The United Kingdom (U.K.) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland comprises England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles, and the Isle of Man. Immigration is an integral part of the culture. From as far back as the Celts in 1500 B.C.E., to the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans, immigration continues to the modern day with diverse people groups making up the modern democracy that is the United Kingdom.
The U.K. is the oldest surviving democracy in the world,* making Westminster “the mother of all parliaments.” The height of the U.K.’s political and imperial influence was in the nineteenth century when the British Empire covered a quarter of the world’s surface.
Probably the most famous of many U.K. writers, artists, and composers over the centuries is William Shakespeare. His many plays and sonnets are still performed and recited around the world. However, the most solidly influential piece of literature to be produced in the U.K. is the King James Version of the Bible. The first “authorized” translation of the Bible, originally published in 1611, is one of the most widely circulated volumes in the history of the world.
The U.K. has a strong religious history. Christianity arrived by the second century A.D. Celtic Christianity, with evidence of Sabbathkeeping, was strong until 644, when Catholicism became the predominant religion until the Protestant Reformation. Today 53 percent of those who live in the U.K. identify themselves as Christian, but only 15 percent of the population attend church regularly. Islam is the next largest religion with adherents numbering 3 percent of the population. Another 3 percent are made up of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and Buddhists. Some 39 percent of the population say they have no religion.
John Nevins Andrews was the first Seventh-day Adventist missionary to arrive in the U.K. in 1874. Today some 27,000 members meet each Sabbath across two conferences and three missions. This presents a challenge in reaching out to the secularized British population. The LIFEdevelopment program, with a magazine, The Evidence television series, and Mind the Gap, was developed as part of a strategy to win friends from the unchurched community (www.lifedevelopment.info).
Adventist institutions in the U.K. include the Stanborough Press, two high schools, eight primary schools, Roundelwood Health Spa, and an active Adventist Discovery Centre (formerly the Voice of Prophecy). The Trans-European Division office and Newbold College are also located within its territory.
U.K. Adventists are committed to mission.
In 2006 they collected more than £580,000 (US $1,155,180) for the ADRA Ingathering Appeal, among the highest per capita figures in the world. Hundreds of U.K. missionaries and mission volunteers have spread the good news of Jesus Christ across the world.
Compiled by Victor Hulbert, Communication director, British Union Conference, Watford, England.
* Greece and Iceland are older democracies, but have not been continuously democratic.