Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Religion, Mission and Ministry PhD
Nicholas P. Miller
Adventists have been inconsistent in dealing with inequality and injustice in society, swaying between silence, accommodation, positional statements, and direct advocacy approaches. Although advocacy has become more prominent among Adventist thinkers since the end of the twentieth century, there is a lack of empirical data which answer questions related to contemporary Adventists' beliefs and practices in relation to advocacy in the context of mission. Concomitantly, there does not yet exist a documented or articulated Adventist missiological perspective on advocacy.
(1) What part, if any, has biblically-based social advocacy played in Adventist mission history? and (2) What do contemporary Adventists believe and practice about social justice advocacy?
This dissertation starts by laying the theoretical and theological basis for addressing the problem. It then looks into Adventist mission literature, particularly the legacy of Ana and Ferdinand Stahl, to find the role advocacy has played in Adventist mission history. The field research applies a mixed-method. The quantitative method consists in the collection of beliefs and practices regarding advocacy from a sample of 260 Adventist students and faculty from Andrews University by using an online survey. The qualitative method includes interviews with 10 Adventist scholars and administrators (4 from Andrews, 1 from Oakwood, 1 from La Sierra, 1 from Loma Linda, 1 from Washington, 4 from the General Conference and its Divisions) and 2 PhD students. The questionnaires combined a series of closed and open-ended questions. Prior to the actual survey research, I tested the method with 33 seminary students (30 online questionnaires, 3 interviews).
Seventh-day Adventists have traditionally viewed evangelism and social ministry as two separate components of the Church's mission with evangelism having the upper hand. Nevertheless, there have been exceptions such as the experience of the missionary couple Anna and Ferdinand Stahl who integrated evangelism and social activism. However, overall, the research participants expressed favorable views about advocacy and would like to see the Adventist Church become more engaged in social justice advocacy as a significant element in its outreach to the world. Those views are representative of younger church members (18–34 years old) and highly educated, older members, but not of most of the Church, which is, in fact, made of mostly older members (around 50 years old). The higher age groups in the sample, quite small in number, are somewhat skewed towards higher education (Masters or doctorates), which correlates with more progressive views. Only one demographic response was found to influence views on social justice advocacy: Non-Whites are significantly different from Whites on "How often should Adventist Pastors advocate for social justice from the pulpit?" Non-White respondents want to see pastors advocate for social justice from the pulpit more often than their White counterparts.
Conclusion and recommendation
A careful study of three fundamental characteristics of the Adventist identity and message—the Sabbath in the context of Isa 58, the Three Angels' messages in the context of Rev 14, and the Second Coming as expounded in Matt 24–26—reveals that Adventists have been called to be a prophetic movement and a repairer of breaches. As such, Adventists are by nature "prophetic evangelists," as exemplified by the life and ministry of Ana and Ferdinand Stahl. The dissertation recommends that Seventh-day Adventists critique, serve, intercede, and influence. In so doing, they will be guided by three basic commitments: commitment to Scripture, commitment to peacemaking, and commitment to human flourishing.
Social advocacy; Human rights advocacy; Church and social problems--Seventh-day Adventists; Justice--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists; Equality--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists; Mission of the church; Church and the world--Seventh-day Adventists
William, Michelet, "Toward a Biblical and Missiological Framework for Transformational Advocacy in the Seventh-day Adventist Church" (2023). Dissertations. 1790.
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