Our GC Delegation Sessions

The return of the two delegates–Brethren Otto Welp and Heinrich Spanknoebel– from their trip across the Atlantic, in 1922, aroused untold interest and, in some cases, disappointment and perplexity. Through correspondence and personal contacts the news spread from country to country that there were no prospects of reconciliation with the Adventist Church . . . that the door was closed . . . that our two envoys had not even been granted a hearing at the General Conference session in San Francisco. Many of the brethren began to ask themselves: What will be the next step? Prayerful consultations with one another led the representatives of the different groups of SDA Reformers to the conclusion that a general meeting was absolutely necessary.

 

1922 – Second International Conference (Bebra, Germany)

Conference of SDA Reformers, Eisenach, Germany, 1922.
Representatives of several Unions were present at this second international convention.

A second international meeting of Reformers took place at Bebra, west of Eisenach, Germany, in the summer of 1922. Four Unions that had already been organized agreed to unite into a General Conference and work together. Sabbath School quarterlies, Week of Prayer magazines, and other publications had been put out locally according to the possibilities of the brethren in each country. But now the need was felt to centralize the preparation and dissemination of these materials through the General Conference office in Wuerzburg, Germany. This office became the coordinating link among the different Unions and the center from which attention would be given to new interests and new groups that should be aroused by the message of reformation in many other places in the world. The four Unions committed themselves to support the General Conference work with a tithe of the tithes. Brother Welp was confirmed as president and Brother Spanknoebel as secretary. It was decided that the General Conference would be organized on a definite basis in 1925, and the believers in general were informed of this plan.

 

1925 – Our First Official General Conference Session

Our first GC delegation session proper was held at Gotha, Germany, July 14–20, 1925, with the presence of 18 delegates. It is from that time that official minutes of our GC sessions have been kept. We still preserve the original minute book as a precious treasure.

When the brethren came together in 1925, the verse in Acts 15:4 could almost be paraphrased as follows: "And when they were come to Gotha, Germany, they were received of the church and of the elders who had organized the conference, and they declared all things that God had done with them." Their reports confirmed again the fact that the reform-minded brethren in several countries had gone through similar experiences. But every heart seemed to be worried over the question: How far are we united in doctrine? All were genuine Seventh Day Adventists. All professed to be Reformers. All upheld the truth as revealed in the threefold message of Revelation 14. There was no doubt as far as the general tenets of Adventism were concerned. But coming down to minutiae–to the understanding and application of certain principles–it could not be said that they were all "joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). Far from that. And then there were different ideas with reference to the proposed organization and everything that goes with it. Amid the apparent confusion of concepts, however, there seemed to shine a ray of hope for a better future.

GC delegates of SDA Reformers, first session, Gotha, Germany, 1925. Front row, left to right: Constantin Ursan, Wilhelm Richter, Dumitru Nicolici, Wilhelm Korpmann, Johann G. Hanselmann, Otto Welp, P. Rasmussen, Wilhelm Maas, Joseph Adamczak, Albert Krahe. Back row, left to right: Mihai Streza, Karl Kozel, Heinrich Spanknoebel, Sister A. Ottender, A. Jurgens, K. A. Ekeroth, Sister Ekeroth (not a delegate), Max Koehler, C. Adams.

The points of harmony–where all could see things eye to eye–were explored in the first place. All shared the conviction that sincere and orderly efforts had been made to bring about a genuine and God-approved reconciliation with the church that they loved. All were of the opinion that it would be useless to try again, since there was no evidence that the serious errors which lay at the basis of the discussion at Friedensau, 1920, had been or would ever be removed. They had no hope that the needed reformation would ever come "within the church." All felt that they were going through the experience of their predecessors in the work of reformation. History, which has a tendency to repeat itself, and which is a textbook of pattern procedures, held out an important lesson for them as follows:

"When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. . . . Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teachings of the word of God. And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience."–The Desire of Ages, p. 232.

"The work of God in the earth presents, from age to age, a striking similarity in every great reformation or religious movement. The principles of God’s dealing with men are ever the same."–The Great Controversy, p. 343.

Thus, when our first delegation session proper was convened, our pioneers in the work of reformation were already convinced that God demands unity "upon a true, scriptural basis," not unconditional affiliation. This principle, exemplified by our forefathers in the faith, was clear to them:

"To secure peace and unity [our forefathers] were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war."–Ibid., p. 45.

"Christ calls for unity. But He does not call for us to unify on wrong practices. . . . He does not gloss over wrongdoing with a coat of untempered mortar."–Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 175.

Our delegates in 1925 did not have the Fundamental Principles of SDAs published in 1872, but they had the book Bible Studies for the Home Circle, which was based on that publication of 1872. They did not believe in establishing a creed but, for the sake of ensuring uniformity in teaching and practice, they deemed it necessary to adopt a set of principles based on the material available to them, from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They did their best, according to their knowledge and understanding. This is how our humble booklet Principles of Faith came into existence. Resolution No. 10 reads:

"The principles of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement submitted to the General Conference were adopted after examination and detailed deliberation. Seventeen delegates voted for their adoption in their original form. One delegate had objections because of the formulation with reference to the 144,000. The principles were accepted by the majority."

To us as a Movement the Principles of 1925 have ever been a symbol of unity in the faith.

When this step of prime importance was settled, there was a secondary step which also involved some discussion, namely, the organization of the Reform Movement. Most of those 18 delegates (representing 4,000 members) felt that the fundamental truths of the threefold message could not be successfully promoted without a concrete form of organization. Some were opposed to this idea, but their objections did not prevail.

This was the first reason presented in favor of organization: From the very beginning, every true reformation has had to face opposition. The apostles had a struggle with disorderly elements. Luther and Melanchthon contended with them. The early Adventists fought them. And, certainly, this Reform Movement would be no exception. For the purpose of keeping out impostors and for several other purposes (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 26), a definite form of organization was considered necessary. And it was understood that this organization should be built on the same platform which had been established by the Advent pioneers and strengthened by the distinctive doctrines of the Advent Movement, but separate from the organization of the Adventist mother church; for, "How can two walk together lest they be agreed?"

Left : Minutes of the first GC session of SDA Reformers, 1925, first page. Right : GC minutes, 1925. Decision 11 refers to the Principles of Faith. See next page.

The official name to be adopted by the Reform Movement was another matter of discussion among the delegates. The representatives of the work in Germany proposed that their name, International Missionary Society, registered in 1919, should be accepted for the Reform church as a whole. The majority had a different idea. The main objection was that many other societies, such as the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses, were using the name "International." The delegates wanted a name that would not cause unnecessary confusion with other societies. And, after a lengthy discussion, they finally agreed to adopt the name (Resolution No. 11) that we have carried until today.

The meeting of 1925 paved the way for a worldwide movement. At this session the Principles of Faith were adopted, four Union Conferences joined to form a General Conference, and the name of our organization was agreed upon, as shown in the General Conference minutes of 1925 and on the front cover of the booklet Principles of Faith published immediately afterwards in Germany:

The Principles of Faith of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement and their Rules of Church Order–Concise Presentation published by the General Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement during the General Conference session held in Gotha (Germany), July 14–20, 1925:

German Union: Wuerzburg (Germany)
Danube Union: Sofia (Bulgaria)
Scandinavian Union: Copenhagen (Denmark)
Baltic Union: Revel (Estonia)

The Principles of Faith in German carried also the address of each Union Conference.

For the first term Otto Welp was elected president and Willi Maas secretary.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part II)

1928 – Second General Conference Session

The second General Conference session was held at Isernhagen, Germany, June 24–30, 1928. Twenty-one delegates were present.

