Taking Stock of the Situation of the Work
One of the first efforts of the leading brethren right after the end of World War II was to gather information about the condition of our people around the world. Through the postal service it was soon possible to evaluate the situation and form a general picture of the state of things in each country. Hereunder we summarize a report which was published in the Sabbath Watchman, fourth quarter of 1946:
Australia: In but a few years the Lord has brought a fine work into being. The Hebron Missionary College was established, where young men and women are getting a training for the work of the Master. The message of reformation is now spreading to Queensland and Victoria, as well as to New Zealand.
Austria: A number of brethren loved not their lives unto death. The majority of our believers stood faithful, in defense of the truth, during the time of persecution.
Czechoslovakia: The powers of darkness apparently obtained a victory; but the faithful souls have stood firm, holding aloft the banner of the gospel.
Denmark: After the political storm, life is again returning to normal. Our minister there has permission to visit internment camps and hold Bible readings. Sometimes the number of those in attendance amounts to 100.
Finland: In spite of the war, the brethren were able to work for the Lord. A number of souls took their stand for the truth. A good number of workers and colporteurs are now spreading the message.
France: The notorious camp of Gurs lodged many of our brethren, under the most horrible conditions, during the war. But not one of them lost his life. The work of the gospel has been resumed and a number of new souls are ready to make a covenant with the Lord.
Germany: Of a certain number of martyrs it can be said: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (). Brethren J. Adamczak and O. Luft are standing on the walls of Zion together with other brethren to restore that which was torn down. The work of God is growing again. While the storm was raging upon our people in this country, the Lord wrought many miracles in their behalf. Today, songs of praise and thanksgiving ascend again from places where, during the time of persecution, our churches were emptied as brothers and sisters went to prison, leaving their children behind.
Hungary: Our ministers and workers were in prison during the war, and not all of them came out alive.
Italy: Although there were external and internal difficulties, most of our brethren remained firm in the truth. There is much interest in the message of reformation. Over 20 new souls are prepared to join the Reform Movement.
The Netherlands (Holland): The brethren in this country suffered a great deal. Many of them went through concentration camps because of their faith. A few of them are no longer among the living. O. Welp, one of the survivors of the horrors of the concentration camp, is now working with other brethren in the cause of the Lord. The canvassing work has made a new start, and quite a number of souls were added to the church after the war.
North America (United States and Canada): The message of reformation is shining in many places in this vast territory.
Norway: Also in Norway our people went through great trials and survived only by the grace of God.
Poland: Our believers had to suffer very much during the war, and a considerable number of martyrs passed through the valley of death as victors over the powers of darkness.
Portugal: The Lord has blessed the work of A. Rieck. In a few years, seven churches were organized.
Romania: The fires of tribulation did not spare our brethren in Romania. There was an official plan, adopted by the Romanian authorities, not only to destroy our church, but to exterminate all our members. But the Lord did not forget His people. When the fatal blow was about to be struck against them, similarly to what was about to happen to the Jewish people in the days of Queen Esther, God came to their rescue in a miraculous way. A leading brother wrote: "Our brethren have remained faithful in the truth, in this message of reformation. After the war, the Lord made it possible for us to hold large conventions in many places. Hundreds of thousands of tracts were printed, which are now being distributed. Our membership has grown in spite of the war. Praise the Lord for everything."
South American countries: The message of reformation is spreading rapidly. Even among the natives living in the high mountains, in the Andes region, the light has reached many hearts.
Sweden: By the providence of God, Sweden was not involved in the war, and it became an island of refuge for some of our people. W. Korpmann, by the grace of God, managed to escape from Estonia to Sweden to help the cause of God there.
Switzerland remained neutral in face of the international conflict, and it also afforded shelter to some of the brethren who had fled from other countries. Brother A. Mueller found refuge in Switzerland, where the believers were very cooperative, making it possible for him to maintain connections with the work of the Lord in other countries. It was from there that manuscripts for Sabbath School quarterlies were sent out during the troublous years of the war.
Trans-Africa: According to reports received from our leading brother there, twelve African workers are engaged in spreading the message of reformation, which is shining in many places.
Yugoslavia: The cause of God is making good progress. Twelve workers andcolporteurs are spreading the message. In 1945, 140 new members were added to the church. Our people went through the "fiery furnace" of persecution in many places, but the merciful hand of God was with them, giving them courage and power to bear the test.
Victories in Spite of Local Problems and Divisions
The followers of Christ were called to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (). This verse has played an important role in the Reform Movement from the beginning. We have witnessed a great deal of contention whenever it became necessary to uplift the truth. Why should the SDA Reform Movement claim to be an exception to this rule? The idea of a strifeless reform–an idea which has probably been derived from a misinterpretation of a statement inTestimonies, vol. 8, p. 251–is contrary to what is written in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy. Read The Great Controversy, pp. 397, 398; ; Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 594, as well as other statements, and you will see that there is no such thing as a reform without obstacles. We can only say: Praise be to God for His mercy, His guidance, and His protection!
