As the great reformation carried on by Luther in the 16th century had actually had its beginning two centuries earlier (GC 78), so the prophesied Reform Movement among SDA's, in existence today, had its embryonic beginning in 1888, when the Lord sent the message of Christ's Righteousness to the General Conference delegation assembled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
The Message of 1888
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Savior, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God." TM 91, 92.
Unfortunately, the top leaders rejected this message and thereby offended the Spirit of God:
"The power of the Holy Spirit has been largely manifested at Battle Creek, the great heart of the work, to be communicated to those in the highways and hedges, that the mass of human beings under Satan's sway of sin and death might be reformed and renovated by the Spirit's power. But when light has come to those at the center of the work, they have not known how to treat it." TM 402.
"Men who are entrusted with weighty responsibilities, but who have no living connection with God, have been and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit. They are indulging the very same spirit as did Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and as did the Jews in the days of Christ.... They began this satanic work at Minneapolis. Afterward, when they saw and felt the demonstration of the Holy Spirit testifying that the message was of God, they hated it the more, because it was a testimony against them. They would not humble their hearts to repent, to give God the glory, and vindicate the right. They went on in their own spirit, filled with envy, jealousy, and evil surmisings, as did the Jews. They opened their hearts to the enemy of God and man. Yet these men have been holding positions of trust, and have been molding the work after their own similitude, as far as they possibly could." TM 78-80.
Following the example of the leadership, "our own people opposed the work of God by refusing the light of truth on the righteousness of Christ by faith" (TM 401).
The unavoidable consequence of the rejection of God's message became apparent before long in the moral and spiritual decadence of the church. In 1903 the Spirit of Prophecy declared:
"Why is there so dim a perception of the true spiritual condition of the church?. . . Who can truthfully say: 'Our gold is tried in the fire; our garments are unspotted by the world'? I saw our Instructor pointing to the garments of so-called righteousness. Stripping them off, He laid bare the defilement beneath. Then He said to me: 'Can you not see how they have pretentiously covered up their defilement and rottenness of character? "How is the faithful city become an harlot!" My Father's house is made a house of merchandise, a place whence the divine presence and glory have departed! For this cause there is weakness, and strength is lacking.' " 8T 248-250.
Soon after, A.T. Jones was taken in the delusions of Dr. J.H. Kellogg, and was finally separated from the church. In 1909 a special effort was made to restore him. Several meetings were held with him. He seemed to be moved and prepared for a reconciliation. When Elder Daniells, the General Conference president, extended his hand to him, pleading, "Come, Brother Jones, come," he stood up, slowly reached out his hand too, but suddenly pulled it back and said, "No, never," and sat down again.
E.J. Waggoner had a negative experience too, when domestic problems led him to resort to divorce and remarriage. He nevertheless advocated the fundamental SDA beliefs to the day of his death.
This was not the first or last time that instruments of the Lord apostatized after having faithfully given the message. The Spirit of Prophecy, however, warns us that this unfortunate backsliding should not be used as an argument against the light of Heaven that through them came to the people of God. Messengers may draw back, but this won't turn into a lie the truth that they have preached. Sister White writes:
"It is quite possible that Elder Jones or Waggoner may be overthrown by the temptations of the enemy; but if they should be, this would not prove that they had had no message from God, or that the work that they had done was all a mistake. But should this happen, how many would take this position and enter into a fatal delusion because they are not under the control of the Spirit of God.... I know that this is the very position many would take if either of these men were to fall, and I pray that these men upon whom God has laid the burden of a solemn work, may be able to give the trumpet a certain sound, and honor God at every step, and that their path at every step may grow brighter and brighter until the close of time." Letter 24s, 1892.
The message brought by these two brethren set up an important landmark in the history of the SDA church. "It marked the beginning of a great reform." The Story of Our Church, p. 246. Sister White says:
"The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth." 1 SM 363.
The Last Call Given Through the Living Prophet
In 1913 the Lord used His servant to renew the call for revival and reformation, and Sister White was shown, in a vision, that this last call would be heeded by some. She wrote:
"Men of clear understanding are needed now. God calls upon those who are willing to be controlled by the Holy Spirit to lead out in a work of thorough reformation. I see a crisis before us, and the Lord calls for His laborers to come into line....
"I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement-a work of revival-going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line, responding to God's call." TM 514, 515.
The Great Crisis (1914-1918)
The Lord has always given the first opportunity to the leaders, but sad to say they missed the chance and ignored God's call. And when a great crisis came to the church in 1914, it found them unprepared. The leading brethren in Europe were the first to betray their sacred trust committing the members to combatancy.
