Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Adventists in public service ask, “Where’s my church?”

Adventists in public service Attendees at the potluck

Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden

As we look to become more intentional about corporately relating to our publics and helping more people know about Seventh-day Adventists – who we are, what we believe, how we serve – we’re starting by asking questions: What do people in your circles know about our church? What do you wish they knew? What should we do to raise awareness of our church, and how can you help?

At a recent potluck, hosted by Capitol Hill senior staffers Michelle Chin and Deborah Anderson, I polled a group of 20 or so Adventists who work on Capitol Hill or for the “Fed.” I expected to be schooled on branding, media pitching, raising awareness and insider tips of the public relations trade.

Instead the intrepid group had a number of questions for us: “What does the church have to say about today’s headlining news, needs and narratives?” “Where does our church stand on today’s most talked about issues?” “When there are oppressive issues, why are we silent?” and “When there is injustice, what can we do?”20140405_172249

Dwayne Leslie, our church’s official liaison to Capitol Hill, aptly fielded most of their questions, saying that the church has voted statements on many issues, sharing examples of places in the world where the church is weighing in and advocating for human rights and freedoms, and highlighting several ways he is working to shed light on our positions of interest – internally and externally. “This is the reason I have a blog on the Huffington Post, tweet @irla_usa and host a weekly television show on the Hope Channel called Global Faith & Freedom,” he shared. He’d also like to get articles published on

We encouraged them to monitor church websites and read Adventist World, Liberty and the Columbia Union Visitor and promised to sign them up to receive the ANN Bulletin and Visitor News Bulletin, weekly electronic newsletters from our respective offices.20140405_172047

They, in turn, proposed a number of practical suggestions:

  1. Stand Up - Take a stand and position on issues facing our world – popular or unpopular. We can’t fit in everywhere, and we can’t appease everybody, so don’t be afraid to take an unpopular stand. Be careful, however, and think it through because the political climate is such that you will be attacked from those opposing whatever side of the issue you take.
  2. Speak Up – Many leaders know who we are, but wonder where we stand or what we have to say on issues that arise. Communicate to help our members and others know our position.
  3. Show Up - Attend events, forums, meetings, caucuses to meet people and engage in the public discourse about issues that impact our world. For example, consider participating in the Veggie Caucus on Capitol Hill which promotes a vegetarian lifestyle. Promote the results of the Adventist Health Study. Tout our wellness and prevention programs and initiatives. In addition, schedule protocol meetings with congressional leaders, staff and other influencers.
  4. Support – Build relationships and work with other groups on issues of mutual concern. For example, the World Bank has an initiative to eliminate poverty. Consider joining or supporting their efforts and educate our members on our involvement and how they can help.
  5. Seek – Gather and share information and quotes from Adventist theologians, educators, physicians and other experts “in the know” about current events or issues (i.e., health, religious liberty, education). Study and draw from Ellen White’s counsels that speak to today’s issues.
  6. Share – Educate members (our community??) at the local level about laws affecting our freedoms as well as issues facing the world, their impact, what our church has to say, how we can help and how we are working to address it (i.e. poverty, hunger, abuse, sexual trafficking, intolerance, homelessness, religious freedom, mental illness, etc.).

How is your organization reaching out to your local community?  Let us know on or by leaving a comment below.

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