BROOMFIELD, Colo. — The Seventh-day Adventist Church is having a moment.
As Ben Carson seeks the Republican nomination for president, he’s also drawing notice to the church that has counted him as a member since he was a child.
The denomination is not well-known and neither are its teachings. Church officials are hoping to change that, unveiling on Thursday a new website — whoareadventists.org — to provide some answers.
Here’s some information about Seventh-day Adventists and their beliefs.
HOW THE CHURCH STARTED
The Seventh-day Adventist Church traces its roots to the preaching of William Miller of New Hampton, New York, who said his study of the Book of Daniel showed the world would end in the mid-1840s.
When Jesus did not return as expected, the “Great Disappointment” occurred, and the Millerites split into smaller groups. One, influenced by the visions of Ellen White, led to Seventh-day Adventist practice today.
The denomination was established in 1863 in Battle Creek, Michigan, and now claims 18.7 million members worldwide, including 1.2 million in North America.
The term adventist refers to the belief that Christ’s second coming is near. Seventh-day refers to the belief that the Bible requires observing the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES AND PRACTICES
The church views the Bible as the literal word of God and the primary authority for Adventists.
Ellen White is considered a prophet, but her extensive religious writings, while deeply influential in shaping the church, are not given the same weight as Scripture. The denomination teaches that God made the Earth in six literal days.
Adventists also have a heavy emphasis on education and many go into the medical field, due in part to the spiritual discipline within the church of staying healthy. Many church members are vegetarians, and abstain from alcohol and smoking. Adventists also run a large network of hospitals and health clinics around the world.
THE CHURCH AND OTHER DENOMINATIONS
Adventist officials, like Southern Baptist leaders, eschew the formal interreligious dialogues that are part of American Christian life and also don’t join the major ecumenical alliances and associations that try to unite Christians.
However, Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, an Adventist who is also a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, California, said Adventist and evangelical theologians have increasingly collaborated in recent years, signaling that at least on a scholarly level, common ground is being found.
“Seventh-day Day Adventists have walked toward evangelicals and evangelicals have walked toward Seventh-day Adventists,” he said.
Along with their focus on health, Adventists are known for making religious freedom a very high priority, not just for the church, but for all faith groups.
The roots of this concern can be traced to White’s predictions of persecution of Adventists for their celebration of a Saturday Sabbath. Over the years, the church has developed a broad religious freedom focus that includes collaboration with a wide array of other religious organizations.
This past May, Seventh-day Adventist officials issued a letter in light of Carson’s candidacy urging members to preserve the separation of church and state during the 2016 election season and keep politics out of the pulpit.