Not only in Germany, but also in other European countries, the SDA leadership issued declarations (which we are not quoting here for lack of space) instructing the church members to take a combatant part in the war. These writings brought much confusion in the churches. Thousands of SDA's in Europe were thrown into great trial and perplexity, as, to avoid persecution and possible death, they saw no other way than to give up Sabbathkeeping, bear arms, and do as other patriots were doing. The majority acted in accordance with the decisions of their leaders. (Read 10 BC 1183.)
It was only a small minority who had the faith and courage to reject the position of the leading brethren who had decided that it was the duty of each one to obey the requirements of the government even to the point of bearing arms and violating the Sabbath. Those who stood for truth and righteousness at this time were faithful members of the church and had no idea of the role they were playing in the work of the prophesied reformation. The attitude they took, however, was out of harmony with the decision of the leaders, who, in their blind zeal to maintain the favor of the church with the government, expelled those who had the moral courage to oppose their decision. The persecution and tribulation which followed as the result of this attitude is part of denominational history.
A newspaper correspondent gave his unbiased opinion of the situation as follows:
"Since the beginning of the war there has been a division among the Adventist people. During the duration of the war, the majority wanted to see the fundamental teachings set aside, by force if necessary. The others asked that the sanctification of Saturday (Sabbath) be allowed them, even in these times of stress. The opposing faction finally brought about the disfellowshipment from the Organization of the followers of the original principles of faith."Koelnische Zeitung (Evening Edition) September 21, 1915.
In a circular letter entitled "The European Situation," Elder C.H. Watson gave the following explanation:
"There was in Germany and those other countries concerned a minority of our believers who refused to follow the leadership of Conradi and others into combatant participation in the war.
"These were subjected to much suffering at the hands of their Governments because of their stand.
"In Germany, those who took their stand against Conradi's wicked action in thus committing them to war were treated with great harshness by Conradi and his associates. The resistance of the minority to military service threatened to compromise the whole body of Adventists in the eyes of the German Government; and to avoid this, Conradi had the minority disfellowshiped from the Church.
"Thus the noncombatant minority was forced out of the church in that country, and this separation continued throughout the war years.
'When this state of affairs became known to the General Conference leaders, it created deep concern in their hearts, and led to their sending W.A. Spicer to Germany at a time when the German submarine peril was extremely grave. Brother Spicer took his life in his hands in order to get first hand information on that situation.
"The result of that visit was that the General Conference became possessed of first hand information regarding:
a) "The wrong done to these minority believers.
b) "The division and strife which had resulted among our German members.
c) "The development of bitterness in both groups, and especially in those wronged by Conradi.
d) "The extreme views to which these groups were driving each other in their difference."
While Conradi was a leader of the SDA Church, he was whitewashed and defended even by the General Conference representatives: now that he left the SDA's some leaders began to admit what they should have admitted at the beginning of the trouble (1914-1920).
Elder Watson's admission, however, is a very rare exception. SDA publications on this great crisis generally miss the point by ignoring the fundamental aspects of the whole problem. One of these aspects is that the faithful minority were disfellowshiped -a fact which is usually concealed.
A Catholic paper in Germany writes:
"Outsiders should not interfere in family quarrels. Let Seventh-day Adventists settle their own disputes among themselves. We do not want to get involved in the strife as to whether this or that direction is a true representation of Adventism.... In 1914 two percent of the members were disfellowshiped from the German Seventh-day Adventist Church, because they declared that participation in war service, and that on the Sabbath (Saturday), cannot be reconciled with the Adventist doctrine."-Paulinus, March 9, 1953.
Under those prohibitive circumstances the faithful minority began to "exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth" (EW 270) in words and actions. It is these people that were actually lifting up the downtrodden law of God in those days. Many of them suffered not only imprisonment, but also torture and death. Prom Brother Otto Welp, our believers in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, received the following information in 1933: When the fiery test came upon the church, during World War I, about 2,500 SDA reformers, in Germany, stood up to defend the truth. From among the men eligible for the army, one out of every ten was executed. Then, as the others did not yield, every fifth was put to death, and finally every second one. Those that survived were kept in prison until the end of the war. In many cases, while the men were in prison, the women were preaching the present truth-"obedience to all the commandments of God" -the same message that came in 1888 (TM 91, 92).
When the reform movement began in Romania, many believers placed their confidence in Christ and His righteousness, and, as the result, young and old were subjected to four, five, six, nine and even fifteen years' imprisonment for the sake of truth, while SDA leaders used all means to inform the authorities against the faithful ones, to distort their motives, and to attack their characters.
Similar hardships also came upon faithful Adventist believers in other European countries.
