SECTS, CULTS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TASK ONE A – The Seventh Day Adventists A sect is a religious group with controversial beliefs, they are groups that break away from a main group/religion and form their own set of beliefs, which differ from the teachings of their parent group. Sects also reject the authority of their parent group. The Seventh Day Adventists is an example of a group that broke away from their parent religions of Millerite Movement and Christianity, to become a sect. INTRODUCTION New York was the home of the 1840s Millerite movement; Millerites were followers of the teachings of William Miller who prophesied the second coming of Jesus Christ to Earth on the 22nd October 1844. When Jesus did not appear on this day the Millerites dissolved, however from the ashes of one movement came the next as the Seventh Day Adventists arose from the disbanded Millerites. The Seventh Day Adventist Church was officially founded in 1863 and the four founding figures were Joseph Bates, James White, Ellen G. White and J. N. Andrews. The Church quickly became popular and began to spread worldwide, reaching the shores of New Zealand in the 1880s – only shortly after its official establishment back in the States. Today the Seventh Day Adventist Church boasts over 16 million members globally and is the twelfth largest religious body in the world. SOCIAL ORGANISATION The Seventh Day Adventist Church uses a democratic church organisation system, it consists of four leadership levels, and these are: 1. The local church – this is the foundation level of church organisation. It includes all local churches that are located in cities around the world. Every Adventist is a member of their local church and has voting powers in it and these churches are the public face of the whole denomination. 2. The local mission – the local mission oversees the local churches within its specified province. It organizes things for the local churches such as appointing ministers, paying ministers, distributing tithes and also owns all the church land in that province. 3. The union mission – the union mission consists of all the local missions over a greater area. So it would represent several local missions over several different provinces. 4. The General Conference – this is the highest earthly authority of the church and consists of 13 ‘Divisions’, which look after various geographic locations globally. The General Conference meets every two to three years and includes union missions from all over the world. It has the final say in all matters. Membership into the Seventh Day Adventists is not given on the spot, as there are several steps to becoming a full-fledged member. The key requirement of initiates is baptism by immersion. People wanting to join are first questioned about their faith and beliefs in front of Church members. After satisfying with their answers they can then move onto to the next step. The Adventist hopeful must undergo proper instruction on the beliefs and values of the Church and if he or she must also accept the Bible as a literal interpretation. Once these conditions are satisfied the initiate is given a baptism by immersion and officially becomes a Seventh Day Adventist. RITUAL The Seventh Day Adventist Church differs mainly from its parent religions by recognizing Saturday as the seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week and celebrating it as their Sabbath day. Seventh Day Adventists keep this day holy by avoiding secular work and recreation, instead they opt for family-orientated activities and attend Church. Leading up to a Saturday, so on a Friday night, members will prepare for their Sabbath day by cooking and cleaning, with some Adventists even gathering together to welcome in the Sabbath. On a Saturday, members congregate at their local churches – which are free of statues and pictures and any other decorations that distract from the purpose of being there. Children and youths are put in special groups while adults are put in another, and all are taught about a particular biblical text or doctrine every Saturday. After their lessons the Adventists rejoin for church service and worship. Holy Communion takes place four times a year for Seventh Day Adventists, and is open to both members and Christian non-members. It begins with a foot washing ceremony, this is based on the Gospel account in John 13 where Jesus washes his disciples feet. Men and women are separated for this ceremony and meet up for the Lord’s Supper, which includes unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice. Since the Seventh Day Adventist Church began in the 1800 it has put a large emphasis on wholeness and health for its members. The Church highlights the importance of health and diet, promoting vegetarianism and heavily discouraging the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Some Adventists even abstain from vices such as coffee, tea and soft drinks. In New Zealand ‘Sanitarium Health Food Company’ is a business which specializes in healthy, nutritious breakfast cereal and is actually owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. DOCTRINE The Seventh Day Adventists have only one sacred text, the Bible. They believe the Bible is the perfect guide to life and they interpret it literally. Writings of Ellen White’s (one of the founders) are also considered sacred and are read for spiritual guidance. The Church takes the Bible literally, and it is a requirement of all their members to accept this literal stance, as they believe it is the very word of God, they believe the Bible is the sole rule of faith and practice. Expressions like “hear the word of the Lord” and “the word of the Lord came unto me” which are repeated throughout the Bible strengthen their belief as well as excerpts such as “I will raise a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him”. Deuteronomy 18:18) The official teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists are passed on through the Sabbath school, which is attended on a Saturday morning by children and young adults. The Sabbath school teaches the younger members about Biblical texts and doctrines and how they as Adventists are supposed to interpret these texts. The idea is that when these young members grow up they will teach the generations of other young Adventists to come about the official teachings and so the Seventh Day Adventist teachings will continue to get assed down from generation to generation. CONTRIBUTION TO NZ SOCIETY The Seventh Day Adventist Church actively contributes to the society of New Zealand in many ways, these include promoting health through hospitals and clinics, improving living conditions of New Zealanders, providing relief in times of disaster and they provide these services to both Christians and non-Christians. They also provide camp facilities for elderly, schools for children, hospitals and bookshops. As stated before the Seventh Day Adventist Church founded and is the sole owner of Sanitarium Health Food Company in New Zealand and Australia, as well as many other companies. Sanitarium not only provides job for Kiwis but also actively promotes healthy eating, especially in kids – it established the Kiwi Kids Weetbix Triathlon nine years ago and has continues to organize it every year. The Seventh Day Adventists have also set up a welfare program named Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) that serves those in need on a global scale in over 125 countries by delivering aid when necessary.
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