Seventh Day Adventists
Seventh Day Adventists
Seventh Day Adventists
255 W 131st St., New York, NY 10027
In the early 1940s in Manhattan black Adventists began a movement to unite independent Sabbath-keeping congregations. It was begun by Thomas I. C. Hughes, a former minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and pastor of the Advent Sabbath Church, which had been formed in 1941 in Manhattan. The missionary-minded Hughes conceived of the idea of both domestic and foreign endeavors and began to gather support from his congregation. In 1956 the Unification Association of Christian Sabbath Keepers was formed, bringing together Hughes’s parish and the New York United Sabbath Day Advent Church. Others joined, including the Believers in the Commandments of God.
There is a wide range of doctrinal belief in the various churches. Immersion is practiced and the Sabbath kept. A general Adventist theology prevails. The polity is congregational. There are annual meetings for fellowship and general conferences every four years for business. At the second general conference, the title bishop was created, but there is no episcopal authority accompanying that title. A 23-member board of evangelism operates between general conferences.
The Unification Association is missionary-minded. Missions had been established by its founders even before the association was formed. Affiliated fellowships can be found in Nigeria, Liberia, Jamaica, Antigua, and Trinidad.
According to the Church Directory in Harlem, New York, the church has changed its name from “Unification Association of Christian Sabbath Keepers” to “Advent Sabbath Church” and remains at the same address.
Not reported. There were scattered affiliated congregations in Africa and the West Indies.
c/o Clive Doyle, PO Box 144, Axtell, TX 76624
The small, relatively unknown Branch Davidians, more properly called the Branch Seventh Day Adventists, suddenly burst out of obscurity into the national spotlight on February 28, 1993, when agents of the Bureau of, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) raided their church center outside of Waco, Texas. The raid failed as church members resisted the agents’ assault, and in the ensuing gunfight, ATF agents and church members were killed. Several days later the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took over what had developed into a siege. The siege ended on April 19 when most of the people inside the compound died following a second assault on the church complex by FBI agents.
The Branch Davidians carry on the work begun by Victor T. Houteff (1885–1955), a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California. In 1930, Houteff had come to see himself as a divinely inspired messenger of God with the special task of calling for a reformation and the gathering of the 144,000 people mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation 7:4. Some of his basic ideas were put together in a book, The Shepherd’s Rod (1931). In 1935 he moved to Waco, Texas, with 11 of his followers and established the Mount Carmel Center, originally designed as a temporary assembling point for the 144,000 followers. Their ultimate goal was to reach Palestine, where they would establish the Davidic kingdom with a theocratic regime and direct the closing work of the Gospel age prior to the Second Coming of Christ.
Houteff’s movement was tolerated within the Seventh Day Adventist Church for a number of years, though congregations increasingly began to dissociate themselves with Houteff’s people. The growing level of tension increased dramatically following the attack upon Pearl Harbor and the United States entrance into World War II (1939–1945) in 1941. The Seventh Day Adventist Church, traditionally a pacifist church, began to call for conscription and refused to back members who claimed conscientious objection status or asked for ministerial deferments to military service. In the crisis, Houteff hastily issued membership certificates and distributed ministerial credentials. The movement, now an independent church, organized theocratically with Houteff as the leader, and assumed the name of Davidian Seventh Day Adventist Association.
Some 125 members came to reside at the Mount Carmel Center with other followers still in Los Angeles and scattered around the country. Houteff died in 1955. Soon afterward, Benjamin Lloyd Roden (1902–1978), then residing in Odessa, Texas, began championing the idea that the Davidians should continue to be led by inspiration (i.e., by a prophet). During September and October he wrote seven letters, which he claimed had been dictated by God, to Florence Houteff (Victor’s widow) calling for reform. They were signed “The Branch.” Florence countered Roden through her announcement that on April 22, 1959, the 1,260 days of Revelation 11 would be completed and that, on that day, God would intervene in Palestine. He would clear out both Arabs and Jews and create a situation into which the Davidic kingdom could enter. She called for the faithful to gather at an assembly beginning April 16, 1959, and to arrive in Waco ready to move immediately to the holy land.
In the meantime she began to sell off Davidian property and bought a new parcel of land, some 900 acres, located east of Waco, where she erected a new Mount Carmel. In 1958 Roden moved his followers to Israel and began to work out an agreement by which other Davidians could move there. In 1959 some 900 Davidians gathered in Waco to await the fulfillment of Florence Houteff’s prophecy. When Roden arrived to present his option of moving to Israel, he was again rejected.