Their greatest concern in those days was their preparation for the latter rain.
History shows and the Word of God confirms that fanatics and disorderly elements have always been associated with the work of reformation.
"In all the history of the church, no reformation has been carried forward without encountering serious obstacles. Thus it was in Paul's day. Wherever the apostle raised up a church, there were some who professed to receive the faith, but who brought in heresies, that, if received, would eventually crowd out the love of the truth. Luther also suffered great perplexity and distress from the course of fanatical persons.... And the Wesleys, and others who blessed the world by their influence and their faith, encountered at every step the wiles of Satan in pushing overzealous, unbalanced, and unsanctified ones into fanaticism of every grade....
"In the days of the Reformation its enemies charged all the evils of fanaticism upon the very ones who were laboring most earnestly against it. A similar course was pursued by the opposers of the advent movement. And not content with misrepresenting and exaggerating the errors of extremists and fanatics, they circulated unfavorable reports that had not the slightest semblance of truth....
"The fact that a few fanatics worked their way into the ranks of Adventists is no more reason to decide that the movement was not of God than was the presence of fanatics and deceivers in the church in Paul's or Luther's day a sufficient excuse for condemning their work." GC 396-398.
To give the reader an idea of the different forms of fanaticism associated with Seventh-day Adventists in the early days of the movement, we quote from an Adventist book:
"Difficulties within the Movement
"Between 1844 and the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church nearly twenty years later, but especially in the first few years after the disappointment, the Adventist believers were at times embarrassed by extremes and fanatical movements. A part of Ellen White's work was to witness against these movements.
"Writing of her early experiences, Mrs. White tells of a trip taken with her husband through the New England States in 1850. Many former believers had become bitter from the disappointment. Some were still looking for truth. 'But we had a still worse element to meet,' she writes, 'in a class who claimed that they were sanctified, and they could not sin, that they were sealed and holy, and that all their impressions and notions were the mind of God....
"They claimed to heal the sick and to work miracles. They had a satanic, bewitching power; yet they were overbearing, dictatorial, and cruelly oppressive. The Lord used us as instruments to rebuke these fanatics, and to open the eyes of His faithful people to the true character of their work."-Ellen G. White, in Review, November 20, 1883.
"Another group claimed to be sanctified so that they could not sin. Yet they were immoral in their actions, following their own lust and committing presumptuous sin. They even advocated 'spiritual' free love.
"Fanaticism showed up in some other strange forms. Some got the idea that religion consisted in great excitement and noise. Their behavior irritated unbelievers and aroused hatred against themselves and the doctrines they taught. When they were opposed or mistreated because of their annoying ways, they rejoiced because of the 'persecution.'
"Mrs. White had to rebuke some people who professed great humility and tried to demonstrate it by creeping on the floor like children. They would creep around their houses, on the street, over bridges, and in the church itself.
"Another group believed it was a sin to work, although they seemed to think it quite consistent for their wives and others to do the necessary work for them. Animal magnetism, or mesmerism, the forerunner of hypnotism, was practiced by some. The supposed gift of tongues, accompanied by shouting and confusion, appeared in a few places. From time to time some small group would announce a new time for Christ to appear."The Story of Our Church, pp. 238, 239.
If the previous statement from The Great Controversy is correctly understood, this kind of difficulties should also be expected in connection with this last reformation-the present day SDA Reform Movement. There must be a parallel.
Sad to realize, history repeats itself also in the distorted picture presented about the relationship of some fanatics with the Reform Movement. In the past, as we just read, the enemies of the reformation made it their business to establish confusion between wild fanatics and true reformers, bunching them together as birds of the same nest. Today the enemies of Reform are doing exactly the same thing. If this attitude was fair, someone could read the text just quoted from The Story of Our Church and affirm that those fanatics were actually the pioneers of the SDA Church. Worse than that, to get a still more distorted picture, SDA leaders associate with Reform certain elements who have never belonged to Reform, such as Margaret Rowen and J. Wieck.
J. Wieck, a member of the SDA Church, was jailed on refusing to be vaccinated. January 21, 1915, he had some visions, in which, he declared, God had shown him that the end of probation would come in the spring of that year. He wanted to see his visions published by the church. As the SDA leaders refused, he got them published on his own and forwarded a copy to each minister and to each church all over Germany. He never belonged to Reform, but Adventist writers and leaders still connect this name with the Reform Movement.
The "Minutes of the Conference with the Movement of Opposition (held in Friedensau, July 21-23, 1920)," published by the three German Unions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, contain sufficient evidence that fanaticism was not the origin of the SDA Reform Movement any more than it had been (as quoted from The Story of Our Church pp. 238, 239) the starting point of the SDA Church, although the devil did his best to associate fanaticism with the work of God also in 1844 and in the following years.