In the best interest of the development of the work, the Danube Union was divided into two. Unions and Fields represented at this session:

German Union (including France, Switzerland, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Poland: over 1400 souls)
Baltic Union (Estonia, Letland, Finland: over 500 souls)
Scandinavian Union (Denmark, Sweden, Norway)
East Danube Union (Romania: over 1250 souls)
West Danube Union (Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia)
British Mission Field
North American Mission Field
The secretary’s report showed a slight increase in the membership of the Reform Movement (4,208 souls). The number of ordained ministers, Bible workers, publishing house employees, and other helpers totaled 103.
The Principles of Faith (front cover) as adopted by the GC delegation, first session, 1925, according to decision 11 (GC minutes, 1925). See previous page.

Encouraging letters from Russia, South America (Argentina and Brazil), and Africa (Northern and Southern Rhodesia) told of considerable progress. The message of reformation was gaining new ground. In Russia, where Brother H. Unrau was working, over 500 souls had taken their stand with the Reform Movement. The report of the session, published in the Adventarbeiter (Advent Worker) of October 1928 (year 1, number 1), says: "Different countries, such as Palestine, African countries, India, are asking for workers." And the report continues: "The Lord will, in due time, do His work, and He will make souls willing to help promote His work."

In view of the urgent Macedonian calls from many places, the need to prepare and send out missionaries was given serious consideration. One of the resolutions adopted in 1928 says that young men should be encouraged to study foreign languages, with the assistance of the General Conference, so they can be sent abroad. But it was felt that it would not be enough to put young men through a training course and then send them out. They would have to gain some experience in the home field before they could be entrusted with responsibilities abroad. History is full of lessons for us. We have learned that, if we send inexperienced young men into a new field by themselves, we will have cause to regret our mistake.

The brethren assembled in 1928 were concerned about the uplifting of the principles. This is evident from the decision that the people should be instructed concerning the need to take a higher stand in health reform, dress reform, and Sabbathkeeping, and that, in harmony with the written Word, only qualified brethren (with emphasis on 1 Timothy 3:4, 5) should be employed as workers and elders.

GC delegation, second session, Isernhagen, Hannover, Germany, 1928.

With reference to proper Sabbathkeeping, our pioneers understood that the brethren in general needed more instructions. Therefore, according to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, we as a church have maintained that cooking on the Sabbath, unjustified traveling on the Sabbath, leaving work late and arriving home after sundown on Friday evening, and attendance at public school on the Sabbath are forms of transgression of the fourth commandment. It was agreed that our people should be instructed that these and any other transgressions prepare the soul, not for the seal of God, but for the mark of the beast.

For the new term Brother O. Welp was elected president and Brother W. Maas secretary.

1931 – Third General Conference Session

Nineteen delegates assembled at Isernhagen, Germany, August 4–10, 1931.

Der Adventarbeiter (The Advent Worker), which was the official organ of the General Conference, published a comprehensive report (October 1931) with some statistics that were presented at this session, as follows:

"If we consider the wonderful blessings bestowed upon us during the past, our trust in the help of God is stronger than ever. . . . During the past three years more than 800 new souls were accepted into the church. At present our membership is over 5,000. . . . About 100 workers are actively engaged in carrying this message, and several hundred more colporteurs are carrying the present truth through our literature from house to house."

GC delegation, third session, Isernhagen, Hannover, Germany, 1931.

Decisions of general interest adopted at the third session: to teach people how to reach, by the grace of God, a higher moral stand; to start a missionary school for the training of qualified young men for the work of the Lord; to establish health centers in various places.

It was also decided that, in future, the General Conference sessions should be held every three years.

In those days many Adventist leaders were teaching that the latter rain had already fallen. Our General Conference delegation, 1931, was therefore required to define our position on this question. From Der Adventarbeiter (The Advent Worker) of October 1931 we quote:

"It is quite generally known that Seventh-day Adventists throughout their ranks are teaching that the latter rain has already fallen. This teaching is a great deception, and it is contrary to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Also, there are some who have left this Movement and are now trying to deceive souls and becloud minds by telling them that we teach that the latter rain has already fallen. For this reason we make it plain that we do not believe that the latter rain has fallen. All those who use these arguments or insinuations against the Reform Movement are making untrue statements for which there is no ground whatsoever. And there are others who, through a wrong interpretation of Revelation 18, are trying to put this Movement in a false light. We know for sure that whatever these people may do will not hinder our work. These points were thoroughly discussed by the delegation, not because of the influence of those who left this Movement, but because of the well-known belief of many leaders in the Adventist Church who openly profess that the latter rain has fallen. We praise God that our understanding of these points (the latter rain and Revelation 18) is clear. As far as these subjects are concerned, we stand firmly on the teachings of the Bible and the Testimonies. It is our prayer that God may help His church to gain the victory over every besetment and over every wrong word and action, that the blessed promise of the latter rain may soon become a blessed reality."

The subject of organization was also given consideration by the delegates in 1931, not because there was any doubt in their minds, but because in some places our people had to face those who insisted that there was no need for church organization. On this point the report of 1931 reads as follows:

"There are continually, as the Spirit of Prophecy declares there would be, some who seek to do away with organization, who try to disorganize the work at a time when organization is most necessary. Praise be to God that on the question of thorough organization there is full unity among us."

A special financial plan was adopted: So that there might be means to extend the work into new fields and to help poor missions that had already been opened, the Union Conferences should build up a special fund through colporteur work. Special "missionary days" were to be designated for this purpose in the autumn of each year.

Officers elected for the new term: O. Welp, president; W. Maas, secretary.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part III)

1934 – Fourth General Conference Session

Budapest, Hungary, September 25–28, 1934. The session was opened with 21 delegates present. Membership in 1934: over 7,000 members.

To the happy surprise of the delegation, the membership report in 1934 revealed a considerable increase over the figure reported in 1931–about 40 percent.

GC delegation, fourth session, Budapest, Hungary, 1934.

The joy of our delegates was expressed in these words:

"We thank the Lord with all our heart for the blessings that we have received these last three years. He has blessed the work of reformation beyond our petitions and expectations. In the financial field He has helped us in all our needs. But we thank Him especially for His aid in our spiritual work. It is the conversion and harvest of souls that fills our hearts with thankfulness toward Him. He aroused these souls. He prospered the work. He guided and protected the laborers. He shielded us everywhere from numerous dangers and helped us out of manifold difficulties during these last three years. And amid the troubles which are in the land, and the still greater afflictions which are before us, our earnest prayer to God is that He will be our defense and that He will soon visit us with the latter rain."

A certain number of questions which had to do with our beliefs were put on the agenda for discussion–questions dealing with health reform, occupations inconsistent with our faith, rebaptism, the marriage institution (questions regarding divorce and remarriage), and the loud cry. Answers were sent to the Union Conferences, in the form of resolutions, in harmony with the light that our delegates had from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings. Our previous decision to lift up the principles was reenforced with emphasis on the need to insist on thorough preparation of candidates before baptism.

The delegates were much concerned over one of the greatest problems which is worrying us today more than ever before: "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few," and the time of probation is running out. Besides, there were signs that the world was preparing for a new conflict. This brought additional uneasiness to them. Their anxiety was well expressed in these words:

"During all our council meetings we were fully impressed with the seriousness of this time, and one and all were thoroughly convinced that only a few days remain in which we may proclaim the gospel message. It is therefore our aim to labor earnestly today, that we may be found faithful stewards."

New officers: W. Maas, president; A. Rieck, secretary.

