Putting the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on record for peacemaking must be honored among the many achievements of the late Neal C. Wilson (1920-2010), who served as president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 1979 to 1990.
Monte Sahlin prompted this overdue recognition with a reminder about Elder Wilson's remarkable address to the International Forum on a Non-nuclear World and the Survival of Humanity, held in Moscow in February 1987. In "Peace and Peacemakers: A Christian Perspective," the Adventist leader set forth a specific peacemaking initiative, challenging Mikhail Gorbachev's
In using his voice as world leader of a thoroughly international religious movement to speak out for peacemaking, Elder Wilson expressed and enacted a crucial corrective to the all-too-frequent Adventist tendency toward passivity about societal conditions in the name of heavenly hope. "Though not sharing the Communist vision of present reality and the future hope of mankind," he told the Moscow gathering, "we do not participate in that 'unreality' that dismisses mankind's woes and needs as objectives to be met only in some future paradise. Rather, as a world church, we seek to fulfill, as best we can, Christ's selfless service to the poor and the oppressed."
In his Statement on Peace issued during the General Conference session of 1985, President Wilson called the arms race "a colossal waste of funds and human resources" and "one of the most obvious obscenities of our day." Acknowledging that "peace cannot be found in official church pronouncements," he affirmed that "the authentic Christian church is to work for peace between the first and second advents of Christ," and that "Adventist hope must manifest and translate itself into deep concern for the well-being of every member of the human family." In a world filled with hate and violence, Seventh-day Adventists should be "known as peacemakers and work for worldwide justice and peace under Christ as the head of a new humanity."