The 1948 delegation session was expected to settle most of the problems that had accumulated in the church around the world since the previous session (1934) and especially during the difficult years of the war (1939–1945). However, some of these problems, instead of being solved during the session, were rather aggravated. There was discord in several places and, to some of the brethren, the very survival of the Reform Movement seemed to be threatened. The Denver leaders frankly admitted:
"Never in the experience of this divine work of Reformation was there a crisis of so tremendous an importance as in these days. The enemy of all truth and righteousness is trying to strike a decisive blow against the faithful few in our church in an attempt to destroy the true reformatory spirit among us."–Circular letter of January 9, 1949.
The facts mentioned hereunder set a historic pattern which should not be overlooked.
There was apostasy at Sinai when even Aaron’s eyes were blinded to the enormity of the transgression that he had sanctioned. Sin had to be promptly dealt with. And why was the problem recorded in the history of Israel? "By executing justice upon the guilty, Moses . . . must leave on record a solemn and public protest against their crime. As the Israelites should hereafter condemn the idolatry of the neighboring tribes," they would "acknowledge the disgraceful truth," the shameful apostasy that had occurred in their own camp, but would also "point to the terrible fate of the transgressors" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 325).
"Again and again was ancient Israel afflicted with rebellious murmurers. . . . In many cases, men of renown, rulers in Israel, turned against the providential leading of God and fiercely set to work to tear down that which they had once zealously built up. We have seen something of this repeated many times in our experience."–Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 594.
Consider what happened in the days of Christ and the apostles. Many of the disciples turned against Christ and became His enemies (). "As those disaffected disciples turned away from Christ, a different spirit took control of them. They could see nothing attractive in Him whom they had once found so interesting. They sought out His enemies, for they were in harmony with their spirit and work. They misinterpreted His words, falsified His statements, and impugned His motives. They sustained their course by gathering up every item that could be turned against Him; and such indignation was stirred up by these false reports that His life was in danger" (The Desire of Ages, pp. 392, 393). The distress which that crisis brought to the loyal believers in those days must have been much greater than the distress caused by all the crises that the SDA Reformers have had to go through.
There was a serious disagreement among the delegates at the first general assembly held by the early Christian church in Jerusalem (in the year 51 a.d.?). A decree was formulated with reference to the ceremonial law and the converts among the Gentiles. And what happened? "Not all . . . were pleased with the decision; there was a faction of ambitious and self-confident brethren who disagreed with it. These men assumed to engage in the work on their own responsibility. They indulged in much murmuring and faultfinding, proposing new plans, and seeking to pull down the work of the men whom God had ordained to teach the gospel message. From the first the church has had such obstacles to meet and ever will have till the close of time" (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 196, 197). It is probably these people that are mentioned in such warnings as recorded in; ; .
The same type of warfare, with the same tactical methods that Satan used in the days of ancient Israel and in the days of Christ and the apostles, he also repeated in the time of Luther, and in the early years of the SDA Church. The servant of the Lord wrote:
" ‘God is sifting His people. He will have a clean and holy church. . . . A corrupt people have arisen who could not live with the people of God. . . . We all have reason to thank God that a way has been opened to save the church; for the wrath of God must have come upon us if these corrupt pretenders had remained with us.’"–Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 99.
"God’s frown has been brought upon the church on account of individuals with corrupt hearts being in it. They have wanted to be the foremost, when neither God nor their brethren placed them there. Selfishness and exaltation have marked their course. . . . And we should praise God that in mercy He has rid the church of them."–.
In the prophesied Reform Movement we had and still expect similar battles. The Spirit of Prophecy warns us:
"The church will yet see troublous times. She will prophesy in sackcloth. But although she must meet heresies and persecutions, although she must battle with the infidel and the apostate, yet by the help of God she is bruising the head of Satan. The Lord will have a people as true as steel, and with faith as firm as the granite rock. . . . Ministers who have preached the truth with all zeal and earnestness may apostatize and join the ranks of our enemies, but does this turn the truth of God into a lie? . . . The faith and feelings of men may change; but the truth of God, never. The third angel’s message is sounding; it is infallible."–, .
"Let the people of God arouse out of sleep and begin in earnest the work of repentance and reformation; . . . and evidence will not be wanting that Satan is still active and vigilant. With all possible deception he will manifest his power, calling to his aid all the fallen angels of his realm."–The Great Controversy, p. 398.
