Defending Freedom Everywhere [Main Story]
oday Adventists are alive and well in the marketplace of ideas—as individuals, as members of specific issue groups (e.g., the Adventist Peace Fellowship), and, of course, as a wider faith community. The church’s efforts are directed by its Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL). There is a PARL team at the General Conference, in the North American Division (NAD), and at each union in the NAD. Many conferences have a designated spokesperson, and most local churches have a religious liberty leader.
The General Conference team is led by John Graz, a diplomat by nature and by experience. Graz’s father was an atheist, but as a young man growing up on the border between France and Switzerland, Graz was found by God. Today he travels the world from Siberia to South Africa, meeting government leaders to promote religious liberty and to intervene on specific cases.
Jonathan Gallagher is the Adventist Church’s permanent representative to the United Nations. An Englishman of Irish decent and Scottish education, Gallagher easily slips between French and English as he works the halls of the UN in New York and Geneva.
Attorney James Standish represents the Adventist Church to the United States government. As the son of missionaries, Standish grew up in predominantly Muslim and Buddhist nations. He earned his law degree at Georgetown University and today lives with his family on Capitol Hill.
The NAD team is led by Hal Thomsen, who, in his early days, worked as a “capitol pastor,” representing the Adventist Church at a state capitol. Lincoln Steed and Melissa Reid form the editorial team that puts out Liberty magazine, the oldest and the finest publication in the world dedicated exclusively to religious liberty.
Each union conference in the NAD has a PARL director, and these directors combined form an advisory committee that works on policy as well as strategic planning for the Adventist public policy work.
The North American Division and Liberty magazine sponsor an organization in the U.S. and Canada called the North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA). Created by Adventist pioneers in 1893, today NARLA serves as a vehicle for promoting Adventist values, vision, and voice.
NARLA is a membership-based organization that has been successful in raising critical issues to the forefront of national debate through letter-writing campaigns (more than 40,000 letters sent to the U.S. Congress in the past two years through the NARLA Web site), annual Capitol Hill advocacy days, special events, and media appearances (C-SPAN, NPR, etc.). James Standish is executive director of NARLA, and Deborah Knott manages the association.
The North American Religious Liberty Association gives each North American Adventist the opportunity to stay informed and get involved in critical issues as they move through the U.S. Congress or the Canadian Parliament.
To get informed and get involved, to make your influence count click here.