Should Adventists practice circumcision?

Questions & Answers June 30, 2017

Q: Our first baby is on the way and it’s a boy! What is our stand as a church on circumcision? What age should it be done? And how do I explain the spiritual aspect and physical “benefit” of circumcision to people who may ask? — Melissa, from the United States

A: Melissa, congratulations on the expected arrival of your first baby! I pray that all goes well and that the Lord will bless you, your husband, and your little son. You will soon learn that becoming parents will change your life forever! As it says in Psalms 127:3, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Enjoy each moment, and do all you can to raise your son to love and follow God.

Regarding the question of circumcision, I’ve turned to the General Conference’s director of Health Ministries, Dr. Peter Landless, for an answer. He writes the following:

“The church has no official stance on circumcision, either for or against. The original biblical reference of circumcision, relative to being in a covenant relationship with God, was discussed and resolved early in the New Testament.

“From the health point of view, it is important to note that the scientific literature of the last 30 years has shown no specific advantage to circumcision, provided normal and healthy hygienic practices are followed regarding bathing and washing.

“There has been a documented health advantage in that penile cancer has virtually never occurred in circumcised Jewish males. These data are particularly robust in the era prior to clean water supplies and sanitation. There has been, in the last 15 years, work in Africa which shows that circumcised males are less susceptible to acquiring HIV. Abstinence and monogamous relationships between a man and a woman (husband and wife) are equally protective.

“In summary, we do not recommend routine circumcision. However, it is appropriate in circumstances where fathers have previously been circumcised and have a son, or for certain medical conditions, and in situations where there may not be adequate sanitation and hygienic environments.

“An additional caveat: Circumcision needs to be conducted under sterile and hygienic circumstances — in other words, a surgically sterile environment, with appropriate expertise and after-care. There are parts of the world where ritual circumcisions have resulted in severe infection and even death, as the latter provisos have not been in place.”