The Adventist Wedding Ring


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"Some church members feel that the use of a simple marriage band is a symbol of faithfulness to the marriage vow, and such persons should be fully accepted in the fellowship and service of the church."-The new wedding ring clause in the North American Division official statement, approved November 1986.

This statement presents a new doctrinal position for Seventh-day Adventists in the United States and Canada. It says three things:

1 - The change has been made because some church members "feel" it should be made.

2 - Ignoring clear Bible, Spirit of Prophecy statements (quoted elsewhere in this tract), it is felt that the reason why marriage rings should be accepted is because they "symbolize . . faithfulness." Doctrines are being based on perceived symbols instead of Scriptural statements.

3 - Everyone wearing wedding rings and requesting membership into the Seventh-day Adventist Church MUST now be accepted by ministers and members.

What an example is now being given to our children by this new NAD requirement!

I write this as a solemn appeal to our church members, workers, and retired personnel: Our beloved Church is entering a time of crisis on many fronts. The tract you now have in hand details one of the latest: the November decision by the North American Division year-end meeting-to officially approve the wearing of wedding rings by church members-even when being baptized!

Very seriously, I plead with you to write our leaders to reverse this terrible decision. For decades, our faithful pastors and evangelists-including many of you-have stood firm on our historic belief that the commandment-keeping people of God should not wear gold, jewels, or other adornment.

I realize what your thinking may be in regard to this matter: You also are deeply concerned that such an action should be approved by the NAD, but at the same time you have for years felt security in the thought that you should remain silent when unfortunate decisions are made by leadership. We can understand your feelings, but, please, let me point out to you,-that your first duty is to the God of heaven and His Word, not to men.

The policy that we will by our silence accept committee decisions that go counter to the express Word of God, may appear to be favorable to unity, but in reality that silence is an open declaration that we are taking our stand with actions that are opposed to clear Bible-Spirit of Prophecy statements, and thus, by default, uniting in opposition to those statements. And that is not the kind of "unity" that you and I want, is it?

Even though we may be concerned for unity of spirit, yet if we stand on the side of disobedience to Scripture, we are aligning ourselves with those who, for sake of expediency, are rebelling against the teachings of God's Word.

I realize that these may seem to be harsh judgments, but if you will consider this in honesty of heart, you will recognize that I am only telling you the truth. And "am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16)

I know how your heart longs for unity and harmony among our people, But though we long for it and seek it, our first duty must ever be to stand on the side of God and His teachings. To remain silent in a time of widespread compromise is, in  actuality, to stand with the men compromising-rather than with God! And, surely, you and I do not want to be found opposing God.

And it was over that very issue that we first came into this Church many years ago. You and I individually determined that we would stand on the side of the Inspired Word, and so we become Seventh-day Adventists. And we are thankful that we did.

But now the test comes to us again. It is not a test to leave the Church. It is rather a test to stand true within the Church-true to God and to the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. For you and I well know that any day that we are not knowingly in obedience to His Inspired Word, we are not with God. He asks us;- yea, it is our duty-to speak up in a time of crisis and plead with men to do that which is right. The curse of Meroz will not come upon us if we do that.

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof: because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." (Judges 5:23)

"If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God." (3 Testimonies, 281)

-Vance Ferrell

This writer recently received a telephone call from a high-placed friend with the information that that very week the North American Division had just approved wedding rings. "Tell the pastors they now have to baptize them with their rings on," came the shocking news.

We could not help wondering how our leaders would announce this startling doctrinal change to the membership of the church. (Keep in mind that doctrinal changes are supposed to be discussed and approved by the General Conference in Session, but this wedding ring decision was made by a small committee at General Conference headquarters.)

Then the December 4, 1986 issue of the "Adventist Review" arrived (reprinted here). The announcement was made in a very interesting way. Friends have told this writer that they read the first paragraph or two of the article and then skipped over to the next article, concluding that the article must simply be about how church leadership is tightening up on our standards. But not so, if you read the entire article. It is an announcement that wedding rings are now very acceptable throughout the North American Division.

Just at the time when this issue of the "Review" came in the mail, a friend arrived from Europe to see us. I asked him about this matter of wedding rings in Europe, and he told me that he and his wife have lived there for years and neither of them have ever worn a wedding ring, and no one in Europe, no one-has ever complained or even remarked about the absence of rings on their fingers. This includes friends, Adventists, non-Adventists, various business contacts, and everyone else for that matter. He also told me that he has extensively traveled throughout Europe over the past several years with his wife-and never once has any hotel or innkeeper questioned them about the fact that they do not wear wedding bands.