The failure of Florence Houteff’s prophecy to materialize became a traumatic event in the movement. Splintering of the branch began and, while some joined Roden, several new alternative groups emerged. In December 1961, Houteff admitted her errors, formally dissolved the Davidian Seventh Day Adventist Association, and put Mount Carmel up for sale. The property was purchased by Roden in 1965. He called his faction the Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists. Houteff had declared himself the fourth angel (mentioned in Revelation 8:12). Roden declared himself the fifth angel (Revelation 9:1). He headed the branch until his death in 1978. The previous year, the Branch Davidians had accepted Lois Roden (1905–1986), Benjamin Lloyd Roden’s wife, as a prophet and as having new insight on the issue of the femininity of the Holy Spirit. She assumed the role of the sixth angel of Revelation 9:16 and withstood the attempt of her son, George Roden (d. 1998), to succeed his father. Another potential successor was a relative newcomer, Vernon Howell (1959–1993), who had emerged as a talented leader. He had joined the group in 1981 and, by 1983, he had been acknowledged by Lois Roden as the group’s next prophet. However, in 1984 George Roden forced Howell and his followers out of Mount Carmel.
With his followers, Howell settled in Palestine, Texas. George Roden was arrested in 1987 and in 1988 was sentenced to six months for contempt of court, a charge growing out of some grossly obscene documents he had filed with the court. With Roden in jail, Howell assumed control of the property and the group. Roden moved to Odessa, Texas, following his release. There, in 1989, he shot a man he claimed Howell had sent to kill him. In a trial he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was confined in a mental hospital.
Howell took over the group and, in the tradition of previous leaders, set about the task of discerning his role in the scheme of the book of Revelation, the key to his most unique additions to the Branch Davidian teachings. His understanding was still under development at the time of the siege, and is not fully understood. However, important outlines survived in his final speech and writings. From Isaiah:45, he assumed the name David Koresh (Koresh being a form of Cyrus). Cyrus was the only non-Israelite who was given the title anointed or a messiah or, in Greek, a christ. As a modern-day Koresh, he saw his role as that of the lamb mentioned in Revelation 5. While traditionally this lamb has been identified as Jesus Christ, Koresh dissented and claimed that the lamb was identical with the rider of the white horse who appeared in Revelation 6:1–2 and 19:7–19. The rider clearly was not Jesus.
Koresh made the identification of the lamb and the rider from his reading of Psalm 45. Here, a warrior king was anointed, made into a christ, and rode his horse triumphantly. This warrior king would marry and his princess would be but one among many of his women. Koresh accepted, as his own, the role of the lamb. The lamb’s job was to loose the seven seals and interpret the scroll (i.e., bring the end-time revelation of Jesus Christ to the world). By accomplishing that task, people would know his identity. Also, the warrior king’s polygamous situation in Psalm 45 undergirded Koresh’s assumption of special husbandly prerogatives toward the women of the group.
Mount Carmel was organized communally. Agriculture provided some of its resources, while several residents had outside jobs and businesses, including some dealing with guns. In fact, a stockpile of weapons, some related to a gun business operated by one member, was crucial in the government’s plan to move against the church. Other members of the group lived in several locations around the United States, most prominently in suburban Los Angeles.
A significant number of members died in the fire of April 19, 1993 at Mount Carmel. Some of those who survived were placed on trial. While acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to murder, most were convicted of lesser charges growing out of the siege. As of 2008, some have completed their prison term and a few remain in prison. Others, including some members not involved in the siege, began regrouping and have continued as a church. On the second anniversary of the fire, April 19, 1995, many of the surviving Branch Davidian members and their supporters gathered at Mount Carmel for memorial services. Their action was, however, completely upstaged by the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh (1968–2001). It was widely believed that McVeigh and his coconspirators were, in part, seeking revenge for the government’s actions at Waco and chose the anniversary for the bombing to convey that message.
In the years since the Oklahoma City incident, members of the Branch Davidians have attempted to hold the now miniscule group together. Among the most active in that cause has been Clive Doyle. He had survived the fire in 1993, and when placed on trial, had been found not guilty on all charges. Most of the survivors recognize Doyle as the trustee of the lineage of the Branch Davidians.
As the new century began, several factions began disputing over the Mount Carmel property. A small chapel had been built on the site of the building that had burned, and a nearby building served as a makeshift museum and bookstore. Among those challenging the survivors for the property was Amo Bishop Roden, the wife of George Roden, who had lost an earlier challenge for the property to Koresh; Doug Mitchell, never a member of the Branch Davidians, who claimed the property based on some legal technicalities; and Charles Pace, who had been a member of the branch in the days of Lois Roden. By 2005, Doyle was the only follower of Koresh at Mount Carmel. He moved away, leaving the property (as of 2008) in the hands of Pace. Pace now claims to lead a reorganized and revived Branch Davidian church, which he has named The Branch, the Lord Our Righteousness. The surviving followers of Koresh have hopes of reclaiming the property at some future date, but an earlier attempt in 2000 to establish their title to it was rebuffed by the court.
There are 30 to 50 surviving members of the group under David Koresh, including several recent converts. Some 60 people have attended the memorial services in recent years.
Adventist Church Official Web Site. www.adventist.org/
Hardy, David T. (with Rex Kimball). This Is Not an Assault: Penetrating the Web of Official Lies Regarding the Waco Incident. Princeton, NJ: Xlibris Corporation, 2001.
Newport, Kenneth G. C. The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an Apocalyptic Sect. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Report of the Department of the Treasury on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Investigation of Vernon Wayne Howell also known as David Koresh. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
Sullivan, Lawrence E. Recommendations to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Treasury Concerning Incidents Such as the Branch Davidians Standoff in Waco, Texas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. 20 pp.