1948 — Fifth General Conference Session

From 1934 to 1948–because of growing political impediments, because of the war (1939–1945), and because of the devastation caused by the war and the unsettled situation prevalent in Europe during the first few years after the war—it had not been possible to hold a regular General Conference session for fourteen years. And since June 1938, when the GC Committee brethren met in Budapest, Hungary, there was no committee meeting until the leading brethren came together in Holland in 1948. Circumstances beyond the control of the leadership of the work made it impossible to give direct attention to the Unions and Fields. Many things accumulated during this long period of time. Each Union and Field, each State Conference and local church had problems, needs, and questions which demanded urgent attention. Under these conditions, the work of the General Conference delegation (July 5–15, 1948) at The Hague, Holland, was not an easy job. Due to existing restrictions, several countries were not able to send their delegates, but they sent in their written proposals, questions, and requests. Brother C. Kozel explained why the session of 1948 was legal in spite of the fact that only a partial delegation was able to come:

GC delegation (plus visitors), fifth session, The Hague, Holland, 1948.

"The representatives from the Balkan states–Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Hungary–were not able to come due to their political circumstances. But they were represented in writing because they sent in their reports, their recommendations, and their proposals. Only the brethren who live in Russia were not represented, either directly or indirectly."–C. Kozel’s 23-page bulletin, Allgemeiner Bericht der Generalkonferenz (General Report of the General Conference), p. 7.

At the beginning of the session, clouds of worry rested upon the 24 representatives present. After a few days, however, these clouds were lifted and rays of renewed hope, assurance and courage penetrated their hearts.

The reports and experiences shared at the session brought great joy and showed that our brethren, scattered in many parts of the world, had worked hard, fighting the good fight of faith successfully.

Among the points discussed by the delegates, there were:

1. Doctrinal points: Some of the leaders had doubts about our Principles of Faith (marriage institution and health reform). The delegates decided that no change should be introduced to weaken the principles, but that they should be set forth in a clearer light. Nevertheless, some of those who were opposed to one or more points of the principles did not change their minds, but caused a great deal of trouble.
2. Missionary needs: To promote the work, these steps were regarded as deserving priority: to establish missionary schools, to conduct Bible seminars, and to send out missionary families to new fields.
3. Administrative issues: The need to give more attention to church order and discipline as important factors in the development of the work (Early Writings, pp. 97—104) became evident to all.
One of the important administrative decisions had to do with the transfer of the General Conference headquarters to the United States.

There were also some sensitive issues that had to be tackled. One of these was resultant from the strained relations that existed between the leaders of the American Union and the outgoing GC president, A. Mueller. It was for this reason, apparently, that the American Union did not send their delegates to the 1948 session. And many brethren said that the partial delegation, in 1948, without listening to both sides, was biased to pronounce an unfair sentence against the American leaders.

Another sensitive issue was an administrative problem that had been smoldering between C. Kozel and the Brazilian Union because the Unions and Fields were required to send substantial financial contributions to the South American Division, of which Brother Kozel had become the president, while the Division had no legal existence. This matter was now brought up for discussion before the delegation. The delegates did not approve the existence of Divisions, as J. Adamczak, chairman of the 1948 GC session, explained in his report, and, for a while, the problem seemed to be settled. Nevertheless, as Brother Kozel, after the session, insisted on maintaining the South American Division, which had not been confirmed by the delegates, this created tension between him and Brother Lavrik, the president of the Brazilian Union.

In 1948, the work was organized in sixteen Union Conferences and Mission Fields, with over 10,000 members.

GC Committee elected in 1948: these six plus one brother from Romania.

New General Conference officers: C. Kozel, president; A. Mueller, vice president; D. Nicolici, secretary.

A certain number of questions which were not dealt with by the delegation were placed into the hands of the incoming GC Committee. There were two delicate questions from the Romanian Union. One of these had to do with the articles of incorporation of the Union, which had already been published in an official paper with some unauthorized changes introduced by government officers who accepted these articles for publication. Because of this publication, the SDA Reform Movement was accused by some leaders of the SDA mother church. Brother Kozel reported on this issue:

"Concerning the [SDA] publication against us, where they refer to a wrong publication that was made, contrary to our principles, by our Romanian leadership, in the Romanian official paper Monitor Oficial of March 5, 1947, we admit that this was true. But we must testify that, until the General Conference session in Holland, July 1948, the General Conference Committee [the leading body] knew absolutely nothing about that document handed in to the Romanian government in opposition to our principles and to our leading body. I am the first competent witness [to what I am saying here]. . . . On that occasion I was elected GC president. And the General Conference was to be transferred from Europe to USA; so Brother D. Nicolici was placed by my side as secretary. . . . Shortly before the [GC] Committee dispersed, Brother Nicolici. . . informed us about that wrong document, which shocked all of us who were on the Committee (most of the delegates had already left). It was annulled, and the necessary correction was made right away by a Committee resolution signed by myself as the new president."–Sabbat-Waechter, September 1, 1971.

The other question from the Romanian Union was concerning a minister who had been disfellowshiped because of adultery and had later been restored to membership through rebaptism. The question: Could he also be reinstated in the ministry? Normally, there was no need for such a question, because our position, based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, had been very clear from the beginning. But an answer had to be sent. And the answer was a positive "No." The GC Committee members signed that answer. It happened, however, that one of the cosigners was a morally disqualified minister who should have been disfellowshiped, but who had just been put on the GC Committee while our two most responsible leaders knew about his situation, because he himself had informed them.

Later on, other leading brethren, members of the GC Committee, heard about this problem and also found out that this was not the only case of official tolerance toward immoral ministers. Worse than that. They were surprised at the arguments used by some of the highest leaders who tried to justify the toleration of guilty pastors, allowing them to remain in their offices. This proved that there was a strong tendency to introduce a new standard, lowering the discipline of the ministry and thereby encouraging more corruption. The new controversial issue testified that the leadership was divided over a fundamental principle.

To aggravate the situation, a unique setup in the organizational structure of the Reform Movement was unwisely accepted by the GC delegation at the end of the 1948 session. The GC presidency and treasury were entrusted to the same person. This arrangement led to the creation of new problems. Irregularities in the financial administration (such as GC funds kept in personal bank accounts) became a sore spot in their experience and increased tension among the leaders.

There was also a great deal of authoritarianism and arbitrariness in the GC administration, about which the leaders of the American Union had to protest most vehemently, as can be seen from their letters and circular letters. And they were not the only ones to resent this unfortunate situation.

History proved once more that even good men, thinking that they are doing the right thing, can be honestly mistaken. Serious mistakes committed by main leaders, if not admitted and corrected without delay, generally cause a reaction, and may involve the whole church in a controversy. It was the interaction of these factors that prepared the way for the crisis which reached its climax in May 1951.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part IV)

1951 – Sixth General Conference Session

The sixth GC session was held at Zeist, Holland, May 7—30, 1951. The order of the delegation was established with 24 delegates who represented only 40 percent of the total membership (a little over 10,000). The other 60 percent of the Reform people were not able to send their delegates to the conference, due to political restrictions. Besides, the legitimacy of some of those 24 delegates was questioned. One more delegate was introduced May 20.

Our delegates to the sixth GC session, Woudshoten, Zeist, Holland, 1951.

Because of the problems that had arisen in the administration of Brethren C. Kozel and A. Mueller, respectively president and vice president of the General Conference, there were important complaints from the USA, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay). As these problems had not been settled by the GC Executive Committee, and as some of the most dangerous problems had even reached the General Conference level, as indicated in the previous section (1948–Fifth GC Session), tension built up among the Committee members, and there was a serious disagreement among the leaders at the 1951 GC session.

