attitudes and knowledge of biomedical ethics among a smattering of church members, both professionals and laypeople. For example, 86 percent feel they don’t know enough about bioethics, but 76 percent felt that physicians and pastors should be responsible for raising biomedical ethics issues. Forty-four percent thought that physicians are the most qualified to talk about these matters, but 65 percent wanted to be part of the conversation, and a huge majority (80%) thought that pastors should be trained in bioethics.

During the questions and comments from the audience that followed, Peter Handless indicated that Andrews University is adding a health module to pastoral training at the Seminary.

The final plenary session was on “The Future of the Adventist Bioethics Consortium,” in which Gerald Winslow, the Director of the Center for Christian Bioethics at Loma Linda University, introduced the website for the Consortium ( and its features. The website is open to members of Consortium partnering organizations and will be the primary location for FAQs about biomedical ethics, materials (such as the proceedings from the annual conferences), policy statements and ethical guidelines, directories of members, an online course for biomedical administrators, and eventually a compendium on how to handle ethical issues in which members can submit questions and receive answers from experts throughout the system.

The theme that recurred throughout the morning was the willingness, even eagerness, of health care professionals, pastors, and church administrators to work together on these pressing issues. The alignment between leadership and health care was neatly summed up when one of the conveners recalled a quote by Gerald Winslow that Adventist health care professionals “don’t want to be overseen, but neither do we want to be overlooked.”

The 4th Annual Adventist Bioethics Conference will be held May 6-7, 2019, in the new Adventist Health facility in Roseville, California.

Further Reading: The Adventist Bioethics Consortium (Day 1)

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, and communications for 28 years at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, and business communication at Stevenson University for 7 years. He continues as adjunct professor in ethics and philosophy at Trinity Washington University, D.C. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods.

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash, logo courtesy of

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks, Barry, for these fascinating reports. Biomedical ethics is so timely. I appreciate Gerald Winslow’s leadership and the attempts at honesty and balance.

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Here is my response to the following comments I copied from your article on bioethics:

“abortions are provided for serious threats to the mother’s life, for congenital birth defects that would result in an early death or severe disorders, and instances of rape or incest.”

From you comments it sounds like if a human being is likely to die soon, we are justified in killing the individual by poison or dismemberment. In the case of rape you seem to be comfortable with the idea of killing the innocent, but allowing the rapist to live. Is not this a miscarriage of justice? I hope you realize that a pregnancy lasts no more than nine months, while abortion is forever. The victim of rape can hope to heal with time and God’s grace—the victims of abortion do not have such hope.

“The reasons we are doing this,” noted Hamilton, “are for a balance of justice and mercy.”

Where is the balance, justice, and mercy for the victim of abortion?

“But abortion is something we need to be transparent about.”

I agree! My question is: Is the church planning to show some transparency in the number of elective abortions performed in Adventist hospitals and clinics since 1970 when we embraced the killing of innocent human beings for the sake of profit?

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Nic, have you been faced with any of these horrific issues? Was your 10-year-old little girl raped? Did the ultrasound reveal no brain activity or a missing left heart section or even lacking a brain and unable to survive after birth? Was your mother’s or wife’s life most assuredly threatened with a pregnancy? Did you, your son or daughter or other family member have to make an excruciating private life-and-death decision?


Dear Moderator,

Am I allowed to respond to harpa’s questions? You used to have a limit of one comment per topic. I just reviewed your rules and found nothing prohibiting responding to postings. If I am breaking some unknown rule by answering, please delete my comments.

My Answer to harrpa:

God said “You shall not murder.” Our Adventist “Guidelines on Abortion” assert the opposite. The fact that someone will soon die is no reason to kill him/her. Rape is no moral valid excuse for murder either. The same is more so when a woman faces an unwanted pregnancy.

Mental health and the resulting mental depression is not a valid excuse for taking the life of an innocent unborn baby. Letting the rapist live while killing the innocent is a miscarriage of justice.

Hard cases do not justify the violation of God’s Law!

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Thank you, Nic. I appreciate your response.

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Hi Nic,

We no longer have the one comment rule. Here’s an article about the change:

Thanks for being part of the conversation.


The speakers at the conference looked on abortion as a last resort. Adventist hospitals do not do abortions on demand—which would be the primary for-profit reason. They do them only for the reasons given in the article. To give you an example of how few abortions are performed for these reasons, one of the speakers from an Adventist hospital in the Midwest said that in one year they brought 35,000 babies into the world while 24 abortions were performed. Of those 24 most of them were still-born, born without a complete brain, or had other severe disorders which would kill them within minutes or hours of being born. There is no profit motive here and the number of abortions performed is far less than imagined by those who are quick to criticize without knowing how strictly Adventist hospitals work within their guidelines.


My question as well, Nic.

(Whether nonprofit organizations make a “profit” is another discussion.)

Perhaps this is true today, but it is not true about the past history of many Adventist hospitals. A friend of mine has documented evidence that just two of our hospitals in Maryland were responsible for at least 15,000 preborn killings.

BTW, are you aware that the Guidelines on Abortion were designed precisely to allow elective abortions for the sake of profit. You might be interested in reading what George Gainer documented for posterity on how this started back in 1970.

The State of Hawaii legalized elective abortions, and the non Adventist physicians at our Castle Memorial Hospital demanded the right to offer elective abortions to their patients and threatened to take their patients elsewhere if they were denied this right.