Tabor, James D., and Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
U.S. Department of Justice. Recommendations of Experts for Improvements in Federal Law Enforcement after Waco. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
U.S. Department of Justice. Report on the Events at Waco, Texas, February 28 to April 19, 1993. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
Wright, Stuart A. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
1781 Double E Ranch Rd., Waco, TX 76705
In 1993 the Branch Davidian group residing at the Mt. Carmel center outside Waco, Texas, experienced a traumatic event, when their community was raided by agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The raid and resultant siege led to the burning of Mt. Carmel and the deaths of 84 members, including the group’s leader, David Koresh (born Vernon Howell, 1959–1993), and most of its other leaders. Among the leaders who survived were several who were subsequently tried and convicted on charges related to the deaths of several BATF agents during the initial raid.
In the years after the raid, the surviving members who were not in custody tried to continue, adopting a less formal structure. They also laid claim to the church property. However, the ownership of the property moved into legal limbo, with several claimants speaking up and at different periods taking up residence at Mt. Carmel, where a new chapel was erected.
One of the claimants, Charles Pace, noted that Victor Houteff (1885–1955), the original founder of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists, organized his movement with an executive council on the assumption that the highest leadership would always be a president chosen by God (that is, an inspired person or prophet with a new message of immediate relevance, which Adventists refer to as the “Present Truth”). Pace had been a member of the general association of Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists since the period during which Benjamin Roden (1902–1978) was its leader, prior to the appearance of David Koresh on the scene. Pace rejected the attempt by the surviving members of Koresh’s group to reorganize without a prophet to lead them.
In the mid-1990s, Pace began calling for reform and asserted his appointment by Roden’s widow, Lois Roden, to assume leadership following the period of apostate leadership by Koresh. A Divine Judgment appointed Pace as leader, under whom the church, having been purified by the slaughter of its previous leadership and the burning of its headquarters, was to be revived, reorganized, and reformed. To implement this reorganization, Pace followed by-laws of the Church left by Houteff. He assumed the title Joshua, the Man Whose Name Is Branch, and gave the Branch Davidians a new name, The Branch, The Lord (YHVH) Our Righteousness.
For several years both Pace and Clive Doyle, representing the survivors of the Branch Davidians formerly led by Koresh, lived at Mt. Carmel. Doyle departed in 2005, and Pace took charge of the property.
The Branch, The Lord Our Righteousness. the2branches.org/.
Current address not obtained for this edition.
The Branch Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs) carry on the work begun by Victor T. Houteff (1885–1955), a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California. In 1931, he wrote a book, The Shepherd’s Rod, from which the group derived its popular name. Houteff considered himself a divinely inspired messenger of God with the task of calling for reformation and the gathering of the 144,000 faithful mentioned in the book of Revelation. In 1935, Houteff and 11 followers moved to the Mount Carmel Center, established near Waco, Texas, as a temporary assembling point for the 144,000 faithful. Their goal was to reach Palestine, where they would establish the Davidic kingdom with a theocratic regime and direct the closing work of the Gospel prior to the Second Coming of Christ.
Though denounced by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in which many congregations were disfellowshipping adherents to The Shepherd’s Rod, Houteff and his followers tried to remain within the Seventh Day Adventist Church until the beginning of World War II (1939–1945). After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, members began to be called for conscription, and the Seventh Day Adventists refused to back up the requests for conscientious objector status or ministerial deferment. In a crisis, Houteff hastily issued membership certificates and distributed ministerial credentials. A formal theocratic organization was created, with Houteff as its leader, and in 1942 the name of the organization was changed to the Davidian Seventh Day Adventist Association
At its height, there were 125 members at Mount Carmel. Houteff died in 1955 and was succeeded by his wife. She, in turn, announced that on April 22, 1959, the 1,260 days (as in Revelation 11) would end and that, on this day, God would intervene in Palestine. He would clear out both Jews and Arabs and set the state for the entrance of the Davidic kingdom. In answer to an official call, the faithful gathered for an assembly during April 16 and April 22, 1959, in readiness to move to Palestine. They never recovered from the failure of the prophecy to materialize. Splintering within the branch would soon follow. On December 12, 1961, Houteff acknowledged her error and the lack of soundness of the group’s teachings. In March 1962, she and her associate leaders resigned, declared the Davidic SDAs dissolved, and put the Mount Carmel property up for sale.
The Branch SDAs were one of several splinters that broke with the main body of Davidic SDAs following Houteff’s death. They did not accept Houteff’s wife, opposing her leadership and prophecies. Many of her followers joined them in 1959. At one point, the branch sent colonizers to Israel, but their attempts were unsuccessful. They continued as a small body with their headquarters near Waco. Annual convocations following the Old Testament feast days (as in Leviticus 23) are held at the center. They also manage an organic gardening and farming experimental station for the production of foods free of pesticides and commercial fertilizer.
In 1986 there were eight congregations in the United States and Canada and an additional 20 foreign congregations.