Nevertheless, in a libel entitled The Aftermath of Fanaticism or A Counterfeit Reformation, published by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Elder L.H. Christian makes this gross overstatement: "This fanaticism in Germany as well as in the other countries in Europe, is the true origin of the counterfeit reformation movement." This simplistic conclusion is an offense to an honest and intelligent mind who can weigh the evidences for himself.
In more recent years the SDA leadership published a more decent, but not entirely correct, report about the rise of the Reform Movement. In the SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 1183, they say: "Though the original issue was over visions and time setting, the bone of contention through the years has been the stand taken by the SDA Church concerning the duty of its members in military service." There is at least half a truth in this statement. While it is not true that "visions and time setting" brought the Reform Movement into existence, it is true that the stand taken by the SDA Church concerning the duty of its members in military service and in war, in the light of God's law, has always been, from the very beginning, the main bone of contention. The holy law of God has always been the real issue.
A much more correct declaration about the origin of the Reform Movement is found in this other SDA publication:
"The departure of these people was not from a 'lot of gross errors and a dominating hierarchy,' but from Conradi's leadership which had committed them, without their voice or consent being given to his action, to the cannon and the bayonet of the battlefield."-Brown Exposes Ballenger (Southern Publishing Assn.), pp. 29, 30.
The Friedensau Conference (1920)
A conference was held at the SDA missionary college in Friedensau, Germany, from July 21 thru 23, 1920, for the purpose of settling the dispute existing between the two parties, if at all possible. There were present 51 members of different Union Conference Committees (the three German Unions, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary); plus 16 members of the disfellowshiped minority (who were called by the SDA leaders "the movement of opposition"); plus four General Conference men: A.G. Daniells (president), L.H. Christian, F.M. Wilcox, and M.E. Kern.
The reformers had four questions to which they desired an answer:
First question: "What stand does the General Conference take toward the resolution adopted by the German leadership, since 1914, in regard to the fourth and sixth commandments? On this point we refer to the following written declarations ... (five documents presented)...."
Second question: "What evidence can be presented to us that we have not followed the biblical way toward the brethren, as we are accused in the last issue of Zions-Waechter [SDA paper in Germany],& 14, July 1920? We will present the evidence later on."
Third question: (a) "What is the stand of the General Conference, the American brethren, concerning the Testimonies of Sister White? Are they or are they not inspired by God? (b) Should we or should we not continue presenting health reform (as brought forth in the Testimonies) as the right arm of the message?"
Fourth question: "Is our message, according to, a national or an international message? We have several numbers of Zions-Waechter here, which do not show that we are an international people. Example: Zions-Waechter number 5, March 3, 1920, from the leadership of the school."
The reasons for, and the purpose of, these questions should be understood, so the answers may be properly evaluated.
The first question was asked with a view to finding out how far the evident involvement of the General Conference in the combatant position taken in Europe was admitted by the top leaders, and whether they were willing to make the necessary correction.
Many SDA leaders now realize that this is a very delicate point; and many try to deny some very serious facts which we must disclose to the Adventist believers. It should therefore be known to all that:
a) by having condoned combatancy, not only among SDA's in Europe, but also in America, and by not having corrected the situation soon after World War I, the General Conference made matters worse; and,
b) by now refusing to acknowledge any General Conference involvement in the World War I defection, top leaders are actually increasing their complicity.
We cannot hide before the Adventist people the fact that, during the Friedensau conference (1920), the European leaders were whitewashed, and even Conradi and Dail, respectively president and secretary of the European Division (who had signed documents in behalf of SDA combatancy), were justified as if they had committed no blunder in connection with the law of God and the war question. And those few who had stood up in defense of the commandments of God were condemned for the very reason that they believed in strict obedience to the precepts of Jehovah also in time of war, according to the original SDA stand. And the consent given by the General Conference men was once more confirmed.