The leaders of the church panicked. The fear of the Lord went out the window, and Neal Wilson publicly declared that “the church was leaning towards abortion because there were too many people in the world and too much hunger.”

Those guidelines were designed to please both prolifers and pro abortionists. They allow for exceptions for rape, incest, malformation, and mental health.

The result was elective abortions on demand. The rapist was allowed to live but the innocent preborn was executed without mercy by either poison or dismemberment at the whim of a mentally disturbed and depressed woman.

The mental exception was the opened door for abortions on demand. A woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy says: “I am depressed, I cannot sleep nor concentrate on my studies and my work, and bingo: another victim of abortion lost its right to life.”

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This may be true about some cases, but it is not true about many others. Are you saying that if a physician thinks that his patient will probably die soon, it is his right to kill him/her? This is rather scary.

Is this what the Bible teaches? The number of erroneous prognosis by physicians is rather large to ignore. Only God knows the future with perfect accuracy. Human are fallible and unable to predict the future. This is why God gave us the Sixth commandment: “You shall not murder.”

Certainly, Nic, the history of abortion in the Seventh-day Adventist Church has cancelled out, by default, its organizing principle, The Great Controversy Theme, and with it, any potential attraction for devout Roman Catholics, as well as a large population of other Christians that Adventists hope to influence with their pivotal Three Angels’ Messages.

If people heed the call, “Come out of her, My People, that you be not a partaker of her sins!” where, exactly, do we expect them to go?

This is hardly trivial. What is left of Adventism after Neal Wilson “leaned” towards abortion for population control decades ago? Fumes, I would say. How long can a prophetic movement run on fumes? God alone knows.

The “hard cases” are such tender, tender issues, best handled by tender hearts lying flat in the dirt in humility before God. Who is sufficient for these things?

What is deeply at issue here, I believe, is our near-total loss of a sense of the Sacred. I pray God we can learn from our Catholic brothers and sisters of these matters, if we cannot learn from our Adventist Pioneers, or our own hearts.

The mystery of God’s Revelation is hidden inside, and in each if us in a different, unique way.

But each is like a baby in the womb, yet unborn and unrecognized and unloved.

Like Jacob waking from his long dream, we say, “Truly God was in this place and I never knew it. This is awe-inspiring, this is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28)

Paul speaks of it as “a hidden wisdom…a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or if they had know, they would not have killed the Human One. (I Corinthians 2)

So Jesus became the Human One who believed the divine image in himself, who trusted it, followed it and told us to do the same.

We must not kill or deny the partial, incipient image within us, but like Mary allow it to be born, even if in a stable.

We do not recognize ourselves, just as we did not recognize him.
—I John 3:1

I saw the Spirit descend…but I did not recognize him.
John 1:32

—Fr. Richard Rohr

We, in our self-hatred, are obliterating the image of God from the face of the earth, imagining that violent killing serves God.

May God have mercy on us all.


I praise the Lord for your wise and inspiring comments.

Have a blessed Sabbath!

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And you also, dear Nic!

I praise God for the prophetic voice you have been in Adventism all these years in the face of ridicule and exclusion. Thank you, Nic. I know it’s been a seemingly hopeless task God has assigned you, but you have stayed the course.

I also praise God for our one-pointed, courageous, sometimes brash and over-the-line young brother, Andrew Michel, who may be the the cause of many annoying phone calls to headquarters. He also is a prophetic voice in Adventism, I believe.

We walk by faith. Amen.

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May the good Lord reward you for your kind words!

Thank you, Nic. :hugs:

I just picked up the biography of Andrew Michell this morning to read. I opened it at random, as I often do with books, and saw that he was in solitary confinement for two years in prison.

This is literally torture, and is cruel and unusual punishment.

Being tortured gives one an unusual sensitivity to the plight of other tortured beings, don’t you think?

That is, if it doesn’t completely destroy one psychologically.


If solitary confinement is torture, are there any adequate words to describe dismembering sentient unborn babies?

Atrocity comes to mind.


PS: Nic, you have corresponded with my son, but I don’t want to “out” him as having such a weird mom, hence my handle, Cassandra of Perelandra, or Cassie.

The mythical Cassandra warned of the Trojan Horse.

Abortion is just one of the Trojan Horses destroying Adventism from within, in my opinion.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!

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In spite of this, Andrew told me that those years in solitary confinement were the best of his life because it was there he found his Savior.

Someone gave him a copy of the Bible and he read it non-stop from morning till evening. Here is a link to the incredible story of his conversion:

“Convicted: the amazing conversion story of Andrew Michelle”

Dear Moderator: I hope I am not breaking any rule by including this link. It is someone else’s story!

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Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.

—Isaiah 48

It’s totally okay to post links, Nic—you’re good. I will watch the video you posted—thanks. Currently reading Melanie’s biography of Andrew.

I hope Andrew will be careful to stay on message and avoid getting into personalities, and triumphalism.

Regardless of who the messengers are, this is just one of several issues that will sink this church beyond all doubt, in my opinion.

This is going to be very painful to remedy. The babies can’t be brought back, and the crushing moral weight of these acts can only be offloaded by abject repentance. Adventism could never be the same afterward. Maybe that’s what it will take.

Andrew, I appreciate you, brother, but I think you need to pray about where you were coming from in this video. I can’t feel that this is God’s way of dealing with people:

I hope you will feel led to apologize and take this video down, but that is between you and God.

Just speak your truth, let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.

But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.


Thank you for considering. Praying for you.