"There never will be a time in the history of the church when God’s worker can fold his hands and be at ease, saying, ‘All is peace and safety.’ . . . As the work of God’s people moves forward with sanctified, resistless energy, planting the standard of Christ’s righteousness in the church, moved by a power from the throne of God, the great controversy will wax stronger and stronger, and will become more and more determined. . . . Truth in its varied phases will be in conflict with error in its ever-varying, increasing forms."–Testimonies to Ministers, p. 407.
In these quotations the reader can see how history has been and will be repeated also in our ranks. The Bible and the writings of E. G. White do not warrant an exemption for the prophesied SDA Reform Movement. Therefore, we praise God for His mercy, guidance, and protection! Throughout our history as a Movement, since 1914, the helping hand of God has been with us in every crisis, and our march has been forward and upward, from victory to victory.
One of the basic characteristics of the Reform Movement is that we do not tolerate open sin. "Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church" (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 71). "When this instruction has been followed, the church has cleared herself before God. The evil must then be made to appear as it is [it is not to be covered up], and must be removed, that it may not become more and more widespread. The health and purity of the church must be preserved, that she may stand before God unsullied, clad in the robes of Christ’s righteousness" (Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 262, 263). This work cannot be done without hard struggles, especially when leaders are involved.
From this standpoint, we sympathize with all faithful believers who are sighing and crying for the conditions that they can see in the SDA Church just prior to the close of probation. The Spirit of Prophecy informs:
"Many who once were earnest Adventists are conforming to the world–to its practices, its customs, its selfishness. Instead of leading the world to render obedience to God’s law, the church is uniting more and more closely with the world in transgression. Daily the church is becoming converted to the world."–.
"Pride, avarice, selfishness, and deception of almost every kind are in the church. The Spirit of God, which prompts to reproof, is trampled underfoot, while the servants of Satan triumph. God is dishonored, the truth made of none effect."–, .
"Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost . . . are those ‘that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done’ in the church."–.
"The abominations for which the faithful ones were sighing and crying were all that could be discerned by finite eyes, but by far the worst sins, those which provoked the jealousy of the pure and holy God, were unrevealed. . . . But He will detect their hypocrisy and will open before others those sins which they were so careful to hide."–, .
There are only two alternatives: If we want to avoid strife, we must allow apostasy to take over, as we read in the above prophetic statements. If we do not want these statements to apply also to the Reform Movement, we must "contend for the faith." These remarks should enable the reader to view our struggles and victories in the right perspective. With this hope we will list problems that we had to overcome during the ten-year period (1945–1955), some of which started even before 1945.
England: After F. Charles was discharged from his leading responsibility in 1935, and after he received unfavorable information about the new General Conference president, W. Maas, he rejected the authority of the General Conference. The consequent division resulted in the formation of two groups, one under the influence of A. Rieck, and the other under the direction of A. W. Doerschler. Brother Nicolici wrote to both parties, advising them to seek a reconciliation and work together. They seemingly agreed. But the separation still lasted for a number of years.
The Netherlands: O. Kramer reported about the problem in Holland as follows: "Matters seemed to have become rather doubtful and intolerable among our top leaders [after Brother Maas had taken refuge in Holland, 1937]. . . . No conferences were held any longer, no reports were rendered, no . . . orderly elections [of General Conference officers] took place. The leading brethren [of the General Conference] simply stayed in office beyond their allotted term. . . . Those who insisted [on the proposal to hold a General Conference session in Holland], sad to say, were unjustly disfellowshiped as rebels. . . . It was evident that the top leaders were using a rather dictatorial attitude." (From a tape.) A division took place which continued after the death of Brother Maas (March 12, 1944) and even after the end of World War II.
Germany: J. Adamczak, president of the German Union, who had been the chairman of the 1948 General Conference delegation session, had a disagreement with C. Kozel and A. Mueller, respectively president and vice president of the General Conference. In 1949, with the support of a certain number of brethren, he began to show these two brethren where he disagreed with them. In 1950 he wrote:
"Since the conference at The Hague [Holland], 1948, I have had the most terrible conflicts with myself. I have spent many sleepless nights for the sake of the cause of God. . . . The thought that there could eventually be a split aroused in me the greatest fear and disgust. . . . Resolutions and principles are being applied at will. . . . There is a little group of men who act exactly like the Pharisees in the days of Christ."–Adamczak’s circular letter of April 5, 1950.
New Zealand: Fred Williams, from New Zealand, started an agitation against the Australasian Union, because at the Union delegation session (1947) he did not get what he wanted. And he had a group of supporters. It was their purpose to separate the New Zealand Field from the Union, together with a building which was owned by the Union in New Zealand. Through a lawyer, the Union warned them that they could not legally take possession of the property. There was no court action. Shortly before the 1948 General Conference session, the Lord put an end to the trouble. Some of the men who were implicated in the difficulty joined the Adventist Church, while others confessed and returned to the Reform Movement. Even Fred Williams, who carried the main responsibility in that agitation, admitted that he had done wrong. Later he became reconciled with the brethren and died as a faithful member of our church.
