Q: Does the Seventh-day Adventist Church have a policy on tattoos? Should someone in leadership in a local church get a tattoo and, if they do, should the church do something about it? — Nicole, from the United States
A: Nicole, while we don’t have a policy specifically about tattoos, we do have guidelines for dress and adornment, and caring for our bodies. As Adventists, we believe that we belong to God — body, soul, and spirit. Furthermore, we believe that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and that we should care for our bodies in a temperate and pure way — both in what we take into our bodies, as well as the outward appearance.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual offers this sound counsel: “As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we have been called out from the world. Our religion must have a molding influence on all our activities. Our habits must stem from principle and not from the example of the world. Customs and fashions may change, but principles of right conduct remain the same” (p. 146).
In a very helpful article titled, “Marked,” Angel Manuel Rodriguez addresses the question, “Does the Bible say anything about tattoos?” Dr. Rodriguez looks at the subject of tattooing in biblical times and today, examines the text found in Leviticus 19:28, and then offers a word of advice. I recommend that you read his brief article on the website of the Biblical Research Institute.
Regarding a local church leader getting a tattoo, I recommend following the steps outlined in Matthew 18 — first going to the individual to express your concern, then talking with the pastor about your concern and going again to see the person with the pastor, and then following your pastor’s advice as far as whether the matter should be taken further.