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Annual Council opens with focus on healthful living, appeal for diplomacy

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Annual Council opens with focus on healthful living, appeal for diplomacy

Adventist Church Health Ministries Director Dr. Peter Landless implores hundreds of world church executives to model healthful living in their own busy lives, and to make any necessary lifestyle changes in their diet, exercise and relationships. [photo: Ansel Oliver]

Harvard Professor Williams, Health Director Landless make case for healthful outreach, personal example

October 09, 2014 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 2014 Annual Council opened with an appeal for respectful diplomacy over coming discussions as well as a major call for the Church to focus on health. Leaders were implored both to establish health ministries for the community and to set their own example of healthful living.

Vice President Geoffrey Mbwana and Secretary G. T. Ng opened the seven-day meeting of the Executive Committee at the world church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, before Church President Ted N. C. Wilson welcomed the several hundred present delegates.

Wilson wished church leaders God’s blessing over the next week of business sessions and spiritual meetings. “We’ve been praying earnestly that this room would be filled with a sweet spirit,” he said before reading a statement from top leaders. The statement was a strong hint regarding the planned upcoming discussion set for Tuesday, October 14 on the theology of ordination and how it relates to gender.

“We General Conference and division officers appeal to all Annual Council attendees to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of some differences of opinion that may be evident on certain subjects,” Wilson said, reading from the statement. “We ask for Christ-likeness and humble respect for each other in our words and activities during this Annual Council and beyond.”

From there, the evening progressed through three presentations from leading health experts, each of whom implored delegates to prioritize health-related ministry in their own regions of the world and make healthful living a personal priority.

David Williams, a professor of public health at Harvard University and an honorary associate Health Ministries director of the Adventist Church, delivered a lecture on the need for addressing underlying issues related to health, including income and racial inequalities, stress and depression.

The pinnacle example of health outreach, he said, was a mission center in Chicago established in 1893 by John Harvey Kellogg. The mission offered meals and shelter for the homeless, a clinic, a rescue center for prostitutes, a maternity home for unwed mothers and a drug re-habilitation facility. Kellogg established the center after reading the book “Ministry of Healing” by Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White, Williams said.

“The book ‘Ministry of Healing’ is our textbook in comprehensive [health] ministry, and we need to go back to the wonderful advice we have been given that can help us deal with challenges that we face,” Williams said.

Fred Hardinge, associate Health Ministries director for the Church, gave an overview on publicly-funded studies examining Adventists for their longevity. He said Adventists tend to live eight to 10 years longer than the general population. An avoidance of meat, especially red meat, was a key factor, he said.

Health Ministries director Dr. Peter Landless concurred, saying a plant-based diet is the preferred diet where it is available. His overall message emphasized balanced living.

“The world of science is shouting out the message to us through the most modern scientific journals, with evidence-based [examinations], that flesh foods are not good for us,” Landless told delegates. “I wish and pray that we will move to a plant-based diet, with a balanced Christ-like approach, not placing ourselves at various rungs of sanctification because of the diets we consume, but following what is the best we can do in the environments we find ourselves.”

Landless also urged leaders, who often fly on long flights and sit through long meetings, to set the example of healthful living. “How are you in yourself? Are your relationships healthy and growing?” he asked.

The meeting came to a close with British Union Conference President Ian Sweeney offering his testimony about recent lifestyle changes that brought him down to a healthier body weight. In the past two years, Sweeney said he had lost 75 pounds and received cheers for his slimmer physique when addressing a large crowd of Church members during a recent visit from President Wilson.

He decided to eat healthier food and exercise more after giving a book about health to a neighbor and realized the irony as it related to his own situation.

“I hadn’t preached a sermon on health and temperance for 15 to 17 years because it would have just been hypocrisy” Sweeney said. “The spirit impressed me that I want to reflect in my own life what I want to preach.”

Mark Finley, assistant to President Wilson, ended the meeting saying that “if the motivation for lifestyle change is anything other than honoring God with the body he has given me, that motivation is really shallow.… I would like to suggest to you that the power for lifestyle change comes from Jesus, and that as we come to him and say ‘lord, my body is yours. I want to honor you in every aspect of my life.’”

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