The Place of the Church Within the State

The First Amendment of the United States guarantees that the government shall not establish a religion. Nor would it interfere with the free exercise of religion. There is a nice bright line between church and state that we who are believers appreciate and respect. That is why we do not ever talk about things that are political. And considering how Adventism was founded in America, it is no wonder that our church has historically avoided involvement in politics. So, in keeping with the law and our tradition, our church should refrain from discussions regarding anything remotely related to politics.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

the greatest sin of the church in America is “Labeling”. Everyone must fit one status or another. while a member of the Board of Trustees at LLU every time a new Conference president was appointed, I would be asked if I was a “worker” It got so that I would respond well I ain’t the queen bee!


Brilliant!!! Thank you!!! ~ Gregory W. Hamilton, President of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association (NRLA) at the North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh day Adventists


Very good article. Shows solid scholarship. Well-reasoned and convincing. A brilliant historical analysis of SDA political engagement.

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I almost want to end my comment here because it is so spot on.

Even a casual reading of the biographies in the Adventist Pioneer Series of books that George Knight is shepherding to press, reveals that the movement of Adventism was deeply influenced by the politics of the time. Several noted Millerites and Early Adventists were abolitionists; the church organization, and notably A.T. Jones, fought against Sunday laws before Congress; EGW was myopic about temperance and prohibition; the church was deeply divided over how to politically approach racial and economic disparities. Even today on issues of importance, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, we find the church writing a cautionary amicus curia warning of religious liberty conflicts in upholding the law.

Christ said, give to “Ceasar that which is his” implying that Kingdom citizenship required Christians to be engaged citizen in this world’s kingdom too. In Christ’s time that meant being a compliant, semi-autonomous citizen under a brutal dictatorship. Today, in the United States, we are called to be engaged as we live in a participatory democracy. For those founding this country, that freedom came through war and conflict. For women and people of color that right can through protest, and arguably civil wars and conflict. It is the church’s responsibility to exercise its rights as aptly pointed out, “exerting our influence by precept and example — by voice and pen and vote.” Anything less is unworthy of the gospel.

To hide behind edited quotes of Ellen White cautioning against politics is disingenuous at best and cowardliness at its worst. So we must ask why do we hide? In my opinion, it is because confronting politics forces us to come face to face with our ideological differences, and prejudices. Lord the forbid that we have honest conversations about the nature of the gospel as it relates to justice and equity. After all, it is much easier to look for orange hair in the Greek text of the book of Revelation than it is to talk about politics and social justice.

Addendum: Since we are limited to one post, I am adding this addendum In response to Jeremy

Jeremy’s full comments below underscore two points. First, our focus on the second coming as the core of our evangelism make us so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Second, the portion of his message that I quote above betrays two things. First is the misconception that politics has to be Us versus Them. We will only survive the next years if we recognize that it is no longer partisan. Democracy is at stake… Which is why historical Adventism intersects politics today. Read Luke 4:18-19. The gospel we are to be preaching is not the irrelevant “gospel” of the second coming but is, in the works of Christ’

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to give the Messianic proclamation of the gospel to those who are impotent, hopelessly dependent and totally impoverished; To heal the wounds of those who have been physically, mentally and emotionally beaten down and broken; He, the Spirit, has sent me for the purpose of proclaiming far and wide, release and cancellation of obligation to those held captive in misery; and provide recovery of sight to those who cannot see; and send out as free those, who at the hands of others, are oppressed, weakened, downtrodden, and broken like shards of smashed pottery; To proclaim that Today, the anticipated and welcomed time of the Lord’s Jubilee has arrived.” Luke 4: 18-19

We are a church that should be preaching the politically charged message of wholeness and community and universal reconciliation. But indeed that is dangerous. Let’s be safe and press on with irrelevance, superimposing today’s events on the obscure symbols of Daniel and Revelation.

All of which underscores Pastor Ray’s message that we have forgotten how Christ has led us in the Past.


i think our reticence with overt political involvement is related to practical aspects attending our priority of evangelism…after-all, given the polarizing tendency of politics, by identifying with one party, we automatically close off virtually all possibility of appealing to someone from an opposing party…and it’s now pretty much the case that identifying with one political party tends to close off possibilities for fellowship with even adventists from an opposing party…gone with the wind are the days when it could assumed that most american adventists you knew would vote republican…


I believe this as well:

Consider these questions: Did Jesus ever suggest by word of example that we should aspire to acquire, let alone take over, the power of Caesar? Did Jesus spend any time and energy trying to improve, let alone dominate, the reigning government of his day? Did he ever word to pass laws against the sinners he hunt out with and ministered to? Did he worry at all about ensuring that his rights and the religious rights of his followers were protected? Does any author in the New Testament remotely hint that engaging in this sort of activity has anything to do with the kingdom of God? The answer to all these questions is, of course, no.
Gregory A. Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church


To the Author , It would appear that you are unfamiliar with the argument put forward by A.T. Jones when he went before the U.S. Congress to stop a bill to close the World Fair on Sunday. His presentation can be found in the 1893 General Conference Bulletin .There is a State religion in America. It is the Christian Religion. In fact Elder. Jones puts forward the argument that Congress shall not make any “other ,” religion the national religion other than Christianity .It would also appear that the Law was passed and still on the Books .That being the case , it can be called forward at any time .Church and State is alive and well .