"But," I asked him, "I have heard in our church circles that wedding rings are a must for our people and workers in Europe. The customs of Europeans are such that they must have them on at all times." He replied that such was not true. He himself speaks two languages and continually makes contacts with Adventists and non-Adventists in many more-and wedding rings are in no way a necessity in Europe. I then inquired why our European Adventists are so anxious to wear wedding rings, and he replied that they do it because they want to, not because they have to.

And that's the story of wedding rings in Europe and now in America. We are told in the "Review" article that the European Adventists are accustomed to wearing wedding rings, and so we need to approve of wearing of rings here in North America to accommodate them. When the truth of the fact is that the European Adventists do not have to wear wedding bands. There is actually a far different reason why leadership is so anxious to approve the use of wedding rings in North America: Many worldlings want to come into the Church who are only half-converted. Our present ban on wedding rings keeps them out of the Church: The new ruling will enable them to come in.

The fact is that this open door to wedding rings is more than a farce, it is a slap in the face to our many pastors and evangelists, who for more than a hundred years, have pled with baptismal candidates to give up their rings and jewelry in order that they might come to Christ.

For if it is all right to now baptize new church members with their wedding rings on throughout North America,-then it is all right for all the rest of the church members to wear them also, at any time and in any place. For what place could be more sacred than the baptismal font where you surrender all and die to the old life .. surrender all, that is, but your wedding ring.

Here is the article-and some very important quotations to carefully think about:

North America Adopts Adornment Action

DECEMBER 4, 1986

A newly written statement on jewelry spurred lively debate among delegates to the North American Division year-end meeting. Discussion lasted so long that NAD officers had to schedule an extra session. The document, "Jewelry: A Clarification and Appeal," reaffirms and clarifies a 1972 Annual Council action that counseled against the use of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. That same action encouraged the selection of watches, brooches, cuff links, and tie clasps, with simplicity, modesty, and economy.

The North American Division document also cites a 1972 General Conference officers' statement that counseled ministers not to perform ring wedding ceremonies-and urged evangelists and pastors to encourage baptismal candidates to examine their motives in deciding whether to wear a wedding band.

Although the GC officers' statement spoke strongly against the use of jewelry, it drew a distinction between ornaments and the simple wedding band, providing for the baptism of converts who conscientiously felt they should wear a simple ring.

The current NAD document also appeals to members for a commitment to simplicity in lifestyle and holds the wearing of jewelry as unacceptable..

However, one clause in the NAD statement differed from the actions in 1972-and that difference sparked over two dozen speeches, remarks, and declarations.

The clause states: "Some church members feel that the use of a simple marriage band is a symbol of faithfulness to the marriage vow, and such persons should be fully accepted in the fellowship and service of the church."

NAD delegates approved the document by a substantial majority after a three-hour debate.

Several delegates, like Leonard Newton, Northeastern Conference President, believed that the clause will lead to a greater use of jewelry among Adventists. "We didn't have the problem of jewelry before the Change in 1972," Newton said.

Other delegates, like Herman Bauman, Montana Conference president, expressed satisfaction because the document unifies the church position around the world.

NAD president Charles Bradford insisted that there is no change in the church's stand on jewelry. He argued that the difference in attitudes over the wedding band between native and foreign-born citizens has actually' weakened the church's case against jewelry.

"The increasing number of overseas church employees [who conscientiously wear wedding bands] coming to the United States to work in various church settings has caused conflicts with North American members [who traditionally have not worn wedding bands]," Bradford explained. "The 1972 statements [which tolerated the use of wedding bands] were never read carefully enough. They were never widely circulated."

"We gave attention to this issue because of the repeated appeals from church leaders for clarification," he said.

"We're saying that there is a distinction. We can draw the line here and say, 'Take off the earrings. Take off the class rings. Take off all the ostentatious brooches and tie clasps."'

"The wedding band has never been an issue outside of North America. People were wearing it all around the world-even back in 1892 when Ellen G. White wrote on it," Bradford explained. "It was never an issue in England, France, Italy, and Australia. They [members outside North America] have been always persuaded that the wedding band was a symbol of their marriage commitment."

Consider these Quotations

"A sister who had spent some weeks at one of our institutions in ___, said that she felt much disappointed in what she saw and heard there ... Before accepting the truth, she had followed the fashions of the world in her dress, and had worn costly jewelry and other ornaments; but upon deciding to obey the Word of God, she felt that its teachings required her to lay aside all extravagant and superfluous adorning. She was taught that Seventh-day Adventists did not wear jewelry, gold, silver, or precious stones, and that they did not conform to worldly fashions in their dress. When she saw among those who profess the faith such a wide departure from Bible simplicity, she felt bewildered. Had they not the same Bible, which she had been studying, and to which she had endeavored to conform her life? Had her past experience been mere fanaticism; Had she misinterpreted the words of the apostle, 'The friendship of the world is enmity with God, for whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God'?

