In The News

Protocol Guidelines

James F. Daniel (2
Compiled by Dr. James Daniel, Field Secretary of the Inter-American Division

PDF version.
Protocol Guidelines for Church Leaders


The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a mission to connect with people at all levels in society. To reach leaders of communities and nations, church leaders and members must follow certain universally acceptable behavior and principles of civility known as protocol.
The practice of protocol may vary in different places; titles of officials and manner of addressing them may also vary. It is therefore important to be aware of the protocol practices in your community. The following are general guidelines of protocol.


“The term protocol comes from a Greek word meaning ‘the first glue.’ It can be understood as the glue which holds together official life in society. Whether on the local, state, national or international level, proper protocol is vital in assuring that relations between the officials of organizations and governments are conducted with minimum friction and maximum efficiency”1

Protocol is “the system of rules and acceptable behavior used at official ceremonies and occasions”2

“Protocol is commonly described as a set of international courtesy rules. These well-established and time-honored rules have made it easier for nations and people to live and work together. . . . Protocol rules are based on the principles of civility.”3


“Part of protocol has always been the acknowledgment of the hierarchical standing of all present”4

The Bible also recognizes rank or standing amongst persons. It teaches its adherents to respect state and community authorities, and organizational and institutional leaders. Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17.


From time to time the church (at different the levels) invites national and community officials to functions/occasions; or the officials of their own accord may attend. “At times it is acceptable for government officials or civic leaders to address a congregation.”5. How do we address those officials?

“The spirit of formality among diplomatic representatives usually means not addressing others by their first names. One should rely on courtesy titles until invited to do otherwise.”6

How to Address Officials
Note when “Your” and “His/Her” may be used in addressing certain officials.

                            National Anthem
                            Generally, the national Anthem is played on the arrival of (or at the presence of) the head of state. In many places the anthem is not played for the head of government (such as a Prime Minister) or other politicians. If the head of state and head of government are one and the same person then the anthem is played.

                            On the Arrival of the Head of State
                            On the arrival of the head of state the program commences. The President or Governor General of the nation must not be kept waiting before the program to begins.

                            Meeting National, Community, and Church Officials on Arrival
                            The highest ranking church officer/official present should meet and welcome national, community, or church officials/leaders on their arrival at a church service/event. A person with rank should sit with, or behind the official, depending on the protocol in the particular country. The head of state sits on the front/center row, with her/his official party only.

                            Start Programs/Services on Time
                            Visiting officials should not be kept waiting. When an invitation is accepted by an official, secure an emergency number for him/her just in case there is a delay in his/her arrival.

                            PLATFORM PROTOCOL

                            “Protocol promotes orderly procedure following the rules of etiquette. Personal friendships, likes, and dislikes must not be considered. The office is being honoured not the person.”8

                            Platform Seating
                            In seating persons on a platform, place the first/ranking officer or platform member at the right of the principal speaker; the second ranking platform member at the left of the principal speaker; the third ranking platform member at the second right; the fourth ranking platform member at the second left; the fifth ranking platform member at the third right, etc. This order should be observed at all times for seating, introductions, etc. However, common sense sometimes dictates slight deviations.9

                            FLAG PROTOCOL ON PLATFORM
                            For a speaker on stage, either standing or sitting, the National flag is usually placed to the speaker's right (also known as stage right or house left); while other flags are placed to the speaker's left.10

                            Speakers should be given advance written information:

                              Note: It is never courteous to keep a speaker waiting.11

                              INTRODUCTION OF THE SPEAKER

                                THE PRACTICE OF PROTOCOL IN THE CHURCH

                                The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a highly structured organization with clearly outlined principles of conduct. The expression of those principles is contained in the Church Manual (2010 edition, p. 18).

                                Deference to be shown to Organizational Officers and Pastors
                                The Church Manual calls for deference to be shown to leaders of the Church organization and pastors (Church Manual 2010, p. 69).

                                Rank Expressed in Titles
                                The titles attributed to certain officers indicate rank and the way such officers should be recognized and addressed. At the constituent levels of the local Conference/Mission, Union, and General Conference the ranking officers are:

                                    Local Church. At the constituent level of the local congregation, title also expresses rank:

                                      Authority of the Rank of President. The President is the chief pastor/elder or overseer of all churches in the territory; and is leader of the work of the church in the territory (Church Manual 2010, p. 32).

                                      Authority of the Ranking Officers in a Conference/Mission/Field. The president, secretary and treasurer, or their designee, in a Union Conference or local conference, may attend any church business meeting within the conference/mission/field territory (Church Manual 2010, p. 124).


                                      The final word on protocol has not been said. But protocol, the glue that holds official life in society together, is of vital importance to church life. It is vital for assuring that relations between leaders of the church and the general church body; and the relations between the church and national/community leaders are conducted with minimum friction and maximum efficiency. We follow protocol because “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace . . . in all the churches of the saints. [Therefore] let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).

                                      1. International Council of Voluntary Agencies/Centre for International Support
                             2. Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.). Retrieved from
                                      3. Dr. P.M. Forni on behalf of the
                                      International Association of Protocol Consultants and
                                      . In Wikipedia, the free online Encyclopaedia.
                                      4. Dr. P.M. Forni on behalf of the International Association of Protocol Consultants and
                                      . In Wikipedia, the free online Encyclopaedia).
                                      5. Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. (2010, p. 116). Review and Herald Publishing
                                      Association, Hagerstown, Maryland.
                                      6. Protocol for the Modern Diplomat. (2013, July). Retrieved from

                                      7. Ibid.
                                      8. Wisconsin Hospital Association (n.d.). retrieved from
                                      9. Ibid.
                                      10. UCLA Flag Protocol for Special Events. Retrieved from

                                      11. Wisconsin Hospital Association (n.d.). Retrieved from
                                      12. Ibid.
                                      James F. Daniel (PhD)
                                      Field secretary &
                                      Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries
                                      Inter-American Division