The World Service Organization (WSO) and the National Service Organization (NSO) are an integral element of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries (ACM). The WSO (at the global and Division levels1)  and the National Service Organization (at the Union, Conference, and local levels2) are tasked to support Adventists who serve their governments. These organizations fulfill a fundamental mission of the church­–to ensure pastoral care and religious support are available for Adventists serving their nations in military and defence forces, law enforcement, and other government agencies.

Among other functions, the WSO/NSO,3

  1. Develops programs that support Seventh-day Adventists serving their nations and public institutions.
  2. Develops and implements programs that will assist Adventists in making informed decisions based on biblical and ethical principles about issues around military and public service and their freedom to exercise their religion.
  3. Seeks to assist Seventh-day Adventist members with problems of conscience and accommodation of religious practice by working in cooperation with church departments, offices, and services, such as Youth and the Office of General Counsel.
  4. Develops and maintains effective working relationships with civilian government officials concerning Adventists in public and uniformed services.
  5. Obtains official government recognition for alternate and/or exception to military service for Adventist members in countries with mandatory military service. Programs that have served and are serving these purposes are the Medical Cadet Corps (MCC), Youth Emergency Services (YES), and others that prepare church members for alternative/humanitarian service in lieu of military combat roles.
  6. Promotes and supports Division efforts to organize religious retreats for Adventists serving in uniform and all other government/publicrelated services.
  7. Publishes the official denominational magazine for Adventists serving their nations. Prepares and circulates current information and publications concerning public/government service.
  8. Maintains a database of all Seventh-day Adventist members in government service, including military, law enforcement services, parliaments, correctional institutions, etc.
  9. Recognizes the service of Adventist veterans/retirees from government service and engages their experience in assisting the church and the WSO in its work of informing church members about civil service.

1 General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Working  Policy. 2011-2012, pg. 243.

2 The World Service Organization serves at a world level (General Conference and currently in 13 Divisions worldwide). The National Service Organizations serves at a national level (Union and Conferences).

3 General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Working Policy. 2011-2012, pg. 244.

History and Mission

Today Seventh-day Adventists who serve in the military and public service branches such as law enforcement are often unaware that there was a time when there wasn’t organized support on the part of the church to provide materials, counseling, and ministry to them.

The Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, “To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child.” Studying what has gone before creates an awareness of the formation of beliefs and practices. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a rich history of the founding of the denomination. Both church leaders and members have wrestled with spiritual, moral, and matters of conscience through the years.

Although the movement began in the 1840s, believers didn’t coalesce into a denomination until the 1860s. Following a disappointment that was greater than any had ever known, those intervening years were spent in Bible study and seeking the leading of God,

Conflict and Conscience

The early 1860s brought unforeseen complications for Adventists. Young men were drawn into the conflict known as “The War Between the States.” In March 1863, Congress adopted a draft law, but volunteers would continue to make up a portion of the military. The custom at the time for conscientious objectors was to pay a $300 commutation fee instead of facing conscription. The cost of this fee was almost more than the fledgling church could bear.   The first official church statements filed with both state and federal governments outlined the noncombatant stance of the church. In 1864, a message read in part, “We now lay before Your Excellency the sentiments of Seventh-day Adventists, as a body, relative to bearing arms, trusting that you will feel no hesitation in endorsing our claim that, as a people we come under the intent of the late action of Congress concerning those who are conscientiously opposed to bearing arms, and are entitled to the benefits of said law.”

The various statements were accepted at the state and local government levels, and the status of non-combat provisions was granted. With peace and an end to the war, church leaders didn’t continue to address military service issues.

With the outbreak of World War I, the European conflict eventually drew the United States into the fray. Adventists faced conscription difficulties during World War I. This led to the establishment of the War Service Commission (WSC) in July 1918, and Elder Carlyle B. Haynes was appointed secretary. The WSC was de-activated in September 1919, at the end of The Great War.

Medical Cadet Corps

With Europe in turmoil again in the 1930s, church leadership began to prepare church members for another war. Dr. Everett N. Dick envisioned a training program for young men that would equip them to serve as non-combatants. The campus of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, launched the first Adventist Medical Cadet Corps. Participants received marching and drilling instruction and battlefield medical training.

Revitalized in 1940, the WSC was renamed the Commission on National Service and Medical Cadet Training. C.B. Haynes was asked to serve again. The Commission was renamed WSC in 1942.

The success of the MCC program in North America led to an international expansion. In 1950, the International Service Commission (ISC) was launched. By 1954, the consolidation of the WSC and the ISC led to the creation of the National Service Organization.

International Servicemen’s Centers

 Plans for a temporary retreat center in France were being developed during World War I. American Adventist service members would have a place to go when they were on leave. The war ended before the center opened.

At the beginning of World War II, temporary centers were established around the United States. Since most Adventists were noncombatants, they served as medics and completed their basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. A large servicemen’s center was opened there to provide a refuge where young Adventists could worship away from the base.

After World War II, the rebuilding of Europe meant long-term commitments of American personnel stationed in Europe. The church established servicemen’s centers around the world–including San Antonio, Texas; Takoma Park, Maryland; Tacoma, Washington; Frankfurt, Germany; Seoul, Korea; and Okinawa, Japan.  However, they have all been closed, with the shifting of military resources and fewer service members utilizing the centers.

The International Role of the World Service Organization

As a global church, the role of the World Service Organization (WSO) must be adapted as the National Service Organization (NSO) to fit the local governing requirements. Many countries continue to use conscription to supply their military forces. Adventists in some countries suffer for their stance as conscientious objectors and for a desire to keep the Sabbath. Education and relationship building with government and military leaders are a part of the role of NSO in these situations.

Faithful Service

The WSO/NSO remains faithful to its role of providing preparation and counseling to anyone in the military or contemplating this type of service. As the foundational core of its existence, the WSO/NSO will continue to do so in ways appropriate to the changing trends of the military and those who serve their country.


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