Christians of all denominations are gathering on the National Mall today to protest the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. But one denomination that may be sparsely represented is Seventh-day Adventists whose large worldwide network of 170 hospitals allows elective abortions.
This stance was revealed last week when Maryland state regulators gave Holy Cross Hospital, a Catholic institution, permission to build a hospital in growing northern Montgomery County, shutting out the Seventh-day Adventists, who also wanted to build a hospital in the area. Some abortion rights advocates opposed Holy Cross’s selection because it does not allow abortions.
Adventists resemble many conservative Protestant denominations as they believe in divinely inspired Scripture, six literal days of Creation, justification by faith and baptism by immersion.
Their distinctive rites include worshiping on Saturday, the seventh day of the week as opposed to Sunday, an emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ and an emphasis on following Jewish dietary laws concerning abstinence from pork, shellfish and other foods proscribed as “unclean” in the Old Testament. The denomination is known for its emphasis on health. Alcohol and tobacco are prohibited and many Adventists are vegetarians.
But the denomination may be the only theologically conservative Protestant group that allows elective abortions. Many of their own members didn’t know that their worldwide hospital network performed the procedure, which has been quite the discussion on the Adventists for Life Facebook page. A number of posters were shocked to learn the denomination’s stance.
“I can’t belong to a organization who advocates abortion,” one poster wrote. “I believe in Christ my Saviour, the Sabbath & etc. I believe in Sister White also,” referring to Ellen G. White, one of the revered founders of the denomination.
Another poster said that Adventists opposed abortion until 1970. That is when Hawaii legalized abortion and Castle Memorial Hospital, an Adventist institution in Kailua, Hawaii, the poster said, was pressured by its own doctors, and donors, to start offering abortions. At the time, Adventist leaders in Washington indicated they did not oppose the procedure and thus, more Adventist hospitals began offering the procedure. In 1992, the denomination issued these guidelines on abortion. The official position of the church is that abortion is allowed in “extraordinary circumstances.”
SDA evangelist Kevin Paulson has given the longest defense of the church’s position here where he agrees the church essentially has no restrictions on the practice and might do well to restrict it more. “Many [Adventists] are forming opinions about abortion,” he wrote, “not from the study of Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy (Ellen G. White’s) writings, but from listening to popular Christian leaders like James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Franky Schaeffer, and Bill Gothard,” all of whom oppose abortion.
“Sincere though they may be, these men espouse many theological errors and have no understanding of God’s truth for this time,” Paulson wrote. “Seventh- day Adventists should listen to such persons with extreme care and discriminating judgment. …Among the Adventist pioneers, J.N. Andrews and John Harvey Kellogg wrote against abortion, yet the writings of Ellen White maintain the silence of Scripture on the subject… We find it interesting that when Ellen White speaks of the “earliest moments” of our children, she speaks of birth, not conception,” he concluded.
Is the Seventh-day Adventists’ heavy focus on healthful practices inconsistent with its position on abortion? Tell us in the comments section.