History up to April 19, 1993, Branch Davidians and FBI Standoff. www.waco-anewrevelation.com/waco-conflict-history.html
Houteff, V. T. The Great Controversy over “The Shepherd’s Rod.” Waco, TX: Universal, 1954.
900 W Alabama Ave., Anadarko, OK 73006
The Church of God (Anadarko) and its Light of Truth ministry were founded in 1986 by John W. Trescott. He was ordained in 1981 by the late M. L. Bartholomew, former chairman of the Apostolic Council of the Church of God, Seventh-day in Salem, West Virginia. Trescott was a member of the Worldwide Church of God from 1959 to 1978, a member of the Church of God, International, and then associated with the Church of God Evangelistic Association.
Trescott observes the Seventh-day Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, and all of the Biblical Festivals of Jesus Christ listed in Lev. 23 and elsewhere. Dates are determined by the visible new crescent to begin months, the way the Bible indicates. Trescott rejects hierarchical church government over the brethren.
The Church of God (Anadarko) is not an organization, but a ministry outreach to members and nonmembers of the Body of Christ. It is engaged in witness and warning via the Light of Truth magazine and the Light of Truth Newsletter, occasional shortwave radio broadcasts, and through cassette tapes, literature, and booklets on various biblical subjects. Trescott believes salvation is open to all people from all nations and races. There is a keen expectation of the imminent great tribulation and return of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Since the church is an outreach program rather than an organization, there is no membership.
Light of Truth. • Light of Truth Newsletter.
Bashan Hill, Exeter, MO 65647
The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association continues the work of Victor T. Houteff (1885–1955), a Bulgarian-born convert to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He became a prominent member in Los Angeles, California, in the 1920s. In 1930 he wrote a 255-page book, The Shepherd’s Rod, vol. 1, a detailed doctrinal exposition concerning the harvest of mankind. His second volume, published in 1932, was a prophetic analysis. The publication of these books created considerable controversy and led to his dismissal from the church in 1934. Undaunted, he organized the Shepherd’s Rod Publishing Association (which later became the Universal Publishing Association) to propogate his views. In May 1935 he moved to Waco, Texas, with twelve members to begin construction of a new headquarters, Mt. Carmel Center. They saw themselves as an association within the Seventh-day Adventist Church and, reflecting this view, used the name Shepherd’s Rod Seventh-day Adventists until 1943. During World War II the Shepherd’s Rod Adventists held to the view of conscientious objection to war, whereas the Seventh-day Adventist Church held the more relaxed view of participating ni noncombatancy service. This, along with internal pressures from the Adventist Church, forced the Shepherd’s Rod adherents to formally incorporate as the General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists in 1943.
At Waco, Mt. Carmel Center spread rapidly on 385 acres and grew to include a school, publishing facilities, and a home for the aged. It had approximately 125 residents at the time of Houteff’s death in 1955. During the next decade, the association passed through a series of crises. In 1959, despite strong internal opposition from Davidian leaders, Houteff’s widow prophesied that on April 22, God would directly intervene in Palestine and remove both Jews and Arabs in preparation for the establishment of the Davidic empire. Her misguided prophecy failed, creating widespread disillusionment among the membership. The association rapidly divided into two groups, one led by Houteff and another led by the editor M. J. Bingham, which strongly opposed what it saw as her doctrinal and prophetic speculations.
Bingham’s group, though not large, was vocal and instrumental in Houteff’s decision to discontinue as leader of the association. In December 1961 she admitted the failure of her prophecy and along with several leaders of the Waco faction resigned and put the assets of the association in court-appointed receivership.
Despite this setback, a number of the leaders and members who had opposed Houteff and wanted to continue the association. They reorganized in 1961 in Los Angeles, taking the name Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association. In less than a year, they moved to Riverside, California, where they remained headquartered until May 1970, when they moved their new center to land purchased in rural Missouri.
The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association has no disagreement with the doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and accepts all of its fundamental beliefs. Rather, it added to those beliefs based on end-time prophecies, a set of convictions about its particular role in history. The association is dediated to the work of announcing and actually bringing about the restoration of the kingdom of David (the biblical king), upon whose throne Jesus, the Son of David, will sit (not literally, but spiritually) in the last days. The association’s members consider themselves the vanguard remnant drawn out from the descendants of the early Christians. With the appearance of the sealed people, the kingdom’s reign begins. Part of its special task is to sound the “Eleventh Hour Call” mentioned in the Testimonies for the Church, a series of prominent books by Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The association’s work is internalized to the Adventist Church in preparation for sounding the everlasting to every nation, tongue, and people with the intent of gathering the saints into the Davidic kingdom.
In 2008 the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association was headed by Jemmy E. Bingham, the president and pastor general, and also had a seven-member executive council. The community in Missouri has a strong agricultural emphasis, based in part upon the belief that agriculture is an essential foundation of education. The 549-acre tract contains an administration building, an apartment complex, several houses, a printing plant, a 300-seat auditorium, a cafeteria complex, and a ministerial school. Members are found on nearly every continent.