May 20, 1951, the delegates of our Unions and Fields presented a protest pointing out the main problems which involved principles and rules of church order, and affected the work in general. In their declaration of protest they demanded that a special committee be elected to investigate the whole situation, but their request was turned down. The delegates present–who, even when together, did not form a legal majority–were strongly polarized; therefore, neither of the two sides was competent to solve the situation unilaterally. All could see that the Reform Movement was before a great crisis.

The main conference room at Woudshoten, Holland, where the 1951 GC session was held. From left to right: Sister Mandemaker, Brother H. Mandemaker (who was one of the delegates to that conference), Brother N. S. Brittain, Brother R. Ludwig, Brother D. Dumitru. Photo 1995.

In that emergency situation, in the middle of the contention, our delegates resented the arbitrary procedure of the chairman and, to signify their protest, they occupied a hut for prayer and mutual consultation, while C. Kozel and A. Mueller, with their supporters, started a separate delegation session. Then, from our side, two legal possibilities were suggested to the outgoing president and vice president: (1) either accept the appeal of our delegates, submit the complaints to an investigation, and keep dialoguing and negotiating until an agreement could be reached; or (2) suspend the session, send all the delegates home with the understanding that another conference would be called in due time, as far as possible with other delegates, and at the same time inform all the Unions and Fields and welcome their advice.

These constitutional ways were not acceptable to Brethren Kozel and Mueller, who decided that they could not lay down their responsibilities when their term of office was over. They, instead, resolved that they had authority to take action against the delegates of our Unions and Fields because of their protest. This, however, did not bring the expected solution; on the contrary, it aggravated the crisis step after step, as follows:

On May 22, our delegates were rejected by letter, and were left alone in the same place, even in the same room, where the conference had started, at Zeist. The delegation, initially representing only 40% of the membership, was now separated into two groups, each representing only 20% of the total number of members. Though our leaders and delegates were declared "disfellowshiped" from the church, they renewed their appeal, but Brethren Kozel and Mueller, together with their supporters, now in Utrecht, were not prepared to negotiate an agreement that would envision the ironing out of the discrepancies, a combined election of GC officers, and the finalization of the conference in unity. So, as the door was closed against us, the crisis reached its climax. These facts resulted in two separate reorganizations (May 23—24, 1951). As the other leading brethren refused to consider a joint reorganization, and as their independent reorganization would be valid only for that portion of the membership (20%) that they represented, we had no other choice but do without them what they refused to do together with us. Therefore, in that emergency situation, our delegates elected our GC Committee May 24, 1951, with the following officers: D. Nicolici, president; A. Lavrik, vice president; C. T. Stewart, secretary. This reorganization was recognized by almost 80 percent of the total membership.

Continuing in the same conference room where the joint delegation session had started, our representatives made the following resolutions with a view to promoting the work of God through the Reform Movement:

That an appeal be made to each Union Conference to send a young family, with sufficient knowledge and experience, to help establish institutions in the USA (medical work, publishing work, educational work);

That the Reformation Herald, which was started in 1950, be recognized as the official organ of the General Conference of the Reform Movement;

That a certain number of books, booklets, and guides be prepared to meet the urgent needs of the church (on doctrine, Christian living, health reform, gospel order, and so forth);

That the Principles of Faith, the Rules of Church Order, as well as the Constitution and Bylaws, be rewritten in a clearer light, in harmony with a decision made by the General Conference in session, in 1948;

That an essay be prepared on the subject of Divorce and Remarriage, explaining the position of the Reform Movement.

The matter of church discipline was also discussed, especially with reference to the seventh commandment. In view of the determination revealed by some of the principal leaders ("Actions speak louder than words") to lower the standard among the ministers, whereby the Reform Movement would forfeit one of the reasons for its existence, during the conference of May 1951, our delegates took a firm stand on this point, for which we should never cease to thank God.

Another principle which was threatened during the great crisis, and which was also closely related to the seventh commandment, was the marriage institution. In 1951, our delegates adopted the position–still maintained by the Reform Movement until today–that men who advocate divorce and remarriage cannot hold positions in the leadership.

Interest in gospel order–a principle which had been misunderstood and abused under the previous administration–was rekindled in 1951 and has been greatly improved in our midst since the crisis. In the light of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, it became very clear to us that among the people of God, men are not to regard themselves as authority, seeking the mastery over others, as if they were in the position of Moses and Aaron. God demands coordination, not unilateral subordination.

1955 – Seventh General Conference Session

The seventh General Conference session was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 10–May 9, 1955, with 31 delegates representing over 9,000 members (1,000 less than in 1951) distributed in 12 Unions and Fields. The number of ministers, workers, and other employees stood at 402.

Two delegates to the seventh GC session, Sao Paulo, Brazil,
just arriving from South Africa (1955).

The outgoing secretary presented a voluminous agenda with many questions that had been sent in by Unions and Fields that wanted to have clear definitions or precise answers. These questions had to do with various points of the Principles of Faith, such as: violation of the seventh commandment and eligibility for ordination; divorce and remarriage and eligibility for membership; health reform; belief in the Spirit of Prophecy as a test of fellowship; our attitude toward fashion; relationship with labor unions; court action; occupations contrary to our principles; life insurance. The delegation had a full schedule for one month.

Top: GC Delegation, seventh session, 1955.
Bottom: Delegation in session, 1955.

Among the many points on the agenda, there was also the distribution of territory. Each Union and Field wanted to have its territory clearly defined. This subject was finally left for the incoming Executive Committee.

Recommendations from countries that were not able to send their delegates were read and discussed and were taken into consideration as part of the agenda.

GC Committee elected in 1955.

The GC administration was reorganized as follows: D. Nicolici, president; A. Lavrik, vice president; I. W. Smith, secretary.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part V)

1959 – Eighth General Conference Session

From May 28 to June 24, 1959, 32 delegates convened in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Twelve Unions and Fields, with 10,000 members, were represented. For the first time, after 22 years, the Yugoslavian Union was able to send its representatives to the General Conference session. From Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, only letters with greetings and news were read before the delegation.

GC delegation, eighth session, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1959.

Brother D. Nicolici, in his report, spoke about the work in the Philippines (started in 1956) and the contacts made in such countries as India, Burma, and Nigeria.

Consideration was given to the calls coming from Colombia, Venezuela, Central American countries (especially Guatemala), Mexico, as well as Spain and Portugal, and a resolution was made to send workers and canvassers to take advantage of the openings in these areas.

Among the doctrinal points brought to the attention of the delegation, there were questions about the identity of Melchisedec, interpretation of Hebrews 1:5, life insurance, trades in which a Reformer can or cannot engage, the use of one cup in the ordinances, the loud cry (Principles of Faith, point 16), and others.

Delegation in session, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1959.

Regarding point 16 of our Principles of Faith, the following recommendation was made: So that our teaching may not be misinterpreted, we should refer to the present work of reformation as leading to the fulfillment of the prophecy contained in Early Writings, pp. 85, 86. It is in this sense that point 16 should be read and understood.

General Conference officers for the next term: A. Lavrik, president; D. Nicolici, first vice president; E. Laicovschi, second vice president; I. W. Smith, secretary.

GC Council elected in 1959.

1963 – Ninth General Conference Session

Twenty-three delegates were present at Gross Gerau, Germany, from August 22 to September 19, 1963. The reported membership was approximately 11,000. Among the new fields, the Philippines were mentioned as the most promising one.

GC delegation, ninth session, Gross Gerau, Frankfurt, Germany, 1963.

