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.