The Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Zealand is one of a number of churches and other community groups speaking out in response to the damage alcohol is doing to New Zealand society. And church leaders believe they have a unique opportunity to make a difference on this issue.
“Temperance and alcohol have been issues for the Adventist church since its inception,” says Pastor Paul Rankin, director of Adventist Health for the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference. “And I believe this is an opportunity to stand up on it again, to renew our commitment to these important health principles and improve the health of our communities.”
Temperance and alcohol have been issues for the Adventist church since its inception
Last year, the Law Commission of New Zealand was asked to prepare a report on the effects of alcohol on New Zealand society. “The chairman of that commission, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, has stated that he had no idea about the magnitude of the problems alcohol is causing in New Zealand and the report has recommended significant changes to the availability, pricing and advertising of alcohol,” reports Pastor Rankin. “This is the most important opportunity we have had to review and influence alcohol regulations since the changes to closing times in the 1960s.”
Adventists are supporting the “5+ Solution” as adapted from World Health Organisation recommendations by a coalition of concerned New Zealanders know as Alcohol Action, led by Dr Doug Sellman, Professor of Psychiatry and Addictive Studies at Otago University in Christchurch. “We have been in contact with Dr Sellman a number of times and he has been really enthusiastic that the Adventist Church are supporting this initiative,” says Pastor Rankin.
The South New Zealand Conference executive committee have voted to support the “5+ Solution” being proposed, to speak out publicly with this support and to contact members of parliament from the South Island to urge them to support these proposed changes. The North New Zealand Conference will consider this proposal as an agenda item at the conference session in September.
“As a church we support the stand of total abstinence,” says Pastor Rankin, “but we must also be prepared to work with others in society who are working to alleviate and reduce the damage alcohol is doing in our society. It is not our job to dictate public morality but we are concerned about issues of public health.”
Pastor Rankin says that alcohol matters have traditionally been left to a conscious vote in New Zealand’s parliament and Alcohol Action are urging the main political parties to make it a party vote.
“In a real way, this is a numbers game,” he says. “We don’t have the money to match the advertising and lobbying power of the alcohol industry, which will be fighting hard against these proposals.
“However, if we could get every Adventist church member in New Zealand to take action and to make a submission to the parliamentary select committee and their local members supporting the ‘5+ Solution,’ that will make a difference.”