"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8.
Yes, part of PARL’s mission is to promote and protect religious freedom. As a department, we work to ensure that people can worship freely, and we advocate on behalf of members who may be facing issues of religious discrimination. Religious liberty has been a focus of the Seventh-day Adventist church since its foundation. The issue of freedom to worship is tied to our understanding of the great controversy and our church’s eschatology. We understand the importance of safeguarding the principles found in the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We believe that it is an “inalienable right to believe and to worship God according to conscience, without coercion, restraint, or civil disability, and to practice or to change one’s religion and to promulgate it without interference or penalty”. (1) Usually this is where many people think the work of PARL begins and ends.
However, another aspect of PARL that we don’t focus on as often is our public affairs ministry. This aspect of the ministry is focused on building key relationships in the community so that the Seventh-day Adventist church has a place of credibility, trust and relevance within the public space. The public affairs work challenges us to be involved in our communities, to engage with public officials, and to help the oppressed and marginalized. Here are just a few ways that you can be involved in the public affairs work of PARL.
First, you can support Liberty magazine and the ongoing Liberty campaign. As the oldest continuously published journal devoted to religious freedom, Liberty magazine is one way our church reaches public officials and others in our community to share the importance of freedom of conscience as a fundamental human right. Supporting the campaign is a great opportunity to share the Adventist perspective on current public policy debates and promote the principle that “the God-given right of religious liberty is best exercised when church and state are separate.” (2)
Second, I invite you to attend our “Adventist Pioneers and Civic Engagement” event taking place in Battle Creek, Michigan, in April. This two-day, union-wide PARL event will look at how our church’s founders viewed the work of civic engagement: How did they see this work as tied to our mission and ministry? And, more importantly, how can we continue to be engaged in the work of PARL as it relates to civic engagement and reaching our communities? I’m hoping many of you will be able to register and join us for this event.
Lastly, I encourage each of you to think of ways to be involved in your community. Maybe this is through volunteer work, joining a local board, or just getting to know your neighbors a little better. Let people see that as Adventists we care; we want to make our communities better by our presence in them. We are all involved in the ministry of PARL: building relationships with our neighbors, coworkers and community at large, representing the God we serve as followers of Christ.
Jennifer Gray-Woods is the Lake Union legal counsel, as well as its Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director.