By Nathaniel Gamble
As the new Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Director for the Rocky Mountain Conference, the question that has already been posed to me is, “Why is religious liberty important to the local church?” After all, not many congregations in our Conference have a religious liberty leader in their local churches, and many Adventists see religious liberty as exclusively a defense of Sabbath.
The matter of religious liberty has long been a priority to Seventh-day Adventists. Those who observe Sabbath are a minority throughout the world, and we have always valued the freedom to worship God according to our consciences. The ability to practice Sabbath observance is regularly challenged, so its grace-filled defense by Adventists continues to be important and necessary. But just as important to Adventists has been the freedom for others to worship God according to their consciences, to belong to the religion of their choice, and even to refrain from worshiping God (or any god) if they choose.
Seventh-day Adventists believe God is love–and in that love, God gives us freedom to choose to worship Him or not. God, we maintain, does not force the conscience, because love cannot be coerced: it can only be freely accepted by us as it is freely given by God. Because God created everyone in His image (Genesis 1) and because Jesus’ death demonstrates the worth God puts on every life (Hebrews 2), Seventh-day Adventists believe everyone is entitled to enjoy the God-given dignity of religious freedom.
Consequently, Seventh-day Adventists view the defense of religious liberty for others as not only a part of our overall mission, but as an integral part of the Three Angels’ Messages. I look forward to pursuing religious liberty initiatives together and thereby, re-emphasizing this focus on Adventist mission in our local church contexts. Our next Religious Liberty Sabbath will be on January 21, 2023. God bless.
–Nathaniel Gamble is RMC religious liberty & public affairs director. Photo by Mateus Maia on Unspash.