"Mrs. D, a lady occupying a position in the institution, was visiting at Sr. ___'s room one day, when the latter took out of her trunk a gold necklace and chain, and said she wished to dispose of this jewelry and put the proceeds into the Lord's treasury. Said the other, Why do you sell it? I would wear it if it was mine.' 'Why,' replied Sr. ___, 'when I received the truth, I was taught that all these things must be laid aside. Surely they are contrary to the teachings of God's Word.' And she cited her hearer to the words of the apostles, Paul and Peter, upon this point, 'In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but, as becometh women professing godliness, with good works.' Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.'

"In answer, the lady displayed a gold ring on her finger, given her by an unbeliever, and said she thought it no harm to wear such ornaments. 'We are not so particular,' said she, 'as formerly. Our people have been over scrupulous in their opinions upon the subject of dress. The ladies of this institution wear gold watches and gold chains, and dress like other people. It is not good policy to be singular in our dress; for we cannot exert so much influence.'

"We inquire, is this in accordance with the teachings of Christ? Are we to follow the Word of God, or the customs of the world? Our sister decided that it was the safest to adhere to the Bible standard. Will Mrs. D and others who pursue a similar course be pleased to meet the result of their influence, in that day when every man shall receive according to his works?

"God's Word is plain. Its teachings cannot be mistaken. Shall we obey it, just as He has given it to us, or shall we seek to find how far we can digress and yet be saved? Would that all connected with our institutions would receive and follow the divine light, and thus be enabled to transmit light to those who walk in darkness.

"Conformity to the world is a sin which is sapping the spirituality of our people, and seriously interfering with their usefulness. It is idle to proclaim the warning message to the world, while we deny it in the transactions of daily life." Evangelism, 270-272,

"Have not our sisters sufficient zeal and moral courage to place themselves without excuse upon the Bible platform? The apostle has given most explicit directions on this point: 'I will therefore . . that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamfacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.' Here the Lord, through His apostle, speaks expressly against the wearing of gold. Let those who have had experience see to it that they do not lead others astray on this point by their example. That right encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless, and the wearing of it has a wrong influence upon others."-4 Testimonies, 630.

"Sinners are under a fearful deception. They despise and reject the Saviour. They do not realize the value of the pearl offered to them, and cast it away, rendering to their Redeemer only insult and mockery. Many a woman decks herself with rings and bracelets, thinking to gain admiration, but she refuses to accept the pearl of great price, which would secure for her sanctification, honor, and eternal riches. What an infatuation is upon the minds of many! They are more charmed with earthly baubles, which glitter and shine, than with the crown of immortal life, God's reward for loyalty. 'Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.' (Jeremiah 2:32)"-1 Selected Messages, 400.

"The Lord God of heaven calls upon man to put away their idols, to cut off every extravagant desire, to indulge in nothing that is simply--for display and parade, and to study economy in purchasing garments and furniture. Do not expend one dollar of God's money in purchasing needless articles. Your money means the salvation of souls. Then let it not be spent for gems, for gold, or precious stones."-Welfare Ministry, 267.

"If we allow our minds to be absorbed by worldly interests, the Lord may give us time by removing from us our idols of gold, of houses, or of fertile lands."-Great Controversy, 622.

"The people of God, who have been blessed with great light in regard to the truth for this time, should not forget that they are to be waiting and watching for the coming of their Lord in the clouds of heaven. Let them not forget that they are to put off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let no man set up his idols of gold, or silver, or lands, and give the service of his heart to this world, and to its interests."-Counsels on Stewardship, 231.

"While at Brother Harris's I had an interview with a sister who wore gold, and yet professed to be looking for Christ's coming. We spoke of the express declarations of Scripture against the wearing of gold. But she referred to where Solomon was commanded to beautify the temple, and to the statement that the streets of the city of God were pure gold. She said that if we could improve our appearance by wearing gold, so as to have influence in the world, it was right. I replied that we were poor fallen mortals, and instead of decorating these bodies because Solomon's temple was gloriously adorned, we should remember our fallen condition, and that it cost the suffering and death of the Son of God to redeem us. This thought should cause in us self-abasement. Jesus is our pattern. If He would lay aside His humiliation and sufferings, and cry, 'If any man will come after Me, let him please himself, and enjoy the world, and he shall be My disciple,' the multitude would believe and follow Him. But Jesus will come to us in no other character than that of the meek, crucified One. If we would be with Him in heaven, we must be like Him on earth. The world will claim its own; and whoever will overcome, must leave what belongs to it."-Life Sketches, 113-114.