Following is the gist of Elder Daniells' answer to the first question:
"As soon as the war broke out in Europe, we in America studied this matter carefully.... And we took this position: Let everyone act according to his conscience in this question.... Then we had some brethren who had the spirit of love for their country, and went to the battle line, and fought. They came to England and France, and went to the trenches, and I don't know what they did while they were there, but they served and came back when the armistice was signed.... We regret the war, and we are against it. But we must permit every citizen to act toward the authorities according to the dictates of his own conscience. Not one of these persons was disfellowshiped from our church. Not one of them was treated as if he was not a Christian.... As long as we do not have precise limits and definite rules regarding our position towards the authorities, it must be left with each one to act according to his own conscience. The brethren in America took the same moderate and tolerant position as our brethren in Europe.... I would like to say that, when the declaration of Bro. Dail reached us in America, it did not seem right, and we regretted it. We received letters from brethren who condemned it severely and asked us to arise and condemn it too. We told them to be quiet and cautious.... Therefore, brethren, neither Bro. Spicer nor I have ever used the pen to publish a condemnation against these declarations.... In spite of our views about this declaration, we did not send one word in answer to it.... So I believe I have made clear the feeling and position that has existed in America regarding the events which took place in Europe. After all this we are convinced that our brethren here, too, take the noncombatant position. We have talked with brethren who were in the war, and I can tell you that I have not found in any brother in Europe a greater military spirit than in America. And I can say, too, that in their spirit and in their procedure, our brethren in Europe have been as faithful as our brethren in America. I will say it all over again in other words: We are sorry for some of the declarations that have been issued. But when we consider the spirit and the purpose that led them to do that, we find that these brethren stand as faithful and upright in the work as we ourselves.... And I must say that everyone has had the right to set up his own conviction and form his own conscience with reference to the war question.... We believe that you brethren (referring to the representatives of the disfellowshiped minority) are completely wrong in the position you represent. We do believe in the fourth commandment as we have ever believed in it. But we cannot agree with your interpretation in connection with it. What would you have said about Moses a few days after he had received the law on Mount Sinai, if he had told you to go and kill the king of Bashan, and all the men, women and children? Would you have accused him of murder? But God commanded him to violate the sixth commandment. You see that there are many things to be found in the interpretation of the commandments, and we must have freedom to read and understand them, without being bound to the interpretation of any small corporation."
This quotation from the "Minutes of the Conference with the Movement of Opposition (held in Friedensau, July 21-23, 1920)," published by the SDA Church in Germany, shows the original and real issue which brought the Reform Movement into existence: It was the law of God. Different from other SDA leaders, who libel us in too many unprofitable words, with too many irrelevant remarks and even nonsensical conclusions, and generally get lost by missing the point altogether (as in the case of Elder Christian in his Aftermath of Fanaticism), Elder Daniells, the General Conference president in 1920, brings to view, in a few words, the actual big bone to contention, which caused the division at the be ginning of the crisis in Europe. We will summarize his answer:
a) From the very beginning the General Conference men were informed of what was going on in Europe, and read at least some of the compromising declarations of the European leaders, but they decided to keep quiet, leaving it up to the Europeans themselves to decide what they should do under those circumstances. Elder F.M. Wilcox had already explained this acquiescent attitude in an article published in The Review and Herald:
"Particularly should the church of God today remember our European brethren who are now suffering adversity. Some have been forced into active military service; their lives are constantly menaced, and they are exposed to hardship and danger. Families have been broken up; those left at home are anxious with fear for those who have gone to the front. The officers of some of our Conferences and churches have been compelled to forsake their charges and join the national colors. It should be our earnest prayer that God will save His cause of truth during this trying period, and that He will safeguard the lives of His children. As to just what our European brethren should do under these trying circumstances only they alone in prayer to God can decide." RH Aug. 27, 1914.
b) The General Conference men then took the position that everyone should act according to his own conscience as far as the law of God in connection with war service. And this is exactly what the European Adventists did. The great majority, in Germany and other countries, according to their conscience, took a combatant stand. The leadership in Germany declared in one of the newspapers:
"At the beginning of the war our organization was split into two parties. As ninety-eight percent of our membership, by searching the Bible, came to the conviction that they are duty-bound, by conscience, to defend the country with weapons, also on Saturdays, this position unanimously endorsed by the leadership, was immediately announced to the War Ministry. Two percent, however, did not submit to this resolution, and therefore had to be disfellowshiped because of their unchristian conduct." -Dresdener Neuste Nachrichten, April 12, 1918.
c) That the General Conference men even sent word to the European leaders, expressly authorizing them to continue in their combatant position, this cannot be denied in the face of the evidence existing in our files, from which we quote:
"We, the Conference of the Romanian Seventh-day Adventists, inform that the biblical standpoint concerning military service and the call to bear arms, is that this is a duty imposed by the State, to whom God has rightly given authority, according to, 14 and , . The same stand was also taken by the General Conference Committee, in their meeting of November 1915, and it applies to the different countries of the world.... We have had cases in which brethren in Germany asked, 'What should we do in war?' The answer given was: 'Remain faithful to God, but do what everybody else [literally 'what the whole world'] is doing.' . . . Where nobody could ask for permission to keep holidays, it would only have been a queer attitude for our brethren to request liberty to keep the Sabbath...."-Curierul Misionar (SDA paper in Romania), Number 3, 1916.