Outgoing President’s Address

Brother A. Lavrik, the outgoing president, expressed his gratitude to God for the privilege that He had given us of meeting again as a GC delegation in session. He briefly reviewed the history of the Reform Movement, some phases of which, as we could see, were not for encouragement. Our only hope and assurance for the future of our work, Brother Lavrik said, is found in the message of the Lord to King Jehoshaphat: "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper." Our greatest need at this time, he emphasized, is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The question was put to the delegates, "Why do we not feel so urgently the need of the promised gift as in the early days of the message of reformation?" It is left for each one of us, he added, to seek the answer for himself on his knees before God. In order that the promised power may be ours, we must meet the conditions, preparing the way.

Brother Lavrik thanked the German Union for the substantial financial help extended to the General Conference during the past quadrennium (1959—1963), which made it possible to send out and support missionaries in four new missionary fields–Iberia, Central America, Philippines, and Nigeria.

He explained that, in the restricted countries, where religious liberty does not exist, we have thousands of brethren who, despite the most cruel oppression, stand firm in the truth. Some heart-rending experiences that had been endured by individual members, families, and groups living in these countries were narrated before the delegates.

Missionary Program

The delegation gave much attention to the missionary work and recommended the following program:

1. There is no better and more effective method than door-to-door work with literature (canvassing). All members, old and young, can take part in this work. By doing this work they gain a better Christian experience and increase in knowledge, as they feel the need to spend more time in study and prayer that they may be better able to answer questions.

2. If this work is properly developed, more funds will come in and the publishing work can be built up. Besides, more members will be added to the church, and more young people will be prepared to become Bible workers.

3. New methods should be devised, manuals of instruction should be prepared, and seminars should be conducted wherever possible, with a view to teaching our people to do the work efficiently. The book Colporteur Ministry should be studied by all.

4. Missionary families should be encouraged to settle and establish health food stores in areas where there are no churches or members.

5. It was also recommended that the incoming Executive Committee should appoint brethren to prepare manuscripts for books to be used in the canvassing work.

The Nigerian Question

Brother D. Nicolici was censured by the delegation for having ordained men who were not qualified for ordination (Nigeria, 1958). He apologized for his mistake, saying that he was deceived by those men.

Doctrinal and Administrative Points

A certain number of doctrinal questions were considered by the delegates (e.g., occupations inconsistent with our principles, health reform, proper Sabbathkeeping, preexistence of Christ, and others).

So that our belief would not be misconstrued, the question about the preexistence of Christ was answered, and our position on this point was reconfirmed, only with quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy and the Principles of Faith, point 2.

There were also administrative points on the agenda such as the administration of the American Union to be completely separated from that of the General Conference, the GC headquarters to be moved to a more suitable location, the General Conference to adopt a budget system, and regional secretaries to be placed in different strategic parts of the world.

Officers for the new term: C. T. Stewart, president; E. Kanyo, vice president; A. Balbach, secretary.

GC Committee elected in 1963.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part VI)

1967 – Tenth General Conference Session

At the tenth quadrennial delegation session, which was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 13 to October 8, 1967, there were 33 delegates representing 16 Union Conferences and Fields. Complete membership reports had not been received from the restricted countries.

Besides doctrinal questions which had to be answered, there were many other points on the agenda, which were placed in the hands of three special committees: (1) Committee on Tithing, Properties, and Pension; (2) Committee on Credentials and Location of Workers (the same Nominating Committee); (3) Committee on Bylaws and Guidelines for Church Officers.

GC delegation, tenth session, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1967.

In view of the growing needs of the work, the delegation adopted a new GC constitution and bylaws to meet new circumstances, a sustentation plan for workers (which allowed for local adaptations), and a project for a church officers’ guide. It was resolved that each minister should receive a mimeographed copy of the projected guide for church officers. The idea was that with the suggestions sent in by our Unions and Fields, an ad hoc committee would be able to revise the guide and submit an improved copy to the delegation at the next session (1971) for final approval.

At our invitation, the IMS sent three representatives to us during the delegation session, to discuss the possibility of a reconciliation and a reunification. No agreement was reached.

The following GC officers were elected: F. Devai, president; I. W. Smith, vice president; A. N. Macdonald, secretary-treasurer.

Before the delegation was dismissed, Brother Devai made an appeal to the representatives of the people, based on 2 Chronicles 15:8—15. Our leaders, church officers, and members in general should be encouraged to seek the Lord with all their hearts, as an important step in their preparation for the receiving of the latter rain.

1971 – Eleventh General Conference Session

The eleventh session of GC delegates was held in Brasilia, Brazil, September 22 through October 13, 1971. Forty-five delegates, representing 18 Union Conferences, Fields, and Missions, were seated. Two Unions and one Field were not represented. The total membership reported was 12,694.

GC delegation, eleventh session, Brasilia, Brazil, 1971.

The Aztecan Mission (Mexico) and the Danube Union (composed of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland) were recognized by the GC delegation.

The reports of the brethren who had visited some of the restricted countries and those which dealt with the opening of new fields aroused special interest.

The points on the agenda were distributed among the various committees (Doctrinal Committee, Bylaws Committee, Plans Committee), which brought their recommendations to the delegation.

The Doctrinal Committee recommended and the delegation voted that candidates for membership be fellowshiped as follows: (1) by baptism–only those who are thoroughly grounded in the present truth and have given proof that they have had a genuine conversion and have started a new life in Jesus Christ; (2) by vote–only Seventh-day Adventists and separated (Reform) brethren who have been faithful to the light they have had and have lived up to the principles that we stand for.

The delegation also resolved that a general appeal be made to our churches, groups, and individual members throughout the world calling for a deeper consecration to God and for the elevating of the standards of the threefold message (2 Chron. 15:12—15), as follows:

1. Uplifting of our moral standards (purity, integrity).

2. Faithfulness in health reform, Sabbathkeeping, tithes and offerings.

3. More emphasis on decency and simplicity in dress reform.

4. Separation from the evil influences of the world.

Our beliefs and practices were confirmed–that church discipline be applied in case of members persistently "following the customs and fashions and sentiments of the world" (Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 647, 648; Testimonies to Ministers, 128).

As regards television, it was resolved that a renewed effort be made by our ministers and workers to warn our people against the hazards caused by a TV set in the home.

GC officers elected for the new term: F. Devai, president; W. Volpp, vice president; A. Balbach, secretary.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part VII)

1975 – Twelfth General Conference Session

Brasilia, Brazil, October 19–November 4, 1975. Forty-six delegates present. Unions and Fields represented: 23. Total membership reported: over 14,000.

GC delegation session,
Brasilia, Brazil, 1975.

The Indonesian Union was accepted as a new member of the General Conference.

The different committees, especially the Plans Committee, seemed to have more to do this time than during previous delegation sessions.

Much consideration was given to the Ministerial Guide and the Church Officers’ Guide, then under preparation.

A plan for a more efficient development of our work–entitled "Our Aims"–was adopted by the delegation.

We could clearly see once more that the work which has been entrusted to us seems more than we are able to accomplish (The Great Controversy, p. 609). There is only one hope: When we feel our utter human helplessness and begin to rely entirely on the Lord, then more help from above will come.

One of the resolutions adopted by the GC delegation was a pledge which reads as follows:

"We believe that the time has come when due to the increase of diseases in the animal world, the use of milk and eggs is today a growing danger to health.

"‘Let the diet reform be progressive. Let the people be taught how to prepare food without the use of milk or butter. Tell them that the time will soon come when there will be no safety in using eggs, milk, cream, or butter, because disease in animals is increasing in proportion to the increase of wickedness among men. The time is near when, because of the iniquity of the fallen race, the whole animal creation will groan under the diseases that curse our earth’ (Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 356).