Since most of the association’s members also hold membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it does not make a formal census of its adherents; therefore, current membership is unknown, though members are found in 25 countries.
Davidic-Levitical Institute, Exeter, Missouri.
Bashan School of Prophetic Theology, Exeter, Missouri.
The Bashan Tidings. • The Timely Truth Educator. • The Communicator. • The Report and Analysis Series. Available from the Universal Publishing Association, Bashan Hill, Exeter, MO 65647.
Houteff, Victor T. Fundamental Beliefs and Directory of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. Waco, TX: Universal Publishing Association, 1943.
———. The Great Controversy Over “The Shepherd’s Rod”. Exeter, MO: Universal Publishing Association, 1936.
———. The Shepherd’s Rod. Vol. 1. Waco, TX: Universal Publishing Association, 1945.
——— The Whirlwind of the Lord. War!. Exeter, MO: Universal Publishing Association, 1987.
Mt. Carmel Ct., Box 450, Salem, SC 29676
The General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists is one of several groups that look to the ministry of Victor T. Houteff (1885–1955) as their heritage. Houteff, a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, began his mission in 1929, and founded the General Association of the Shepherd’s Rod Seventh-Day Adventists in 1934. In 1942 he changed the name to the General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists. Because he claimed the title “David,” his followers were called “Davidians.” After his death in 1955, the association was headed by his widow, Florence Houteff.
Florence Houteff sold the property near Waco, Texas, which Houteff had built up as the association’s headquarters and which he had named Mt. Carmel, and purchased land near Elk, Texas—an act many saw as not authorized by her husband’s teachings. She then predicted that 1959 would mark the onset of a new messianic age, a prophecy once again not authorized by Houteff’s teachings, and summoned all of the group’s members to the new Mt. Carmel center to gather in preparation. When her prediction did not prove true, she gave up the work and left the property to be sold. In 1961 Benjamin Lloyd Roden (d. 1978) acquired the property and established his faction of Branch Davidians there. Roden was succeeded by his wife, Lois Roden, who led the branch until her death in 1986. George Roden, her son, then led the group for three years, after which Vernon Howell (a.k.a. David Koresh; 1959–1993) assumed leadership until 1993, when Mt. Carmel was burned to the ground in a fire.
In 1961 the most conservative remnant of the original association, which still adhered to the Shepherds Rod teachings of Victor Houteff, reorganized and elected new leaders. At that time, the General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists was formed in Los Angeles and headquarters were established at Riverside, California. In 1970 the headquarters were moved to Salem, South Carolina, to continue the publishing of Houteff’s writings. Shortly before the move, some members separated and moved to Missouri and established headquarters for the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Association.
The General Association is headed by a vice president, and Houteff is considered the last president. The vice presidency is currently held by Don Adair, who moved to South Carolina in 1972. He had originally joined the General Association in 1951 and subsequently moved to the original Mt. Carmel Center (1952–1954) to study for the ministry. Under his leadership, the General Association has moved to put all of Houteff’s writings into print.
The General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists is not affiliated with other Davidian associations and is not Branch Davidian.
General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists. www.davidian.org/.
Adair, Don. The Fall of the Protestant Nations! Salem, SC: Expose Press, 1986.
Houteff, V. T. The Shepherd’s Rod Series. Salem, SC: General Association of the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists, 1990.
———. The Symbolic Code Series. Salem, SC: General Association of the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist, 1992.
2877 E Florence Ave., Huntington Park, CA 90255-5751
International headquarters: PO Box 1310, 74803 Mosbach/Baden, Germany.
A reform movement appeared within the Seventh-day Adventist Church soon after the beginning of World War I, largely due to a softening of the traditional position of the church on pacifism. The head of the church’s European Division, Louis Richard Conradi (1856–1939), reacting to a threat for various European governments, suggested that European Adventists might serve in their country’s military forces and be active participants on the sabbatj. However, some of draft age rejected the notion and protested the idea. The Adventists excommunicated the protesters and their supporters. Efforts after the war to reunite the reformers to the church were unsuccessful, and by 1922 separation was complete. Formal organization of a Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement occurred in Gotha, Germany, July 14 to 20, 1925. The organization quickly spread to the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). The movement held together, inspired by persecutions during World War II and following the war in Communist Eastern Europe.
Then, in 1951, the movement split. At its 1951 general conference in Zeist, the Netherlands, two factions gathered around two strong leaders. Those who supported Dumitru Nicolici (1896–1981), a Romanian then residing in the United States, led the branch that is now known as the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement. Those supporting the then president Karl (Carlos) Kozel (1890–1989) reorganized as the International Missionary Society—Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement. This latter movement retained the majority support in Europe, especially Germany. While the majority of Americans remained loyal to the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement, that support was not unanimous.
In 1967 the first of several efforts to resolve the differences between the two branches was initiated. It failed, but new dialogs were held in the 1980s and 1990s. Although progress was reported, in 2008 the two groups remained separate.
