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SDA guides members on politics

THE waters are getting murkier by the day as the August 11 general election draws closer. Zambians are expected to elect their next president, members of Parliament, councillors as well as vote on the Bill of Rights.
The church has not been spared by the election fever, which has divided Christians on partisan lines. But the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church has not left its flock without guidance.
North Zambia Union Conference president Samuel Sinyangwe last Sunday directed congregations to immediately remove leaders engaging in partisan politics from their positions because it is against its policy.
The conference covers the northern half of Zambia with 517,000 members and over 1,000 congregations.
Pastor Sinyangwe said if leaders in the church show open support for a particular political party or candidate, they will divide members and fail to carry out their core mission of winning souls for Christ.
He was addressing over 1,300 church board members at the University SDA Church in Lusaka drawn from various mission districts in the Midland Zambia Conference.
“Those who are in ministry and decide to aspire for or take up political office must be stripped of their church credentials because God will no longer cooperate with them,” Pastor Sinyangwe said quoting from the Spirit of Prophecy.
He said the church does not, however, stop its members from voting during elections because it is their civic duty as well as a human right, which is supported by the Bible.
“The position of the church as far as political engagement is concerned remains unchanged. It is that the children of God should separate themselves from politics. If we take sides, we will fail to reach some souls that desperately need Christ. This is what we believe in; this is what defines us,” he said.
Pastor Sinyangwe said the church can only accomplish Christ’s commission of preaching the gospel to the whole world in Mathew Chapter 28 and Revelation Chapter 14 of the Bible if members are not united as the apostles were on the Pentecost Day.
“Imagine if I, as North Zambia Union Conference president, declared today that I support a particular political  party. I will have already divided the members because they support different parties,” he said.
The church admonishes the children of God to stay away from politics because it has the potential to drag them into sinful and ungodly activities besides hindering their soul-winning work.
The clergyman cited the statement issued by the church’s North America Division on retired neurosurgeon and its member Ben Carson’s bid for the presidency of the United States.
The statement, posted on May 4, 2015 read in part:
“As the 2016 United States election cycle begins, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is aware of the increased interest in the presidential candidacy of Dr Ben Carson.
“The Adventist Church has a long-standing position of not supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. This position is based both on our historical position of separation of church and state, and the applicable federal law relating to the church’s tax-exempt status.
“While individual church members are free to support or oppose any candidate for office as they see fit, it is crucial that the church as an institution remains neutral on all candidates for office.
“Care should be taken that the pulpit and all church property remain a neutral space when it comes to elections.
“Church employees must also exercise extreme care not to express views in their denominational capacity about any candidate for office, including Dr Carson.
“We also want to remind our church members, pastors and administrators of the church’s official position on the separation of church and state.
“Adventists should take civic responsibilities seriously. We should participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities.
“Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilise the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.
“The Seventh-Day Adventist Church values Dr Carson as we do all members. However, it is important for the church to maintain its long-standing historical support for the separation of church and state by not endorsing or opposing any candidate.”
The statement was published in the Adventist Review, the official magazine of the church.
The church is concerned about protecting its unity and evangelistic focus by adopting a clear position on partisan politics. Ultimately, it is protecting the name of its head, Jesus Christ.
Pastor Sinyangwe explained that on several occasions the Saviour was asked questions of a political nature, but he consistently refused to interfere in earthly politics.
Indeed at no time did Jesus mention the occupation of Israel by the Roman Empire, and the activities of Jewish zealots who had waged a violent insurgency to drive the occupiers out.
The pastor dismissed as false the claim that Christians can bring sanity to politics because as soon as they are elected, they are the ones who get converted by the world.
“We should stay away from politics because we are unique; we are not one of the churches but the church,” Pastor Sinyangwe said.
He also condemned tribalism and directed congregations to hastily sanction any leader or member promoting or practising the vice.
Adventists will do a wise thing if they heed their church’s counsel on the need to steer clear of the fractious and hate-peddling partisan politics.
The church should unite rather than divide Christians.