Noncombatancy and Conscientious
Objection—a Timeline [MAIN STORY]
The Adventist Church begins to organize in North America, culminating in the organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in May 1863.
Adventist leaders appeal successfully to the governor of Michigan and receive recognition as being conscientiously opposed to the bearing of arms. Similar letters to the governors of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania are sent and received with approval.
Ellen G. White, while visiting Switzerland, commends several men who were obligated to military time in the Swiss Army. While she commented on their regimental ribbons and uniforms, she made no remarks about using weapons (Letter 23, 1886).
President Woodrow Wilson issues an executive order allowing for religious conscientious objectors to serve in the U.S. military.
July—The General Conference authorizes $30,000 to construct barracks and begin training of
noncombatants at Loma Linda and the Washington Sanitarium for preinduction training in the medical corps.
Dr. Everett Dick begins the Medical Cadet Corps at Union College.
U.S. Army begins Operation Whitecoat (1953-1973) in which nearly 2,500 Adventist young men volunteer as human subjects in medical preventive medicine studies (www.adventistchaplains.org/whitecoat.htm).
The Annual Council reaffirms that the official position of the church is noncombatant. The National Service Organization is launched to work with military Adventist personnel.
The General Conference Executive Committee reaffirms the statements of 1954, but modifies the wording to state that “the church advocates noncombatancy, but allows members to elect to be pacifists as well.”
The Executive Committee affirms the statements of 1954 and 1969, but identifies the decision as a personal matter for each member. The statement strongly encourages persons to consider the historical position of noncombatancy but allows for those who elect to train with or carry arms.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church advocates that members serve in the military as noncombatants, but accepts those who elect to serve in other capacities or not to serve at all—according to the conscience of the individual member.
In some nations noncombatant status is not an option, and it would be impossible for the church to mandate that members there serve in that capacity. Thus the current recommendation (not requirement) is for noncombatant service.
By U.S. and international law, all military chaplains and physicians are noncombatants, and medical aid personnel can carry weapons to protect their patients if they elect to do so. Some medics serve without bearing arms of any kind.