The International Missionary Society—Seventh-day Adventist Church Reform Movement is a fundamental Christian faith that takes the Bible (of 66 books), and the Bible only, as its creed. The general conference is the society’s highest legislative body. The writings of the Spirit of Prophecy by Ellen G. White (1827–1915) are also considered inspired. In addition to weekly worship services, they conduct lectures (public and private), hold Bible classes, give educational instruction, and publish and distribute literature. Wherever possible, institutions of learning (for the education of young people) and mental health facilities (for the healing of body, soul, and spirit) are established. Support of the organization comes from the tithes and offerings of its members and friends and is used for the spreading of the gospel.
International Missionary Society—Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement has about 15,000 members throughout the world.
The Sabbath Watchman.
International Missionary Society—Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement. www.imssdarm.org/.
Balbach, Alfons. The History of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement. Roanoke, VA: Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement, 1999.
Kramer, O. Rise and Progress of the Reform Movement: My Personal Experience. Huntington Park, CA: International Missionary Society—Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement, 1994.
The Principles of Faith of the Seventh-day Adventist Church “Reform Movement” and her Church By-Laws. Mosbach/Baden, Germany: General Conference Seventh-day Adventist Church Reform Movement, n.d.
Strong City, NM
The Lord Our Righteousness Church was founded in Idaho in 1987 by Rev. Wayne Curtis Bent (b. 1941) and other former members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who had complained that the church had become corrupt and moved into apostasy. The church’s name was derived from a Bible verse, Jeremiah 33:16. At an initial gathering of members in Redding, California, in 1988, some 300 people were baptized; however, the following year approximately 100 members withdrew from the new church.
Church members were deeply affected by the treatment of the Branch Davidians by government authorities in 1993. They became increasingly distrustful of government control over their lives as manifest, for example, in the public school system and the refusal of tax authorities to declare their church land in Idaho tax-exempt. Concern over the corruption within the public schools occasioned their first publication for widespread distribution, a booklet entitled Shillum, which analyzed the disintegrating state of the world and argued that Satan’s hand was actually in control.
In 2000 the church traded its land in Idaho for a rural site north of Clayton, New Mexico, called Strong City, and in spring 2001 most members relocated there. The church is sometimes called the Strong City cult. In July, Bent was acknowledged as Messiah and adopted the name Michael of Travesser, a name derived from the Travesser Creek. At the same time, two female members of the group were anointed as his “Two Witnesses,” an action based on Revelation 11:3. Since this time, the church has increasingly seen itself as an actor in the endtime events that were described in the biblical books of Daniel and Revelations and which they believe are currently unfolding.
The church inherited its beliefs and practices from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its founder, Ellen G. White (1827–1915), including an approach to prophetic chronology that allowed them to expect future occurrences as the present order approached its final days. Crucial to the chronology are the prophecies surrounding the 2,300 days or Daniel 8:14, and of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24. The church believes that the 70 weeks = 490 days (years) began with Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, thus launching the Protestant Reformation. The end of the 70 weeks thus was seen as 2007. The members also maintain a vegetarian diet.
Their stance, including some extra-biblical prophecies, has brought the church and its leader into conflict both with ongoing critics of the church and local legal authorities. In 2002 church critics accused the church of planning a mass suicide. FBI agents and troopers with the New Mexico State Police visited the church and found the accusations baseless. Two years later the New Mexico State Police returned, again prompted by new accusations of a planned mass suicide, and again found nothing to support the claim.
In 2008 several news media sources reported 50 people at the church’s communal site in New Mexico.
In 2008 authorities again entered Strong City, and this time took three minors into custody while they investigated charges of inappropriate contact between them and the church’s leader. A few days later, Wayne Bent (Michael Travesser) was arrested on a spectrum of charges relative to his actions toward the minors. Church spokespersons have denied all the charges.
Critics of the church have accused Bent of sexual misconduct based on a prophecy that he was to sleep with seven virgins, which was to include some of the teenage females. Bent has admitted to sleeping with seven virgins, but claimed that all were adult members of the group. This situation remains unresolved as this book goes to press.
Christian Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist Church, 777–779 Schenectady Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11203
Elmer E. Franke (1861–1946), a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, rejected the claims of Ellen G. White (1827–1915) as a prophetess and, in 1916, left to found the People’s Christian Church in New York City. Seven years later, a second congregation was founded in Schenectady, New York, and, the following year, a third congregation was established in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The beliefs are similar to those of the Seventh-day Adventists. Members believe in God, Jesus as one in nature with the Father, and the Holy Spirit as one with the Father and Son. Baptism by immersion is practiced, and the Lord’s Supper is celebrated as an ordinance on the first sabbath of each month. Although they accept the Ten Commandments, members believe man was released from the Mosaic Ceremonial law.
Each church is autonomous, but the New York congregation is spoken of as the mother church. Ministers, deacons, and elders are ordained. There were four churches in 1968, two in New York and two in Massachusetts, with members in California, Florida, Maryland, and elsewhere. There were approximately 1,000 members, in all, in 1968. In 2008 the leader of the church was A. Warren Burns, pastor of the congregation in Schenectady. In 1986 the church’s periodical, Light, was discontinued.
In 1987 there were two congregations and approximately 1,000 members.
