Dr. Ben Carson, who is a leader in the current GOP presidential polls, has been very open about his religious beliefs throughout his presidential campaign. Carson is a Seventh-Day Adventist, a unique Protestant religion that believes in the imminent return of Christ, and also that a vegetarian diet is the best way to gain nutrition. The role of the pastor is also important to the Seventh-Day Adventist religion, as they are in most Christian denominations. Carson has served as a local elder in the church. In the absence of a pastor, an elder can conduct church services and serve as the religious leader.
Carson has said that he asked an ordained Seventh-Day Adventist pastor to re-baptize him when he was only 12 years old, which was the start of his religious journey. Carson has included this anecdote of opting to be baptized as a 12-year-old (after previously being baptized at age eight) as one of the main turning points in his personal narrative. Religion clearly factors in strongly for Carson's personal identity, as well as his politics (Carson has suggested and defended a tax plan that is based on Biblical tithing), and the experience he had with his pastor when he was young clearly had an impact on him.
Taking a closer look at Carson's religion and some of the duties he could have had, even though he was an elder not a pastor, certainly helps us gain a better understanding of his overall beliefs and political platform, so let's examine the role of the pastor in the Seventh-Day Adventist church.
The Pastor Is Not At The Top Of The Church's Hierarchy
According to the Seventh Day Adventist Church manual, the highest ranking authority in the church is the General Conference, and when the General Conference is not in session, the General
Conference Executive Committee is the top authority. These two bodies are composed of certain committees that make decisions about church concerns. The pastor leads his or her church, but they are not the final word on major church decisions.
There Are Multiple Kinds Of Leaders In The Church
The Seventh Day Adventist church has several categories of pastors: ordained pastors, who lead an individual church; licensed ministers, who are authorized to preach and evangelize, but can more or less be thought of as "in training" for becoming an ordained pastor; and Bible instructors, who work with evangelists and local congregations.
Pastors Lead Their Church In A Spiritual Sense
Seventh Day Adventist pastors are not charged with any administrative duties, rather ordained pastors are assigned to a church where they are tasked with leading rites and ceremonies and to serve as the spiritual leader of the church.
Pastors Answer To A Local Council
Pastors and the churches they are assigned to fall under the supervision of a Conference President, and Conference Departmental Directors. The Conference President serves to oversee the churches in their designated area, and is a position occupied by those who have previously served as ordained pastors. The tasks of the Conference Departmental Directors are more administrative and do not involve spiritual advisory.
Pastors Assist Evangelists
Seventh Day Adventists will send evangelists out in to the field to spread the message of their religion to different areas of the world. If there is a church where an evangelist is assigned, the pastor of the local church will help the evangelist with their work.