"Peter gives valuable instruction concerning the dress of Christian women: 'Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves.' All that we urge is compliance with the injunctions of God's word. Are we Bible readers and followers of Bible teachings? Will we obey God, or conform to the customs of the world? Will we serve God or mammon? Can we expect to enjoy peace of mind and the approval of God while walking directly contrary to the teachings of His word?

"The apostle Paul exhorts Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, 'that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect, will of God.' But many who profess to be children of God feel no scruples against conforming to the customs of the world in the wearing of gold and pearls and costly array. Those who are too conscientious to wear these things are regarded as narrow-minded, superstitious, and even fanatical. But it is God who condescends to give us these instructions; they are the declarations of Infinite Wisdom, and those who disregard them do so at their own peril and loss. Those who cling to the ornaments forbidden in God's word cherish pride and vanity in the heart. They desire to attract attention. Their dress says: Look at me; admire me. Thus the vanity inherent in human nature is steadily increasing by indulgence. When the mind is fixed upon pleasing God alone, all the needless embellishments of the person disappear.

"The apostle places the outward adorning in direct contrast with a meek and quiet spirit and then testifies of the comparative value of the latter: 'In the sight of God of great price.' There is a decided contradiction between the love of outward adorning and the grace of meekness, the quiet spirit. It is only when we seek in all things to conform to the will of God that peace and jay will reign in the soul."-4 Testimonies, 644-645.

Additional quotations on this topic: 2 Bible Commentary, 1012; 3 Testimonies, 376-377; Counsels on Stewardship, 151.

Here are some statements by historians that explain the pagan origins of the wedding ring:

"Confiding then in the power of Christianity to resist the infection of evil, and to transmute the very instruments and appendages of demon-worship to an evangelical use, and feeling also that these usages had originally come from primitive revelations and from the instinct of nature, though they had been corrupted; and that they must invent what they needed, if they did not use what they found; and that they were moreover possessed of the very archetypes, of which paganism attempted the shadows; the rulers of the Church from early times were prepared, should the occasion arise, to adopt, or imitate, or sanction the existing rites and customs of the populace, as well as the philosophy of the educated class.

"In the course of the fourth century two movements or developments spread over the face of Christendom, with a rapidity characteristic of the Church; the one ascetic, the other ritual or ceremonial. We are told in various ways by Eusebius, that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in their own. It is not necessary to go into a subject, which the diligence of Protestant writers has made familiar to most of us. The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water, asylums; holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacredotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church." John Henry Newman, "An Essay on the Development of Christian--Doctrine,"- pp. 371-373. [This book was written by Newman not long before he left his high-ranking position in the Anglican Church in England and became a Roman Catholic. Later, in appreciation of his many written defenses of Roman Catholicism, he was made a cardinal.]

The early church writer and theologian, Tertullian, mentions in his book, "On Idolatry," that the "martial [marriage] ring" originated from pagan idolatry practices. (See Turtullian, "On Idolatry," chapter 16).

"Among the Romans .. there was a ceremony of betrothal, which sometimes took place long before the wedding. On this occasion the prospective bridegroom gave his fiancee a ring which she wore on the third finger of her left hand. Sometimes guests were invited, and the bride-to-be received presents." -Gordon J. Laing, "Survivals of Roman Religion, 29.

"While civil marriage was an old institution among the Romans, the most ancient marriage rite of the patricians (confarreatio) involved the participation of religious functionaries .. Even after the confarreate marriage rite had become obsolete many of its characteristics survived in the form of wedding most frequently practiced by the Romans of the republican and imperial periods. There was a ceremony of betrothal, which sometimes took place long before the wedding. On this occasion the prospective bridegroom gave his fiancÚ a ring, which she wore on the third finger of her left hand. Sometimes guests were invited, and the bride-to-be received presents . .They both partook of the sacred cake, libum farreum, .. The Church maintained the pagan contact of marriage with religion, and though in the process of adaptation the content of the service was materially changed, many of the old customs were retained. Among the survivals may be mentioned the engagement-ring, still worn on the third finger of the left hand . . In regard to the giving of a ring it seems probable, in spite of Tertullian's comment on the pagan character of the custom, that it was usual among most of the Christians even in his time (about A.D. 200), and it is quite clear that it was a universal practice from the fourth century."-Gordon J. Laing, "Survivals of Roman Religion," 29-33.