Burns, A. Warren. Civilization. Schenectady, NY: People’s Christian Church, n.d.
Franke, E. E. Pagan Festivals in Christian Worship. Schenectady, NY: People’s Christian Church, 1963.
———. The “2300 Days” and the Sanctuary. Schenectady, NY: People’s Christian Church, 1964.
Box 180, Marshall, AR 72650
The Registry was founded in 1967 by Cecil Shrock and others of the “Adventist complex” who believed in the Seventh-day Sabbath and the prophetic authority of Ellen G. White (1827–1915). Its purpose was to provide fellowship and cooperation among independent missionary efforts in the United States. Shrock had had worked as a medical missionary in rural Alaska, where he had become aware of the lack of fellowship with among Christians. Hearing other missionaries express the same concerns led him to develop the idea of an association and a newsletter that would publicize efforts, air needs and problems, highlight employment opportunities, monitor legal changes that could affect the work, and, in general, spread news. The most immediate need was overcoming the a sense of separateness and isolation. Thus, the Registry began as an association of Christian workers, but had an open membership to all who accepted its basic teachings.
The Registry follows the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in believing in the Seventh-day Sabbath; the spirit of prophecy that manifested through Ellen G. White, cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; the approaching visible return of Jesus; the necessity of striving to develop a perfect character; engaging in service to others; working to reduce the use of drug medication in favor of natural remedies; and cooperating with others who hold the same principles.
The Registry is not incorporated, owns no property, and has no organizations, only individuals as correspondents. Coworkers oversee missionary efforts, some of which are incorporated and which are regularly featured in items in the newsletter. The House of Health, a natural-health center in Marshal, Arkansas, directed by Cecil Shrock, offers public health care and trains lay workers. There is also work in the Philippines and Africa. The Registry is supported entirely by donations from associates and friends.
The House of Health.
The Registry Case-file.
12501 Old Columbia Pke., Silver Spring, MD 20904
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is an evangelical sabbatarian church whose teachings have been supplemented by insights drawn from the prophecies and visions of its founder, Ellen G. White (1827–1915). The church views the ministry and writings of White as prophetic gifts of the Holy Spirit. The church’s origins lie in the aftermath of the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844. When Christ’s Second Coming did not occur as the Adventist preacher William Miller (1782–1849) had predicted, a group including White, her husband James White (1821–1881), Hiram Edson (1806–1882), Joseph Bates (1792– 1872), Frederick Wheeler (1811–1910), and S. W. Rhodes began to gather disheartened Adventists around them. White had a vision in which she saw Adventists going straight to heaven, and was soon accepted as a prophetess. About the same time, bible study led the group to accept the idea of a Saturday Sabbath. White further confirmed the correctness of this interpretation through a vision she had of Jesus and the tables of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written. The fourth commandment, on keeping the sabbath holy, was surrounded by light.
White also confirmed for the group an interpretation, originally proposed by Hiram Edson, concerning the 1844 date set by William Miller for the return of Christ. Taking a clue from Hebrews 8:1–2, Edson proposed that Miller was correct in his date, but wrong as to the event that was to occur on that date. 1844 was not the year in which Christ was to come to “cleanse the earthly sanctuary” (that is, come to earth in visible form); rather, it was the year in which he was to initiate the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary discussed in the text. Once his heavenly work is completed, in an indeterminable but short time, Christ will visibly return to earth.
In 1850, at Paris, Maine, the Whites began the Review and Herald, a periodical advocating sabbatarianism and attempting to tie the loose band of Millerites together. In 1860, as those who accepted sabbatarianism and White’s teachings were distinguished from other Adventists, the name Seventh-Day Adventist Church was adopted. The church, which originally included approximately 3,500 members in 125 congregations, was officially organized in 1863.
Aside from their belief in the seventh-day Sabbath and the sanctuary work of Christ, Seventh-Day Adventists hold to a generally Protestant faith, rooted in the group’s origins in communities of Methodists and Baptists. The church’s statement of belief includes acceptance of the Bible as the rule of faith and practice, the Trinity, creation ex nihilo (from nothing), baptism by immersion, and salvation by atonement through Jesus Christ. Christ’s imminent return will be followed by a thousand-year period (the millennium). The soul is not innately immortal; rather, the dead await the resurrection in an unconscious state. Belief in the seventh-day Sabbath has led to an emphasis on the Old Testament health laws, such as the distinction between clean and unclean meats. Church members abstain from alcohol and tobacco.
Seventh-Day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of church statements can occur at a general conference session if the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.
The church is organized as a representative democracy. Authority for administering the church is delegated through a system of conferences beginning with the local churches that form local conferences. In turn, these conferences combine into larger, regional (termed union) conferences that meet every five years. The general conference, which also meets every five years, and the executive committee of the general conference, which continues between conference sessions, are the highest administrative bodies of the church. They set policies and manage the church’s extensive missionary, educational, charitable, and publishing activities. The church has work in 208 countries, along with home mission activities among a variety of ethnic groups. Its educational system includes 15 colleges and universities, 113 secondary schools, and 941 primary schools in the United States and Canada. The church has attained a reputation for its hospitals (61 in the United States) and its work in health-related activities. Three publishing houses—Pacific Press Publishing Association (Nampa, Idaho), Review and Herald Publishing Association (Hagerstown, Maryland), and Christian Record Services (Lincoln, Nebraska)—publish books and periodicals. The affiliated International Religious Liberty Association has continued the church’s concern for church-state issues and publishes a leading periodical in the field, Liberty.