"I hereby pledge myself to give due regard to the counsel given in the Spirit of Prophecy on this subject by taking a forward step in putting less and less dependence on these foods and intelligently educating our members away from them."

 

GC delegation, twelfth session, Brasilia, Brazil, 1975.

For the new term, F. Devai was elected president, W. Volpp vice president, and A. Balbach secretary.

Due to the expansion of the work, it was decided to increase the number of regional secretaries from 2 to 6.

1979 – Thirteenth General Conference Session

At this session, 54 delegates came together at Bushkill, Pennsylvania, USA, September 12—26, 1979. In that year, the work was being promoted in 26 Unions and Fields. Membership reported: over 15,800.

GC delegation, thirteenth session, Bushkill, Pennsylvania, USA, 1979.
larger image
 

The development of the different departments established at the GC level and how to make them more effective was one of the major points of discussion.

In the Working Policies an important provision was made in behalf of the restricted countries which are unable to send their delegates to the GC session. The provision reads:

"Suitable person(s) in other countries having experience and/or knowledge of and/or close contacts with believers in countries unable to send regular delegates, and in good and regular standing in their local church, but no more than two immediate relatives, may be nominated by the committee or members in such restricted countries, with the concurrence of the GC Regional Secretary for the area, to represent them and have a vote, and such shall be seated as regular delegates when recognized by a majority vote of the credentialed delegates already seated."

One of the resolutions adopted by the delegation, which should be of special interest to all our members and friends, reads:

"Ministers, Bible workers, and church officers will be requested to pledge themselves that they, together with their families, will place greater emphasis on uplifting the standards by taking a higher stand in Christian living and by closing the door against worldliness; and it is expected that, by the help of God, they will seek to bring the same result in the homes of others. . . ."

Delegation in session, 1979.

 

GC Council elected in 1979.

GC officers elected: W. Volpp, president; F. Devai, 1st vice president; C. Palazzolo, 2nd vice president; A. C. Sas, 3rd vice president; A. Balbach, secretary.

Because he was overloaded with other duties, A. Balbach resigned his office as secretary in 1980, and A. N. Macdonald took over with the agreement of the GC Executive Committee.

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part VIII)

1983 – Fourteenth General Conference Session

This session, attended by 59 delegates, was held at Puslinch, Ontario, Canada, from August 16 to September 6, 1983. By the grace of God, 11 Unions and 9 Fields, covering 50 countries, were able to send their representatives. Complete membership reports from the restricted countries were not available, but recent information on hand showed that the work was going ahead in all of our 13 Unions and 19 Fields and Missions.

GC delegation, fourteenth session, Puslinch (near Toronto), Canada, 1983.

In his address to the delegation, the outgoing president said:

"It is my recommendation to this GC delegation in session that the right understanding of ‘Reform Movement’ be made clear to all our delegates, ministers, workers, and church officers. Only a church which is ‘moving’ forward in all the reformatory lines specified in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy may legitimately carry the name of ‘Reform Movement.’ Our ministers and workers should be the first to reveal a revival and reformation in their lives, showing a spirit of sacrifice and devotion to God. They should set the right example before the people. Earnest and humble prayers and confessions, coming from repentant hearts, should be poured out before God. Let us entreat Him to be merciful to us and bring back into our minds, in full measure, the true spirit of reformation–that primitive godliness–which should characterize our lives. We are to receive strength from above to lift up higher the standards of the threefold message in our religious life, and, down to the youngest members of the church, we are to become colaborers with Christ in the salvation of souls."

The need for improvement in our system of organization and administration was discussed during this session. Here is a summary of the recommendations that were made to the delegates:

1. In the plan for decentralization we need in the first place the upper-room experience. Ministers, workers, church officers, and people need to be encouraged to look much more to Christ than to GC or Union officers, committees or resolutions for leadership and for solution of problems. They should spend more time praying and counseling together.

"The Lord desires His workers to counsel together, not to move independently. Those who are set as ministers and guides to the people should pray much when they meet together. This will give wonderful help and courage, binding heart to heart and soul to soul, leading every man to unity and peace and strength in his endeavors."–Testimonies to Ministers, p. 485.

"It is a selfish thing for men who feel that they have some service to do for the Master, to wish to be alone in their work, and to refuse to connect with those who would be a help to them, because they fear that they will not obtain all the credit for doing the good work which they flatter themselves they will do. This has greatly hindered the work of God. Let brother lay hold of brother. Link up a Peter and a John. Let each encourage his brother to stand by his side doing zealous, interested service, as partners in the great work. Two or three can pray together, sing the praises of God together, and grow up into the full stature of workers together with God. Perfect harmony must be cherished. All must serve the Lord as little children, feeling that they are branches in the same parent stock."–Ibid., p. 329.

"The Lord has not qualified any one of us to bear the burden of the work alone. He has associated together men of different minds, that they may counsel with and assist one another. In this way the deficiency in the experience and abilities of one is supplied by the experience and abilities of another. . . .

"In our work we must consider the relation that each worker sustains to the other workers connected with the cause of God. We must remember that others as well as ourselves have a work to do in connection with this cause. We must not bar the mind against counsel. In our plans for the carrying forward of the work, our mind must blend with other minds.

"Let us cherish a spirit of confidence in the wisdom of our brethren. We must be willing to take advice and caution from our fellow laborers. Connected with the service of God, we must individually realize that we are parts of a great whole. We must seek wisdom from God, learning what it means to have a waiting, watching spirit, and to go to our Saviour when tired and depressed."–Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 499, 500.

2. The local churches, the Fields, the Unions, and the Regions are to be strengthened. Each regional secretary should work with a regional committee.

Individual members are to be subject to the church; the local churches and groups are to be subject to the Field; the Fields are to be subject to the Union; and Unions are to be subject to the General Conference.

"While it is true that the Lord guides individuals, it is also true that He is leading out a people."–Ibid., p. 488.

"As all the different members of the human system unite to form the entire body, and each performs its office in obedience to the intelligence that governs the whole, so the members of the church of Christ should be united in one symmetrical body, subject to the sanctified intelligence of the whole."– Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 16.

3. That which can be solved at a local level should never be referred to a higher body.

4. The leading authority of the work as a whole to be in the hands of a larger GC Council during the quadrennium. This leading body to include the regional secretaries and at least some of the departmental secretaries (see example in General Conference Bulletin, 1901, p. 499). The Council to meet once a year.

5. Five men of the GC Council to constitute the Executive Committee, whose duty is to carry out the decisions made by the GC Delegation and GC Council. The Executive Committee (with a president as chairman) to function as a working committee and as a coordinating body.

6. All the instructions in reorganization and administration, as contained in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy, to be carefully studied and complied with.

The improvements which were made until 1983, in our system of organization, are not in themselves sufficient to ensure success in the work. More true success will be seen only as we come closer to God, both as individuals and as a people. Therefore, the upper-room experience was greatly emphasized.

One of the recommendations referred to the Young People’s Department reads:

"We recommend that special efforts be made to bring our youth closer to Christ in accordance with John 3:3, and that articles be prepared about the dangers confronting our young people all over the world, such as spiritualism connected with certain types of modern music, the evil influence of TV, the demoralizing effect of worldly fashions, drug addiction, the evil of unconverted companions, indiscreet courtship, attitudes which compromise the moral integrity of a young man or woman."

The delegation made a pledge which our church officers were and still are requested to present to our people everywhere, as follows:

"We as delegates of the 14th Session of the General Conference, after a prayerful and serious consideration of our condition as a people, have come to the conclusion that we must now seek an answer to our urgent spiritual needs. The coming of our Saviour is at the door, and we realize our inability to finish, without His help, the work that He has put into our hands. Therefore, we humbly confess our sins and ask the Lord to forgive us our slowness to grasp His almighty hand in the work for the salvation of erring souls.