Another declaration, from Zions-Waechter (SDA paper in Germany), April 3, 1916, attesting General Conference responsibility for the combatant position taken in Europe, (which was not denied when shown to the General Conference men in Friedensau, 1920), is presented in Conscientious Objection or Combatancy (Study 11).
As a matter of fact, Elder Daniells himself declared that "the same moderate and tolerant position" was taken both in Europe and America.
d) Elder Daniells, the General Conference president, made it plain that, while in theory SDA's declare themselves noncombatants, they may in practice follow their own conscience which means that they actually have their own choice and are free to act either as faithful Christians or as patriotic warriors-when facing the war question. Abundant evidence in our possession, some of which is quoted in Study 11, shows that, in practice, the combatant stand has to a large extent been practiced and condoned by the SDA Church, these many years, with the consent of the General Conference. The warning that "we should never give sanction to sin by our words, and our deeds, or our silence, or our presence" (DA 152), is apparently overlooked.
e) The small disfellowshiped minority were condemned by Elder Daniells as being "completely wrong" in their interpretation that taking part in war service is irreconcilable with the law of God. This condemnation was pronounced in the presence of many SDA leaders in Europe and some General Conference leaders too. It is true that we still hold the same belief and by the grace of God intend to hold it to the very end for which we have often been stigmatized as fanatics.
The evidences which we have just produced pinpoint the main cause of the division and show that the law of God is in question. And since the two parties hold different views on such a vital issue, they must go their separate ways, as Elder Daniells himself declared (see answer to second question).
In answer to the second question, Elder Daniells explained: "There is a way to bring a question before the brethren and to be heard. Let us begin with the (local) church. Some of the members may have some discrepancy with one of the officers or superintendents. It may be something in the leadership of the church of which they cannot approve. What should they do in such a case? Should they straightaway set up another church and be separate? I say, No. Let them bring the question before the Conference Committee.... Suppose this is done, and those members are not satisfied with the decision. Then let them present it to the Union. But suppose they are not satisfied with the Union Conference decision. Then they can appeal to the General Conference Committee. Suppose the (local) church refuses to accept the decision of the General Conference and she has a right to do that-then those in question must go. They must withdraw in a Christian manner and leave us alone."
The case with the dissatisfied minority, however, was that they had no intention to leave the church; they were put out. In 1915, W. Richter, one of their representatives, prepared a "Protest" asking for an interview with the leaders. This document was read by E. Doerschler, the spokesman for the disfellowshiped minority, during the conference in Friedensau, in 1920. He said, "Through this writing we requested a meeting with the brethren, but our petition was refused." (From the "Minutes. . ."). Now they came before the General Conference men with the question, "Where have we failed to follow the Bible way?" This was a courteous and diplomatic way of asking which of the two parties had actually failed to follow the Bible rule.
At the end of the meeting in Friedensau, the representatives of the faithful minority still believed in the possibility of correction and reconciliation, in spite of the unsuccessful replies, especially to the first question, received from the General Conference president. And this is what transpired:
"E. Doerschler: I ask if the answer given by Bro. Daniells, yesterday, was made in the name of the whole committee of the General Conference.
"Elder A.G. Daniells: I think, Brethren, that we should give this matter much consideration. I will not say that this problem could not be disputed in a larger meeting. I shall not cut the meeting short by giving a decision now. As far as our conviction and judgment guide us, and as far as it depends on us, we think our judgment is definite.
"E. Doerschler: Could not there be a higher authority?
"Elder A.G. Daniells: There is not any higher authority: it may be only a larger number of brethren. In our meeting in autumn we are going to have a larger number of brethren meeting together, but this body of members of the General Conference will be there.
"E. Doerschler: We are sorry that we did not ask this question last night. I think we should wait for our decision until the time when more brethren can judge this question.
"Elder A.G. Daniells: What! You want to place this question before a larger body in Washington?"
In answer to the third question, first part, Elder Daniells said: "I am glad I can tell you that the General Conference has never changed its position toward the Testimonies in the last fifty years. . . . Our position toward the Testimonies is the same as it was before...." Elder Kern added: "And her [Sister White's] books are sold today more than before."
The question put by the representatives of the disfellowshiped minority was actually motivated by the fact that many church members, and even leaders, in Europe, did not believe in the divine inspiration of the writings of Sister White. Conradi, the president of the European Division, and vice-president of the General Conference, was one of them, and his unbelief was well known. We quote from Froom's book Movement of Destiny, p. 677 (published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association):
"Conradi . . . sought increasingly to undermine, and at last bitterly to fight, the Spirit of Prophecy.... Wherever he lived and labored and traveled he subtly scattered unsettling seeds of doubt as to the validity of the Spirit of Prophecy."
