Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s top decision-making body deliberated over a period of two days during the 2019 Annual Council about a proposed Statement on the Biblical View of Unborn Life and Its Implications for Abortion. The document emerged in September from a longer period of study and discussion among Adventist theologians, medical experts, healthcare administrators, ethicists and Church administrators.
A previous article outlined the process followed by various committees and administrative units in developing the draft. A working group of 26 individuals, including seven women, was commissioned by the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) in September to “prepare a draft of one unified statement that will clearly be based on biblical principles that underline the sanctity of life and recognize the exceptionally difficult cases/anomalies women can face,” according to the voted Terms of Reference.
A Specific Kind of Document
Church leaders were emphatic that the document considered and ultimately voted this week is a Statement, and not a set of guidelines for either individuals or church organizations. As defined by church practice, a voted Statement outlines the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official position on a specific matter, while Guidelines offer direction for practical application on a specific subject.
No previous statement about the sanctity of unborn life had been developed before this week’s document. The last time the denomination issued Guidelines on abortion was in 1992. According to Adventist world church president Ted N. C. Wilson, however, the 1992 Guidelines contained “a far more limited approach in terms of a comprehensive view of the Biblical approach to this precious subject.”
Wilson went on to clarify the role of a voted Statement in the life of the 21-million-member church. “This is a Statement. It is not part of the Church Manual. It is not intended to be a Statement [by] which church boards and members will judge other people.” Addressing church leaders directly, he added, “Please instruct and encourage our church members not to do that. It is a biblical statement to inform not only the world but ourselves how the Bible speaks to us about life.”