"As we can see our need for a new motivation by His Spirit, we hereby pledge ourselves to turn to our God in deep humility. Let us all seek a new and complete reconciliation with the Almighty, and renew and strengthen our relationship with our brethren. May our gracious and merciful God help us that the work of thorough reformation, with fasting and prayer, will become more evident in our Christian experience. We believe that the time has come for the spirit of prayer to actuate every believer. Special attention should be given to the following statement:

"‘Those who have not been living in Christian fellowship will draw close to one another. One member working in right lines will lead other members to unite with him in making intercession for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There will be no confusion, because all will be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit. The barriers separating believer from believer will be broken down, and God’s servants will speak the same things. The Lord will cooperate with His servants. All will pray understandingly the prayer that Christ taught His servants: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10.’–Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 251.

"We also extend our Christian love beyond our organizational borders to all those who honestly desire to experience a reformation in mind and heart and life and who are willing to work together with us, ‘looking for and hastening unto the coming’ of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

New GC officers: J. Moreno, president; F. Devai, vice president; A. N. Macdonald, secretary.

1987 – Fifteenth General Conference Session

August 26, 1987, the camp called "Sitio dos Cataventos," near the city of Braganca Paulista, which is situated 88 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was filled with echoes of joy and happiness, when 74 delegates representing 59 countries (12 Unions, 8 Fields, and 13 Missions in 6 Regions) convened for the 15th session of the General Conference. Those Unions, Fields, and Missions which were unable to send their representatives to this session were not forgotten by those present.

GC delegation, fifteenth session,
Braganca Paulista (near Sao Paulo), Brazil, 1987.

larger image

It was certainly an impressive sight to see brethren coming from many places in the world and meeting under one single roof, united in the same precious truth and hope, irrespective of nationalities or languages.

Opening of Delegation Session

Having welcomed the delegates to the session, J. Moreno, the president, read from Zechariah 10:1 and Acts 3:19 and emphasized the need of preparation for the latter rain.

After the welcoming address, the delegates presented their credentials. North India, French Polynesia, and Japan were able to send their representatives for the first time.

Figures previously received by the secretary showed that, up to December 31, 1986, our total membership had increased to 18,000.

Special mention was made of five of our ministers who, since the last session, were laid to rest in the blessed hope of the resurrection.

Bible Studies

During the session we had many important Bible studies, followed by questions and answers, in which the delegates took part with much interest. Among the different topics that were brought up, two were given special interest, namely, justification by faith and the nature of Christ.

Elevating the Moral Standard

As a result of the studies presented, the delegates understood that what we actually need is more consecration and sanctification. We must elevate the moral standard in all our churches before we can see greater results.

The Lord explained to His disciples that they would always "see true and false believers mingled in the church" (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 71). Read Matthew 13:24—30, 37—43. "There are two opposing influences continually exerted on the members of the church. One influence is working for the purification of the church, and the other for the corrupting of the people of God" (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 46). It was understood that erring souls, who are honest and actually want to be saved, cannot be converted by rules of discipline. They will change only if a special work is done in their behalf under the influence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Revelation 3:18—20; James 5:19, 20). Read Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 45, 46.

On the other hand, however, it was also understood that we are not to tolerate those who persist in open sin. False-hearted believers, as tares among the wheat, will not be easily converted by the love of Christ or by the message of Christ’s righteousness. To keep spurious Christians from multiplying in the church, we must apply the rules of discipline. Read John 17:15—17; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15—17; 2 Corinthians 6:14—18; Deuteronomy 7:25, 26; Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 117; Testimonies to Ministers, p. 128; Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 647, 648; Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 71.

Testimony of Two Pioneers

During the session, two of our pioneers (Andrei Cecan and Pavel Tuleu) shared their experiences with the delegation. They praised the Lord for His evident guidance in the Reform Movement and for the many victories that He has granted us. Telling us some of their early experiences in connection with the message of reformation, they encouraged the delegates to press forward in singleness of mind and purpose.

New GC Officers

After several days of deliberation, the Nominating Committee brought the following list of recommended names, which were accepted by the delegation: president, J. Moreno; vice president, D. Dumitru; secretary, A. C. Sas.

The Great Need of the Hour

Brother Moreno thanked God for His mercies and the delegation for the confidence bestowed upon him. He read from 2 Corinthians 12:15 (first part) and 2 Chronicles 29:10, 11 and invited the delegates to make a covenant with God. Further, he requested the cooperation of all his fellow workers and of the churches.

The delegation gave serious consideration to our great spiritual needs and to this vital question: How are we to act so that, by the help of God, we will be prepared for the outpouring of the latter rain, the finishing of the work, and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? The delegates were convinced that, if we seek the Lord in prayer, examining our hearts and confessing our faults, and if we work wholeheartedly for the salvation of souls, we will achieve perfect unity in the spirit and in the truth, and our Saviour will work powerfully in our behalf. Therefore, the following appeal was directed to our people:

"We appeal to all for close cooperation and a more active role in carrying out the gospel commission that was given to all of us. As workers together with God, brothers and sisters, let us lean heavily upon the arm of the Mighty One. Let us labor for more love and unity, and we will become a power in the world."

Our GC Delegation Sessions (Part IX)

1991 – Sixteenth General Conference Session

On September 3—23, 1991, the delegates of our Unions and Fields came together in a castle at Breuberg, a little town situated in the beautiful forest area of Odenwald, about 60 miles southeast of Frankfurt, Germany. The session was opened by J. Moreno, the outgoing president, with the remark that, from the beginning of the Reform Movement, this was the first session with a full, worldwide attendance–109 delegates present.

GC delegation, sixteenth session, Breuberg (south of Frankfurt), Germany, 1991.
larger image

Opening Address

In his opening address, Brother Moreno said among other things: "Great changes have taken place in the world during these last four years, and further serious events are expected to occur in the next few years. The opening of the East-European countries, where the people now enjoy religious liberty, and where the Gospel can be preached freely, is one of the prophetic signs showing that the coming of Jesus is very near."

Reports

D. Dumitru, the outgoing GC vice president, said: "I am particularly thankful to the Lord because I can see for the first time representatives from practically all our Unions and Fields." After reporting on his activities during the quadrennium, he added: "Let us unite our hearts and efforts in the finishing of the work to hasten the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

A. C. Sas, the outgoing GC secretary, presented the statistical report: members added during the quadrennium: over 5,000. Membership at the end of 1990: over 20,000. Number of buildings (such as churches and chapels) owned by our corporation: 395. Organized churches: 492. Organized groups: 481. Rented meeting places: 238. Private homes where meetings are held: 355. Number of ministers: 158. Full-time Bible workers: 302. Part-time Bible workers: 44. Voluntary Bible workers: 116. Colporteurs: nearly l,000. In conclusion, he said: "The GC officers have worked together in harmony, revealing a good spirit of mutual understanding."

Delegation in session, 1991.

J. Garbi, the outgoing GC treasurer, presented a clear picture of the financial situation of our organization. He closed his remarks saying: "I thank the brethren of the different Unions, Fields, and Missions that have cooperated with the General Conference and especially with the Treasury Department by sending in their reports and remittances on time."

Then the regional secretaries reported on the work accomplished in their regions. Next, the GC departmental secretaries presented their reports.