This was obviously the reason why almost nothing from Sister White's writing was translated into the European languages.
With his misleading influence, which was evident, Conradi was nevertheless kept in high offices for years, while Elder Daniells, in the presence of many other leaders, tried to give the impression that the SDA leadership was still taking a sound stand for the Testimonies, and that the question of the reform-minded brethren was unnecessary and meaningless.
In those days many SDA reformers made great sacrifice, selling their properties, to provide means for the translating and publishing of the Testimonies. Later on the reformers were sued for this, by the SDA Church, in Romania, Yugoslavia, and Hungary.
Replying to the second part of the third question, Elder Daniells said: "Brethren, our attitude to health reform remains the same today as it has always been. And perhaps we are paying more attention to this line of reform today than we did before. We have a Medical Mission and a secretary, Bro. Hansen. He is out organizing this work better than before, in all the churches."
It was evident at that time, however, and it is much more evident today, that "many have backslidden from their former loyalty to health reform principles" (9T 153). And it is a fact that "many have refused to live in harmony with the counsels of God!" (9T). Rejection of the light given by God has been the cause of this question: "Will any who are ministers of the gospel, proclaiming the most solemn truth ever given to mortals, set an example in returning to the fleshpots of Egypt?" (9T 159, 160). While the Spirit of Prophecy says, "Educate away from drugs" (MM 259), the leadership is doing exactly the opposite-educating the people to use drugs. On top of that, SDA sanitariums are not following the blueprint given by the Spirit of Prophecy. The principle of health reform, the right arm of the message, is evidently maimed. The importance of this subject is very clear in the light of the following Testimony:
"Those who are truly on the Lord's side will be self-denying and self-sacrificing. They will eat and drink to the glory of God, refusing to corrupt soul and body by intemperance. Then the condition of the church will testify that her light has not been removed. But if church members do not act the part God has assigned them, the movement of health reform will go on without them, and it will be seen that God has removed their candlestick out of its place." MS 78, 1900.
In answer to the fourth question, Elder A.G. Daniells said: "Brethren there is really no doubt about it (that our message is an international message) for this church. If we believe anything, we believe that this is a worldwide message, for all tongues and nations.... We maintain that in the work we are still on the original path."
If this is true, then the spirit of nationalism should never have been cherished by the SDA Church in any place, and, therefore the attitude taken by the leadership in Germany was wrong. This is what they reported:
"Our leaders have, up to this date, permitted our surplus church money to be used in war loans, in the fullest hope that, with the help of God, Germany would come out victorious at the end of this struggle."-Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten, April 12, 1918.
And the national spirit has never been eradicated from the SDA people, as can be proven. During World War II, while (1) the German Adventists wrote, "Germany must subsist.... The faith in the Fatherland is growing.... Let us march!" (Nov. 9, 1941); (2) the Russian Adventists said, "With all our strength we are helping to hasten the day of final victory over the enemy" (Jan. 1, 1943); (3) the American Adventists encouraged the members in USA: "For victory buy U.S. war bonds and stamps" (Jan. 1, 1943); (4) and the Australian Adventists declared that "If Australia were invaded they would fight to the last man in defense of their country" (Jan. 25, 1941). As far as we can see, this attitude cannot represent an international Christian brotherhood (Gal. 3:28).
In conclusion we must say that, in our conviction, the effort to minimize their responsibility for what happened in Europe (1914-1918), and also for what is happening in many other places today, does not clear the General Conference and the church as a whole. We can no longer regard it as a local problem, not only because the highest leadership left these evils uncorrected (especially the one in the first question), but also because, in this case, the whole body of believers becomes guilty of complicity. We cannot turn away from this rule:
"He [God] shows us that when His people are found in sin they should at once take decided measures to put that sin from them, that His frown may not rest upon them all. But if the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held responsible for those sins. In His dealings with His people in the past the Lord shows the necessity of purifying the church from wrongs. One sinner may diffuse darkness that will exclude the light of God from the entire congregation." 3T 265.
The General Conference Session in San Francisco (1922)
As the direct result of circumstances mentioned before, thousands of believers found themselves outside the ranks of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The efforts on the part of the minority for reconciliation and unification upon the fundamental principles of the Advent faith were not treated with goodwill, and many false reports were put into circulation to create prejudice in the minds of the members against the faithful minority.
