For the North American Division, and other interested parties.

The PARL Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada is sponsoring a Symposium on Conscientious Objection in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Symposium is planned for November 6 ñ 9, 2008 in Oshawa, Ontario.

Given the militarism of Western Society, it is thought that this type of symposium would be of benefit to assist Adventist young people, in understanding what the Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches regarding Conscientious Objection.

Presentations will be on subjects concerning Conscientious Objection – from historical, theological, sociological, and religious perspectives.

To register, visit


Kingsway College
1200 Leland Road
Oshawa, Ontario L1K 2H4

Presentations include:

Just War Theory & the Role of Christians
Allison Bryan, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland

Can war be justified? What is the role of a Christian in armed conflict?In the current global climate war is not justifiable and Christians need to tailor their actions accordingly. Christians are called to be particular, set apart in the world to honour and glorify God. To be a Christian means putting God's will first, following the example of Jesus and bringing others to God's truth. Meanwhile, war and armed conflict have been active throughout the history of the world usually with devastating impacts. In a time when God's will is used as a propaganda tool to advance social and political interests, Christians need to examine the motives behind wars and the implications of being involved in them.

For Conscience Sake
Barry W. Bussey, General Counsel & Director of PARL, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada

Very little has been written about the experiences of Seventh-day Adventist WWII conscripts in Canada. This paper seeks to address that void. The Canadian government's controversial conscription policy did not allow for non-combatant service of conscientious objectors at the beginning of the war. Instead "Alternative Service" work camps were established in numerous places throughout the Canadian wilderness where the young men worked on road building with pick and shovel; logging with axes and handsaws. This paper will review the evolving policy of the Canadian government as it sought to meet the increasing demand for more men in the European war effort.


Documentary: For Conscience Sake
Barry W. Bussey, General Counsel & Director of PARL, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada embarked on an ambitious project to interview surviving Canadian Adventist conscientious objectors of WWII. Over a couple of weeks and many hours of travelling and interviewing Barry Bussey and producer Douglas Bruce met with some 25 men, now in their late 80's and early 90's, to hear their stories. This documentary will be seen for the first time at this conference. You will not want to miss this presentation.    

Signing Your Life Away: A Recruiter's Story
Olaf P. Clausen, Pastor of Lethbridge SDA Church, Alberta

What are the costs of military service? While there appears to be many benefits and skills to be acquired, what are the spiritual costs to Christians? Pastor Clausen will make it clear to our youth just what they would be giving up legally, physically, mentally and more importantly spiritually. Presenting these issues in the context of his naval career will provide a springboard into the following issues that are essential for our youth to consider:    

  • Why We Join, The G.I. Joe myth
  • Basic Training: Your body is no longer your own
  • In the Fleet: Moral and ethical costs
  • Military Intelligence: Our Government's secrets and methods
  • Recruiting: Quotas and the Combat Arms
  • Prophetic Implications of Military Service: Sabbath accommodation and the Image to the Beast
  • Conclusion: An army to join with a nobler mission and eternal benefits

The Spirit of War is the Spirit of Satan
Jeff Crocombe, Helderberg College, South Africa

Military conscription in apartheid South Africa was an issue that dominated the lives of generations of white South African young men-including Seventh-day Adventists. From 1952 a system of compulsory military service existed in South Africa, first through a selective service system where men were chosen by ballot, and then from 1967 onwards all medically fit white males were legally required to perform military service for the state upon leaving school. This remained the reality until the last intake for compulsory military service in South Africa took place in July 1992.As early as 1924, Seventh-day Adventist could be exempted from peace-time service in the South African Defence Rifle Association, and in wartime would be exempted from service in a combat capacity. This exemption was reiterated in 1979, when Seventh-day Adventist conscripts were granted particular privileges including being excused from handling a weapon, and were where possible, excused from Sabbath duty.The issue of Seventh-day Adventists and military service in South Africa becomes more complex-as does the issue of military service generally in South Africa-during the 1980s when the South African Defence Force (SADF) was deployed in cross-border conflicts in Angola and South-west Africa (now Namibia); and in the Black township areas to quell Black anti-Apartheid resistance.


My paper will examine the South African Seventh-day Adventist Church's attitude towards military service within the context of Apartheid; and will discuss the ethical implications of the Church's stance of non-combatancy within such a political context.