In 2000 the church reported 884,303 members, 4,495 congregations, and 3,147 ordained ministers in the United States, and 49,632 members, 327 churches, and 199 ordained ministers in Canada. There were 11,687,229 members worldwide.
Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Atlantic Union College, South Lancaster, Massachusetts.
Canadian Union College, College Heights, Alberta, Canada.
Columbia Union College.
Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences, Orlando, Florida.
Home Study International/Griggs University, Silver Spring, Maryland.
Kettering College of Medical Arts, Kettering, Ohio.
La Sierra University, Riverside, California.
Loma Linda University, Loma Linda and Riverside, California.
Oakwood College, Huntsville, Alabama.
Pacific Union College, Angwin, California.
Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tennessee.
Southwestern Adventist University, Keene, Texas.
Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Walla Walla College, College Place, Washington.
Adventist Review. • Liberty. • Listen. • Message. • Ministry. Available from 55 W. Oak Ridge Dr., Hagerstown, MD21740. • Signs of the Times. Available from Nampa, ID 83707.
Seventh-Day Adventist Church. www.adventist.org/.
Damsteegt, P. Gerard. Foundations of the Seventh-Day Adventist Message and Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.
Land, Gary, ed. Adventism in America: A History. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986.
Maxwell, C. Mervin. Tell It to the World. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1977.
Schwarz, Richard W. Light Bearers to the Remnant. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1979.
Seventh-Day Adventist Church Manual. Washington, DC: General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventists, 1986.
Seventh-Day Adventists Believe …: A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines. Washington, DC: Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, 1988.
Valentine, Gilbert M. The Shaping of Adventism. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1992.
PO Box 7240, Roanoke, VA 24019
At the beginning of World War I, a controversy arose among members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Europe when the European leaders committed the membership of the church to combatancy in opposition to the church’s historic position of total non-participation in any acts of war and bloodshed. This led to repercussions throughout the church, particularly in the 16 European countries that were directly affected by the war. A minority of members (some 2 percent) refused to accept the reversal of the church’s historic position on combat and found themselves disfellowshipped.
After the war, those members who had been disfellowshipped tried to ensure that the original pacifist stand would once again be consistently upheld by the denomination as a whole, but their efforts were without success. In 1920 a meeting was convened in Friedensau, Germany, at which the world leaders of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and representatives of the separated members met to discuss the issue. The result was that the Seventh-Day Adventist leaders officially repudiated their original stand on participation in the military. The new official position, while mildly recommending noncombatancy, asserted that all church members would have “absolute liberty to serve their country, at all times and in all places, in accord with the dictates of their conscientious conviction.”
The minority that had been summarily disfellowshipped sent representatives to the general session of the church held in San Francisco in 1922, but without result. Because these believers had been expelled from the church, they felt that they had no other recourse but to organize themselves separately. They did so at a conference held in Gotha, Germany, in July 1925. The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement was formed for the purpose of upholding the principles of all Ten Commandments (Exodus 14:15) through faith in the uplifting power of Jesus Christ (John 14:15, Revelation 14:12).
The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference operated first from Isernhagen, Germany, and then from Basel, Switzerland. After World War II, the headquarters was moved to the United States, and in 1949 was incorporated in Sacramento, California. Because it was deemed more advantageous for a worldwide work to be situated on the eastern side of the United States, the headquarters was temporarily relocated to Blackwood, New Jersey, before being moved to its permanent location in Roanoke, Virginia.
The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement now exists in more than 100 countries and territories, and has a worldwide membership of more than 30,000.
Reformation Herald. • Youth Messenger. • Standard Bearer. • Sabbath Bible Lessons. • Children’s Treasures. • Junior Searcher. • Youth’s Explorer.
Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. www.sdarm.org.
Church Manual. Denver, CO: International Missionary Society, Seventh-Day Adventist Reform Movement, General Conference, n.d.
International Missionary Society. Bible Study Handbook. Denver, CO: Religious Liberty Publishing Association, 1974.
The Principles of Faith of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church “Reform Movement” and Her Church By-Laws. Mosbach/Baden, West Germany: General Conference, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Reform Movement, n.d.
252 W 138th St., New York, NY 10030
The Seventh-day Christian Conference was founded in 1934 in New York City as an independent Trinitarian Sabbath-keeping body. The Bible (Old and New Testament) is its only rule of faith and practice. It observes three ordinances: baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper, and fellowship. Members tithe. The church holds that war is immoral, and members are conscientious objectors. Only males may hold positions of leadership—bishop, pastor, and elder.
In 1986 there were two congregations, one in New York City and one in Montclair, New Jersey. There were also four affiliated congregations in Jamaica.