Before any steps were taken for a definite organization, we all felt it our duty to follow the Bible rule and present our case before the General Conference Delegation. Hence in 1922 we sent our delegates to the General Conference held in San Francisco during that year. The president, Bro. Daniells, refused to allow our representatives to present their case before the assembly and therefore we had no other alternative than to organize separately, in a definite way, to carry on the gospel work, lifting up the standard and pouring forth the straight truth.
All believers should know that the Reform Movement did not come from without the Seventh-day Adventist Church but was born within, in a time of adversity. The leading brethren who were guilty of treachery to the truth of God would not humble themselves and confess their sin; they were determined to continue their blind warfare against us, predicting our ultimate destruction. Besides misrepresenting our faith before the members of the church, the leaders have accused us before the governments of various countries as being enemies of the State and of the nation. This has in many cases resulted in our work being prohibited by law and our workers and members suffering imprisonment and great persecution.
After refusing to recognize the true work of revival and reformation which had begun in the church, and in order to offset the influence the Reform Movement was having upon many members in the church, the SDA leadership made an attempt to introduce a revival and reformation within the ranks of the denomination. We quote from a recommendation made before the assembled delegates of the 1922 General Conference:
"One of the recommendations I feel pressed to make is so important, so vital, that I shall venture to call it an appeal. It is this:
"That during the next quadrennial period a supreme effort be made to bring about a great spiritual revival and spiritual reformation in all our churches throughout the world.... If every one of these responsible leaders in God's cause will first of all gain this spiritual experience and work in God's appointed way for others, a wonderful reformation will be brought about in our ranks. And, brethren, just that reformation must take place or we are doomed with the rest of mankind. We cannot survive without it." GCB (1922), p. 16.
When we learned of this resolution we knew that a true revival and reformation could not come unless there was a recognition and a putting away of the apostasy; but we hoped that some good would come as a result. Time proved, however, that this was only a passing sentimental revival which was soon forgotten. Similar efforts have been made in succeeding years to give the appearance that at last the long awaited reformation had come within the church. We would be overjoyed if this should be a reality, but we cannot pass over the facts as they exist, that there is a general apostasy which has never been confessed. No true revival and reformation is possible without first experiencing genuine repentance. The work of reforming the church is not left to the decision of any council or committee, but it is the prerogative of God to choose His own instrumentalities. If we reject the messengers whom God sends, we virtually reject Him.
From 1925 Until Today
In a session of delegates representing four Union Conferences, held at Gotha, Germany, July 14-20, 1925, the SDA Reform Movement was first organized, officially, as a General Conference, when the "Principles of Faith and Church Order" were drawn up and the name "Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement" was adopted.
The Reform Movement was registered in Isernhagen, Germany, January 11, 1929, and the corporation was dissolved by the G.S.P. (secret police) under the Hitler regime, May 11, 1936, when a new series of persecution was launched against us.
Shortly after World War II, at a delegation session held at The Hague, Holland, September 5-17, 1948, it was decided that the General Conference be transferred to, and incorporated in, the United States of America. The incorporation took place in the State of California, April 13, 1949.
When we look back upon our past experience, we find once more that "the work of God in the earth presents, from age to age, a striking similarity in every great reformation or religious movement" (GC 343). This is true not only from a positive angle, but from a negative angle as well. Unfortunately, some in our midst have not always shown the right kind of zeal. "A furious zeal does no good to anyone. God did not select the Reformers because they were overbearing, passionate men. He accepted them as they were, notwithstanding these traits of character; but He would have placed tenfold greater responsibilities upon them had they been of humble mind, having their spirits under control of reason. While ministers of Christ must denounce sin and ungodliness, impurity and falsehood, while they are sometimes called to rebuke iniquity among the high as well as the low, showing them that the indignation of God will fall upon the transgressors of His law, yet they should not be overbearing or tyrannical; they should manifest kindness and love, a spirit to save rather than to destroy." 4T 486. The remarks of the Spirit of Prophecy about some of the men that led out in previous Reformations could also be applied to some of our pioneers and leaders. It is very true that history repeats itself. But here, again, our confidence and courage have grown as we have seen the providential leading of God, by whose help we have been able to purge our ranks of all personality cult, of all dynastic rule, and of all individual lordship over the people. And together with the Lord's servant we must say: "Although the church has at times been weakened through manifold discouragements and the rebellious element they have had to meet, still the truth has shone brighter with every conflict. The energies of God's people have not been exhausted. The power of His grace has quickened, revived, and ennobled the steadfast and the true." 4T 594.
The Reform Movement has members in many parts of Europe, especially in those countries under restrictions; in different countries of Africa; in the Australasian countries; in several places in Asia; and in nearly every country of America (North, Central and South).
There is no doubt in our mind that the hand of God has been with the Reform Movement from the very beginning.