1935 to 1940: “An unselfish spirit”

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According to Record reports, Adventists in this period watched the global conflict begin and grow with real concern. There are a number of articles that share how non-combatants and conscientious objectors fared in World War I as encouragement and comparison to what young men were now facing. One writer, H E Widmer, praises the Church for preparing young men for medical service and shares some of his experiences in the August 28, 1940 issue. There are also reports of missionaries being relocated or experiencing war first hand and, as the theatre of war moves to the Asia Pacific region, the Church grows more concerned. This report from the Union Conference Committee, entitled ”Facing a Grave Situation” (July 1, 1940), details some of the church’s decisions in responding to the crisis. It also demonstrates some of how they saw World War II and what had to happen, alongside their call to mission.

”The awful situation into which we have been brought by the exigencies of war has caused the Union Conference Committee much anxiety. For instance, our whole island situation may be changed so seriously by international complications that it may be necessary to evacuate our white missionaries. For all this and many other problems the Executive Committee has had to plan. 

Then there are contingencies to provide for in case of the invasion of our homeland; and many other matters may arise, each of which has received careful and prayerful consideration by the Committee. Among these problems, consideration has been given to the advisability or otherwise of holding our camp-meetings this season, because of the tremendous difficulties of transportation and other obstacles which face us. 

After viewing this matter from all angles, it was unanimously decided that we should cancel all of our camp-meetings for the present, and that we should offer to the Government the use of our tents for military camps. At present there is a need for housing accommodation for thousands of men who are being called up for the defence of our shores. We have sufficient tents to provide accommodation for five thousand men. To hold such valuable and useful equipment in our store at a time when the country is in dire need of accommodation for thousands of the men who are sacrificing their business and professional careers in order to defend Australia from invasion, seemed to the Committee to be very wrong. 

Our Christian principles forbid us to engage in combatant service in the defence of our country, but those same principles do not forbid us from rendering such service as we can conscientiously contribute towards the defence of our families, our homes, our churches, and our liberties; for it cannot be too often asserted that if our enemies should succeed in overthrowing the Empire, then we shall lose the inestimable privileges which we now enjoy, and which have cost our ancestors their life’s blood to gain for us. 

This struggle for world supremacy threatens to rob us of the right to think for ourselves; it threatens to take from us not merely the divine right to govern ourselves as a democracy, but to substitute a pagan form of religion for Christianity. In view of such a contingency it seemed to the Committee that the Church should make some practical contribution towards the defence of its very existence. Therefore it was unanimously voted that instead of using our tents for ourselves, we should place them at the disposal of the Government at such a time as this. 

No other organisation in the Commonwealth has such a fine camp equipment as we possess. When the nation is bending every energy to preserve our liberties, we should not withhold that which would provide such a timely and valuable assistance to the Government at this time when our very existence is threatened. 

While our people will doubtless be disappointed at missing their camp-meetings, we feel sure they will recognise the tremendous difficulties of holding our camps this year, and will also appreciate the fact that by denying themselves of the privilege of meeting in camp they are providing comfortable shelter for thousands of our fellow citizens who are manifesting such an unselfish spirit for the sake of our country.” 

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