Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

Even before a new nation is organized people design a flag that eventually will become the national symbol of their ideal and goals. Flags in some way characterize the people of the country it represents. In some instances the color(s) show what the main natural resources of the land are; the strips, stars or any other figures may indicate the political units that make up the nation or they may tell a little about its historical background. But no matter the design or color, a flag always is the symbol of a nation. It fosters unity. People are willing to fight and even give their life to defend their flag because they see in the fabrics or colors ideals and values that must be respected and preserved.

Love for the country becomes related to this symbolic national representation. There is no nation with two flags. This would bring confusion among the people and would jeopardize the national unity. When revolutionary groups try to destroy the national unity they design a new flag.

The church has a flag which is strongly related to its message and mission for the present time and it is the basic factor of unity among the members. Ellen G. White says "I saw you holding up the banner on which are written the words: 'Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus'" (Revelation 14:12, Testimonies, Vol. 8, page 154).

Through the ages faithful and loyal believers have been willing to sacrifice even their life to defend the ideals embodied in the Christian flag. The more Christians keep themselves loyal to the flag that represents the divine ideals for the church, the stronger is the unity in the church as she moves on to her destiny.

In the apostolic time Christians faced some of the same problems we are facing today, i.e., some people have decided to have a kind of independent flag instead of upholding the flag of the newly born Christian church. This attitude brought confusion which jeopardized the unity of the Christian community and the apostles and the elders had to take effective action to keep the church united under the flag of Jesus (see Acts 14, 15).

In the beginning of the Advent Movement, a similar situation arose. The pioneers had to establish a system of credentials as a mean to avoid the confusion brought for some preachers that were lifting up the flags of their personal conclusions and messages. Today the church has to face another identical situation. There are in this present time some preachers and theologians who are using the freedom granted by the church and moving from one place to another, some holding denominational credentials and others are not. Some in the name of the right wing and some in the name of the left wing, who instead of holding up the unique message and mission of the church, are circulating personal conclusions and theological nuances that in no way help to foster that unity that Jesus mentioned in His high priestly intercessory prayer (John 17:20-26). Many times those teachings are taken out of its global context, and some unbalanced proportion is given to them and used as a personal banner. And these flags can be upheld by means of publications, lectures, video-tapes or audiotapes. Surprisingly there are always people willing to pay attention to these independent flag-holders. The result is always confusion, deception, frustration, criticism, loss of souls and undermining of the unity of the church.

Years ago Ellen G. White wrote about a similar situation in one of our health institution. "My brother, you are situated where you can be a representative of the truth for this time.... Several men, some of them those with whom you are connected in the sanitarium, were presenting to you a banner on which was a different inscription. You were letting go the banner of Seventhday Adventists, and were reaching out to grasp the banner presented to you" (Testimonies,Vol. 8 pages 153, 154).

The Special Session in this issue focuses on the importance of upholding the flag of the church as a factor of unity. Elders are guardians of the flock of the Lord (Acts 20:28) and responsible to preserve unity among the believers.

Unity has been questioned in some places among new members because they are confused by the small flags lifted up in the congregation. It doesn't matter how it is called. It doesn't matter if it is held up in the name of orthodoxy, liberalism, progressism, revisionism, and historicism or any other ism that you can add. It doesn't matter if it is in theological, ethical or administrative ground. The truth of the matter is that it jeopardizes the unity of the local and universal church of Jesus Christ. The spirit of unity is the mark of the presence of the true Director of the church—the Holy Spirit.

Pastors, elders and leaders of the church, let us work together. Let us be united in message and spirit as we deal with the Lord's business. Let us uphold just one unique banner in the army of the Lord. Let us be faithful and loyal to our General Jesus Christ and His church.