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Amazing article! An eye opener! Such ashame that it’s not taught in Adventist high schools to a larger degree… As a student myself in such… I do not recall any such learning about christains & politics. Apart from the whole world is in God’s hands & run when the beastly power pursues.

Oh I wish a proper perspective in my youth days of the eighties /nineties. That is… Evil prevails when good men do nothing. Not by returning evil but by carrying a torch similar to our pioneers. One of perseverance & courage.

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Mark, whether we like it or not, Jeremy brings up a valid point. All you need to do is read some of the comments on Spectrum to see that all too often that’s all it does: Us vs. Them. For some people partisan politics is their religion.

However, that is not to say we should not vote against the ills of society. The word “politics,” can be a slippery one. As the writer of this article pointed out:

It would have been appropriate I believe for the sake of clarity for the 3rd definition in Websters Dictionary to have been added to the list:

c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

For some people the word politics means just that: “concerned with winning and holding control.”

I totally agree with this. Vote the policy, not the man or his party. Here’s the kicker: If we’re not allowed to vote how can we vote…

From an article in Ministry Magazine, 1968. Does this sound familiar:

"There is no drearier chapter in American politi­cal history than that which records the period from the end of reconstruction to the Populist revolt of the early nineties. . . . During the whole of this period the electorate played a game of blind man’s buff. Never before had American politics been so intellectually bankrupt. . . . The result was to make national politics unreal, and, except for electoral clowning and Congressional buncombe, very dull. . . . Candidates . . . fought political campaigns on the basis of personality or inherited prejudice… . . Politics was largely a Punch and Judy show, but though the puppets and even the voices changed, the hands that held the strings were the same.

Good read,


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By all means, Pastor Ray, let’s mix politics with religion, and with Jesus’/EGW’s Blessing, of course.

I mean it’s not like any of these entities aren’t divisive enough on their own, right?

So what better way to set SDA’s even further apart from their fellow men than to impress/scare them with a divinely inspired call to political sectarianism?

Excellent. Good work. We often forget where we came from and why—some of that information is embarrassing, some power-eroding for current leadership, some both enlightening and useful. The church lives in an environment of “Present Truth,” not an a-historical system of habits.


Well, are you aware what is a church? (five BA Hai, meeting once the week ?), what is “State”. Not so long ago in court the judge begun his sentence : “In the name of the Emperor”. Now in our republics it is to be heard “In the name of the Republic” - _and the republic is also you and me. -with all our responsibilities._

It is a saddening erxperience, when some SDA periodicals editor invites you to place his paper on Church - State - relationship in your waiting room and , asked, he can define neither.the one nor the other.

Here in Vienna one lot for building a church, together with room enough for a church school was obtained by contacting the Red city government. - - We had school on Sabbath. I all the time was - illegally - excused. Then, 1954 the State authorities for School, Education , a Black institution- - dismissed an order making this practice legal… For this you need networks to the one and the opposing other party. And what about the privileges of the clergy ? - If we SDAs were acknowledged as a “Church”, an ordained minister could refuse being asked as a witness in court ! (we are not - you know, 4 000 members are not enough and we did not join the union of the Babylonian other small churches)

A new law, regulation the "Psychotherapy"contained a passage that would have been detrimentous to teachers, priests, ministers, and to our mission concepts - - - Then I had my network, leading to eliminate this passage : I approached the Federal Minisuter of Education, , Red, a former schoollmate in college times, and the secretary of the RC Bishops conference, also having been in college with me. Black. And some members of the parliament. The very passage then did not even come into the final parliament session.

Negative, the living in an apolitical bubble : Leading Brertheren long ago approached he Federal Minister for Education, Culture and Religious Affairs for the SDA being acknowledges as a “church” He was Black, a liberal conservative, and promised his support. This two days before him being - removed - something all Vienna knew already. On another occasion, our Bretheren approached the President of the Republic. He was very polite, showed concern and interest and promised his support - only : According to our constitution the President has very (very !) limited influence and is compassionately listening to - everybody !.

And a ta SDA historians symposion in Fiedensau 2014 ond delegate from Argentine told us about the close connection to the dicttorship govenment -None of his ministers was imprisoned, none got lost, none was killed. Inbetween the dictator - and his supporters -are gone. The Brother from Poland told about the SDA abused by the communist government to weaken the RCC - fr this being in favor and privilege of the Comunist government. Now Poland is a strickt RC country again and some precisely remember - - the special anticatholic play.

Just about Church and State.

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