Unions, Fields, and Missions: Change of Status

For technical reasons, three unions agreed to be dissolved and reorganized as follows:

Former Andean Union, now: Ecuadorian Union, Colombian Field, Venezuelan Field.
Former Danube Union, now: Hungarian Field, Poland-Czechoslovakia Field.
Former Trans-African Union, now: Natal-Transvaal Field, Resda Field, Zimbabwe-Botswana Field, Zaire Field, Zambia Field.
Chilean Field to be reorganized as a Union Conference in January 1992.
French Polynesian Mission to be called French Polynesian Field from now on.
Martinique and Guadeloupe to be a Mission under the supervision of the French Polynesian Field.
South Korea Mission to be called Korean Field Conference from now on.
Southeast US Field recognized by the delegation.
Pacific North Mission (USA) recognized.
Two new African missions were also accepted: Angola Mission and Mozambique Mission.

New GC Officers

The following were elected for the new quadrennium: N. S. Brittain, president; D. Dumitru, vice president; A. C. Sas, secretary.

Closing Words

The incoming GC president, N. S. Brittain, thanked the delegates for the confidence bestowed upon him and encouraged them to take a good report back to their fields. He said we are called upon to raise the standard of the truth everywhere, even though in some matters we may not understand one another fully. In the name of the delegation, he also thanked the German Union and the Romanian Union for the hospitality and for everything that was done to accommodate the delegation session and spiritual gathering. Then, from Jude 20–25, he read words of encouragement and counsel to the homeward-bound delegates.

J. Moreno pronounced the benediction, and the delegation sang the hymn, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."

1995 – Seventeenth General Conference Session

The delegation session began right after the spiritual convention which was held at the Stadium of Ploesti, Romania, August 29–31, 1995, with an estimated attendance of 4,500–5,000 people. The Romanian Union had provided a fair and pleasant place at Voineasa, in the Carpathian mountains. That is where 131 delegates representing our worldwide membership met from September 4 through September 24, 1995.

GC delegation, seventeenth session, Voineasa, Romania, 1995.

Opening Address

In his opening address, N. S. Brittain, the outgoing president, emphasized our responsibility in the plan of God for these last days. Our work, he said, is paralleled by that of Elijah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist. There was a seventy-year period which became very significant in the history of ancient Israel, and there is also a period of seventy years, from the establishment of the Reform Movement (Gotha, Germany, 1925) until now (1995), which should likewise have a deep meaning for us.

"The history covering these seventy years," he said, "is a history of development, amid victories and disappointments, with examples of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Yet through it all the message entrusted to us has remained clear, and we have seen the leading hand of God in His work. The work is His, not ours. Let us never lose sight of this distinction.

"During the second part of the quadrennium, much attention was given to the building of the GC headquarters (Roanoke, VA, USA), and we are happy that the new building is now occupied and functioning."

Brother Brittain also pointed out a certain number of challenges that our leaders and members would have to meet during the new administrative period:

"There is little time left in which to dedicate ourselves to the finishing of the work," he said. "Therefore, we cannot waste our precious moments trying to deal with all the trials and problems that the adversary will put in our way to draw our attention from the things that really matter as far as the salvation of souls is concerned."

Our spiritual condition as a people, especially in some places, is cause for great concern, Brother Brittain stated. And he explained that there is strong evidence that we need more and more reformatory actions in our experience as a Movement (Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 594, 595; and vol. 6, p. 142). He brought up a question which should arouse our thinking: Are we coming out completely from the captivity of the world, or will the future show that we have adopted philosophies calculated to turn our hearts away from full consecration to the Lord. At this seventeenth session, he emphasized, the Reform Movement may be at the crossroads, since plans and decisions must now be made which may lead our church either into a spiritual revival or into apostasy. Therefore, lest we forget the ways of the Lord and give room to self-sufficiency and religious pride, let us turn wholeheartedly to Him who said, "Without Me ye can do nothing." He also insisted that we must cease to make decisions based upon false sympathy or upon dictatorial control.

Our goal will be achieved if we allow the Spirit of God to develop a clear and united vision among all the workers. So we will "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." In order to receive the latter rain, we must do a personal and collective work in developing true Christian unity in our ranks.

The growing need for workers is becoming urgent in several Regions, Brother Brittain stated. This need spotlights one of the requirements of our missionary schools, namely the preparation of textbooks for a common course of instruction, correlated with a plan to conduct special seminars for workers.

The need for more personal involvement in missionary activity was also accentuated by Brother Brittain. And these were the closing words of his introduction: "May the Lord guide us during this session. May we listen earnestly to the voice of the Holy Spirit, laying our own opinions aside. And may we fully unite in the word of God."

Reports

After having reported on his work during the quadrennium, in his capacity as vice president, Brother D. Dumitru said: "As I look back to the last four years, I must thank God from the bottom of my heart for all the loving watchcare that He has extended to my coworkers and to me on our many trips and in the fulfillment of our duties."

The outgoing secretary’s report revealed that over 7,000 new members were added to the Reform Movement from January 1991 to December 1994. Our people (23,772 on December 31, 1994; over 24,000 at the time of the session)–organized in 13 Union Conferences, 23 Field Conferences, and 20 Mission Fields–were at that time scattered in 81 countries and territories. The report also showed other interesting details: chapels owned by our corporation, 581; other buildings owned, 98; rented meeting places, 223; private homes used as regular meeeting places, 530; number of organized churches, 606; organized groups, 652; number of ministers, 196; full-time Bible workers, 241; part-time Bible workers, 104; voluntary Bible workers, 95; colporteurs, l,943; colporteur leaders, 58; office workers, 112.

The Sabbath School Department reported that, at the end of l994, there were 1,417 Sabbath Schools with almost 35,000 students (adults and children) in the Reform Movement.

The report of the Colporteur Department showed that over four million books and booklets were sold during the quadrennium 1991–1994 in addition to the seven million tracts.

The Missionary Department reported the work done during the quadrennium: Bible studies given, over 250,000; missionary visits, over 380,000; books and booklets distributed, over four million (these are not the books and booklets sold by the colporteurs); tracts and pamphlets distributed, over eight million.

The outgoing treasurer, Brother Ruffo Lopez, at the end of his report, thanked the Lord and the brethren for all the support received from them.

Unions, Fields, and Missions Confirmed

The following constituencies were confirmed by the delegation: Bolivian Union (for administrative purposes, Bolivia was separated from the South American Southern Union); Martinique Field (Martinique and Guadeloupe were separated from the French Polynesian Field); Spain Mission (Spain was separated from the Iberian Field); Czechoslovakia Mission (separated from Poland); Ghana Mission; Finland Mission; Costa Rica Mission; China Mission.

New Officers

General Conference president, A. C. Sas; vice presidents, N. S. Brittain and D. Suresh-Kumar; secretary, D. P. Silva.

Closing Words

At the close of the session, the new president, Brother Sas, appealed to his coworkers and to all the ministers that they do their best to set an example before the people. As undershepherds, he said, we should not drive them, but lead them. He appealed especially to the older brethren to come closer to the younger ones as friends, bridging the gap that in many cases exists between the two age levels. By tactfully making friends and winning the confidence of others, he stated, we will be able to help them. Speaking about our priorities, he said we should be anxious to be witnesses, not only through our words, but through our converted lives, demonstrating to the world that we are the people of God and that we are preparing to receive the promised power for the finishing of the work. We should not fear the future unless we forget the way in which the Lord has led us and taught us. And we should work to convert souls to Christ, not to ourselves. If we have this aim in view, he said, the Lord will bless our efforts.

In the name of the delegation, Brother Sas thanked the brethren of the Romanian Union for their hospitality. A spirit of perfect peace prevailed among the delegates. Brother I. Tomoiaga offered the closing prayer, and Brother F. Devai pronounced the final benediction.