Did Christ Give you Permission to Beat Your Plowshares into Swords?
Dr. Ginger Hanks Harwood, La Sierra University, California

During the 19th Century, the Seventh-day Adventists took a clear and unambiguous stand against Christians bearing arms. The Adventist recognition of the tension between being followers of Christ and picking up a weapon with the intent to kill another combined with a depth critique of national military campaigns emerged before the fledgling church was organized and faced the question of a national conscription act. This paper traces the pacifist roots of Adventism and outlines the arguments articulated in the statements prepared by the church to be presented to obtain peace church status and later be entered into church records as official church position on the role of a faithful Christian during times of armed conflict and war. It demonstrates that despite the efforts of some scholars to diminish the stand to simply an unwillingness to break the Sabbath (legalism), the noted Adventist leaders who arbitrated the discussion of the issues rooted the question in Jesus' commandment to "love one another" and "resist not evil."

Adventists, Military Service, and War
Dr. Ronald Lawson, Queens College, New York City

I am both a historian and a sociologist. I will review the history of Adventists and Military Service as it developed from our experience during the American Civil War, when all Adventists were located within one nation, as we spread internationally and developed our relationships with different kinds of governments. I will draw on sociology to help interpret the patterns found.

The Beginnings of a Peace Church
Dr. Douglas Morgan, Columbia Union College, Maryland

The American Civil War prompted the Seventh-day Adventist church to establish a position on participation in warfare during its earliest years as a formally organized denomination. In an unambiguous and forceful manner, the new church declared "acts of war and bloodshed" to be incompatible with its central commitment to "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." This stand fully identified the Adventists with the Quakers in what became known as the "historic peace churches." Attempts to differentiate the Adventist position on military combat from that of the peace churches are products of the twentieth century. Historical accounts since World War II, misconstruing the early Adventist debates over how and when to express their commitment to the government, have tended to obscure the fact that the Seventh-day Adventist Church began as a peace church. Thus, a distorted understanding of the past has contributed to the relatively easy acceptance of voluntary enlistment for armed military service that has become apparent in American Adventism during the past two decades.

The Christ of the Fifth Way: Recovering the Politics of Jesus
Ronald E. Osborn, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Many Christians throughout history have tried to separate the Gospel as a matter of spiritual truth from the realm of earthly politics, yet there is little in what Christ said and did that does not have profound political implications for his followers. The more we understand about the world of first-century Palestine and the Roman empire into which Jesus was born, the more clear it becomes , in fact, that the New Testament was written as a subversive alternative political grammar for God's people. This paper explores Jesus' words and actions in social and political context in order to begin to recover a biblically grounded political ethic for believers confronted with pressing dilemmas of inequality, economic injustice, and violence.

Where is Your Citizenship?
Karen R. Scott, Walla Walla, Washington State

Paul's admonition is that our citizenship should be in heaven. What constitutes the Kingdom of Heaven? What role does liberty of conscience and the Gospel have to do with the issue of non-combatancy?

War and Rumors of War
Lincoln E. Steed, Editor – Liberty Magazine

How just war thinking is making war seem more acceptable and more likely. Why is it that Adventists in North America, once committed to non-combatancy, are untroubled by their sons and daughters signing up for wars of choice in which they have no option for Sabbath-keeping or non-combancy? Looks at war from the perspective of history and the Adventist imperative.

Peacemakers at War
Joel Willett, University of Kentucky, Louisville

Willett will outline his conversion while bearing arms in the U.S. Army as war began in Iraq and his ensuing struggle with the question of conscientious objection. This question will be examined in light of his experiences as an Adventist soldier and most recently as an Adventist 'diplomat' with the U.S. Department of State.

What is one to do when witnessing injustice and harm being done to another when it is in one's power to stop it? A Christian would not hesitate to use force to repel an assailant if witnessing a rape or other horrid act. Surely it is not sinful to use force in this instance. What, then, goes wrong when this impulse to stop injustice when we are able is applied on a national scale regarding the use of armies? Are we hypocritical in calling the police ( a profession of arms) to respond when we are victimized if we believe that bearing arms is sinful?How can the church effectively communicate to young people on this issue – and what do youth need to know about the armed services and armed professions in general before making their choice? There are grey areas to this question. In the end, young people joining an armed force sacrifice the choice on when to employ that force and therefore these decisions need to be made with the utmost consideration.


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