Portugal: A. Rieck, who had been the General Conference secretary from 1934 through 1948, and who was the leader of the work in Portugal when trouble started in Germany, sided with Brother Adamczak in his opposition to Brethren Kozel and Mueller. Brother Kozel went to Lisbon, Portugal, to try and correct Brother Rieck, and, if possible, remedy the situation. An interview took place August 4, 1949. Brother Kozel had no success. This division continued until the death of Brother Rieck (1960?).
Romania: Before the General Conference session in 1948, the enemy caused some disturbance among our brethren in Romania. There was an accusation against the Union president. Albert Mueller, the General Conference president, accepted the findings of the other leading brethren of the Romanian Union, who were not able to convict their president. Brother Mueller believed the claim of innocence of that brother and never bothered to investigate the matter. For this cause, a group of protesting brethren separated themselves from the church. There were two parties since l946. Brother Kozel was informed about it, as one of his letters shows (Nov. 11, 1946). The problem remained unsolved until 1956, when Brother Nicolici was able to visit Romania. Although the accused leader never admitted the charge brought against him, there were other reasons which required or justified his disfellowshipment.
South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe): The Union president violated point 18 of ourPrinciples of Faith (1925), becoming unfit, not only for the ministry, but also for membership. To settle the problem, A. Mueller, the General Conference vice president, accompanied by S. Eggarter, was sent to that area in 1950. Brother Mueller only removed the guilty man from the presidency, not withdrawing his ministerial credentials. And those who protested against this "solution" were disfellowshiped. In spite of repeated appeals, the problem was left uncorrected by the General Conference president. Result: Separation in South Africa and growing tension among some of the leaders of the Reform Movement.
United States: The leaders of the American Union had serious objections against the methods of three successive General Conference presidents, Brethren W. Maas, A. Mueller, and C. Kozel. They complained especially about the bureaucracy, the authoritarianism, the kingly power, which they said was evident in the brethren in high offices. Finally, Brother Kozel decided to take action against them. They were disfellowshiped in the presence and with the approval of Brother Kozel (March 4, 1949). Concerning this unfortunate experience, the leaders of the American Union wrote in their circular letter of April 12, 1949:
"As Brother Kozel has repeatedly demanded ‘unconditional submission’ as the only way to unity, without the slightest hint of a possible agreement, we ask: Is this procedure based on a Christian and democratic principle? Or does this remind us of the spirit which is predominant in worldly dictatorships? . . . It is apparent to us that, because of selfish interests, the work of God is now going through a serious crisis. . . . Without any investigation of the difficulties, we have been separated from the Reform [Movement] through an arbitrary act."
These were the major local divisions that existed under the administration of Brethren Mueller and Kozel.
General Conference Incorporated in the USA
|Resolution adopted by the GC delegation in session, 1948, about the establishment of the GC headquarters in the United States.|
|Decision about acceptance of the Constitution and Bylaws for the incorporation of the SDA Reform Movement General Conference in the United States (From the GC minute book, April 4, 1949).|
The fifth General Conference delegation made the following resolution (July 15, 1948):
"We the undersigned delegates of the General Conference empower the Executive Committee–the president, vice president, and secretary–to revise the Constitution of our Movement in harmony with the law and the Testimonies, and also to respect and include the points of doctrine upon which we agreed at this conference, and also to formulate the Constitution Rules and Regulations upon which our Movement is to function, and also to express clearly the way of our organization as a Movement."
During the 1948 General Conference session, the delegates, assembled in the name of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference, also decided to transfer the General Conference headquarters to the United States, as previously mentioned. The Reform Movement, as a worldwide organization, was incorporated in Sacramento, California, USA, on April 8, 1949. The General Conference office was established at 3031 Franklin Boulevard, Sacramento, California.
The Great Shaking (1951–1952)
For one year after the disagreement which occurred in May 1951, there was a peculiar situation which does not exist today: There were two groups of leaders in conflict with each other, but only one denomination, the SDA Reform Movement General Conference, with headquarters in Sacramento, California, USA, with which both groups professed to remain affiliated until May 1952. And, according to an agreement signed by both parties right after the second lawsuit (May 7, 1952), both sides recognized each other as members and leaders of only one and the same corporation, as just mentioned, one year after the conference of May 1951.
There have been two corporations only since June 6, 1952, when Brethren Kozel, Mueller and Ringelberg reorganized themselves separately from our Unions and Fields, without any delegation, but together with the disfellowshiped Denver leaders. This is what led to the formation of a separate corporation, the International Missionary Society with worldwide headquarters in Denmark and later in Germany. Through the shaking that took place in those days, the SDA Reform Movement lost a little over 2,000 souls.