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English Speaking Protestantism

Adventist Churches

Doctrines Adventist churches follow a fundamentalist theology influenced by Baptist ideas which affirms a belief in salvation by faith, adult baptism by immersion and particularly a literal belief in the truth of the Bible. Their particular emphasis is on the imminent Second Advent of Christ to judge all humanity. His arrival, fulfilling biblical prophecy, will result in the final defeat of the forces of Satan and the salvation of true believers. The Seventh Day Adventists stress the overwhelming importance of correct observance of the Jewish Sabbath on a Saturday. The church also strictly follows other aspects of the Old Testament, such as the Jewish dietary laws, refuses to observe non-scriptural festivities like Christmas, insists on abstinence from stimulants, on plain dress and pacifism. It also believes in conditional immortality, that the soul is not immortal, and the souls of the dead are currently waiting in a state of unconsciousness. At the Second Coming those souls without true belief in Christ will be permanently destroyed, while believers will be resurrected and given eternal life. The Christian Adventist Church also believe in conditional immortality, but continue to believe that Sunday is the true Sabbath.

History Millennial expectation has been one of the recurrent tendencies of the Christian church since biblical times, but the direct origins of the Adventist churches lie with William Miller, a Baptist farmer in New York State. Miller, after personal study of the Bible, devised a timetable for Christ's return calculating his arrival to be in 1844. Miller's ideas would have attracted no more than local attention save that the 1830s saw a large scale religious revival in the United States coinciding with a national depression. Miller's ideas were published and he attracted a professional publicity agent, Joshua Hins, who organised a national tour. In the climate of the time Miller won widespread support from all denominations, gaining massive publicity and 50,000 committed followers. But when the dates Miller and his followers awaited came and went the movement splintered and Miller was discredited and died a few years later. Some of the Millerites remained convinced that the advent of Christ was not far of f and it was from their groups that the various Adventist churches formed.
The largest group today is the Seventh Day Adventists which originated from those Millerites who accepted the visions of Ellen White. Her prophecies confirmed that Christ had indeed arrived in 1844, but only in a spiritual sense. His material advent was delayed due to the failure of Christians to correctly observe the Jewish Sabbath. The church was properly organised in 1863 and uses elections to regional and general conferences to form an effective leadership. It insists on tithes of one-tenth of all income from members. They have expanded rapidly world-wide in this century and now support widespread missionary, education and benevolence activities.
Other Adventist churches are small scale affairs. Perhaps the largest today is the Adventist Christian Church which remained larger than the Seventh Day Adventists for most of the 19th century. It was formed in 1855 by various Millerites headed by Jonathan Cummings. It follows a congregational form of government, and is now dwarfed by its more efficient and wealthy counterpart. Also see World-wide Church of God for another Adventist sect.

Symbols Similar to Baptists. The strict regulations of the Seventh Day Adventists on clothes, work and diet clearly mark themselves out from the rest of society and add to their vision of being selected by God to survive Armageddon.

Adherents The Seventh Day Adventists have about 7 million members world-wide and 18,486 in the British Isles (Whitaker, 1995, 428). Some examples of national membership figures follow: USA, 748,687; Canada, 43,377; Ethiopia, 64,000, Jamaica, 150,722; Papua New Guinea, 200,000; South Africa, 145,287 (World Almanac, 1995, 729; Europa Pub. Ltd. 1995, I:737, I:1135, I:1664, II:2418, II:2782). The Advent Christian Church has 28, 000 in the USA (World Almanac, 1995, 729).

Main Centre
 Seventh Day Adventists, 1250 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904, USA