Letter to the Leading Brethren

Hartland E-Magazine Special Edition

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February 18, 2002

Dear Leading Brethren,

The purpose of this special communication is to express to you, in writing, my great concern and regrets over the tremendous issues involved in the last court case of the General Conference vs. the Florida Perez groups of Sabbath-keeping believers in the third angel’s message. I have been under deep conviction to deal with these matters for several months now. Although I did need sufficient time to gather pertinent information concerning this case in order to formulate a clearer appraisal of what has transpired, I regret not having appealed to you sooner in view of the common peril we are in as a people because of your decisions and actions.

On the one side is standing the General Conference, representing the entire denomination—the plaintiff. On the other have stood the defendants—a group of at least three little churches in southern Florida (West Palm Beach and Miami) known as the Eternal Gospel SDA Church. Quite frankly, I have been deeply disturbed by the actions taken against brother Perez and his Adventist church congregations. I am compelled to approach you out of a deep sense of accountability to my Lord, to the church at large and to the leadership of the church in general. It is very painful and fearful to have to state, as I know others have already pointed out to you, that your course of action has and is still standing in clear, blatant and direct opposition to the expressed counsel of God.

For the record, I want to refer you to 1 Corinthians 6:1–7. Obviously you are well aware of this passage. It has been brought to your attention repeatedly. “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” I must first address this issue: What led you to feel it was the proper thing to do to trademark the name “Seventh-day Adventist?” In referring to an article written by Tom Wetmore in the Adventist Review, January 12, 1989, a committee was apparently set up to clear up confusion about using the law to protect the church’s name. The question was asked, “Is it true that the General Conference has federally registered trademarks for the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist,’ and various programs of our Church?” The answer in response to this question was, “Yes, the General Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists, on behalf of the entire denomination, has registered under the United States trademark laws the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist.’ …” (Emphasis supplied.)

Since, as the article states, this was done “on behalf of the entire denomination,” and since the facts seem to indicate that the application to trademark the name was done at least five years before you began implementing it, why wasn’t the entire constituency given ample opportunity to know and evaluate whether you, as representatives, were proceeding according to the Word of the Lord? How disconcerting that such a thing could have been done!

I am a third generation Adventist and have been a student missionary through Andrews University. I have attended other Adventist universities and institutions and although I had been to so many Adventist churches up and down the breadth of this country, I was completely ignorant of what had taken place until it was my great surprise to find the GC trademark policy and lawsuits staring me squarely in the face. To make matters worse the evidence has surfaced that you have been using the Lord’s sacred tithe monies to finance these unscriptural lawsuits. What a shock! What a shame!

Do you realize where this has led us as a denomination? Ellen White clearly reveals what would be the result if the church should go to the law for support. Notice Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 218: “You who are engaged in opening the things connected with our work to lawyers, will realize that those who trust the things connected with our work to those who know not God, will be left to trust to the law, and will have all the law they want until their souls are satisfied. God will not be their Counselor.” Did you ever ponder what it would mean to move forward in this matter without God as your counselor? Note also Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 127: “Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him. The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love. When the church begins to seek for the support of secular power, it is evident that she is devoid of the power of Christ —the constraint of divine love.” How could our church leadership not have seen the grave implications of what it would mean for the church to seek the support of the state in this matter? How could church leaders not have grasped all that is comprehended in the statement above in moving in this direction of seeking the support of the secular power?

The next issue I wish to address is the conference’s classification of the Perez group as “unbelievers.” It is incredible that so many church members today have to grapple to understand the policy you have developed of arbitrarily classifying other Seventh-day Adventist brethren, who are clearly believers in the three angels’ messages, under the pretended heading of “unbelievers.” This whole matter leaves one with the distinct impression that you have never before taken the time to prayerfully study the whole section in Testimonies to Ministers, 279-505 and especially page 300. Throughout this extensive section, one runs over and over again into explicit warnings to conference leadership to not follow “in the track to Romanism,” to not follow the “rule-or-ruin system,” to not “lord it over God’s heritage” and to set aside “the spirit of domination.” The workers, on the other hand, are not only counseled to positively work in harmony, but to “not make flesh their arm,” to “not look to finite man for wisdom,” to “cease ye from man” and to “break every yoke.” In view of the overwhelming counsel to lead the church in strict harmony with these divine principles, your continued pursuit of a divergent and perilous course is indeed astounding. How could the General Conference have possibly come up with such trademark and litigation policies? Did you honestly come to believe that such policies would bear the stamp of God’s approval? How could such decisions possibly bear the test of Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy scrutiny?

At this point, it is worthy to remember the counsel of July 1895, “Those who know the truth are to be worked by the Holy Spirit, and not themselves to try to work the Spirit. If the cords are drawn much tighter, if the rules are made much finer, if men continue to bind their fellow-laborers closer and closer to the commandments of men, many will be stirred by the Spirit of God to break every shackle, and assert their liberty in Christ Jesus.” Review and Herald, July 23, 1895. Sober thought, isn’t it? Can you see that your policies have been heavily instrumental in unwittingly fostering the development of independent trends in modern Adventist history? Included in these policies is the intriguing practice of disfellowshiping brethren for working independent of conference control, even though these brethren have neither given up the principles of our faith, nor placed themselves out of harmony with true Adventist doctrine. Furthermore, the fact that some have been disfellowshiped is consequently used as a rationalization for considering them “unbelievers,” taking them to court and then suing them under trademark protection laws.

An e-mail correspondence, dated March 4, 2001, was brought to my attention in which Alan J. Reinach, Esq., Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was answering questions and concerns posed by Bettie Belmain. He responded with the amazing statement, “Eternal Gospel folks are not Adventists. They have been reasoned with, and do not wish to work in harmony with the church. Whether the lawsuit is a good idea is an open question. Has the church followed Biblical counsel, Matthew 18, etc, yes. They are being treated as unbelievers. Nor is this a religious liberty issue. They can do whatever they want, they just can’t steal our church name which doesn’t belong to them.”

Okay, let’s get serious here. Who truly are the “unbelievers”? What does inspiration say? “The world and unconverted church members are in sympathy. Some when God reproves them for wanting their own way, make the world their confidence, and bring church matters before the world for decision. Then there is collision and strife, and Christ is crucified afresh, and put to open shame. Those church members who appeal to the courts of the world show that they have chosen the world as their judge, and their names are registered in heaven as one with unbelievers. How eagerly the world seizes the statements of those who betray sacred trusts!” Selected Messages, vol. 4, 302, 303.

There are at least four salient issues here. A) Christ has been “crucified afresh and put to open shame” through the trademark litigations. B) By appealing to the courts of the world our Adventist leadership has chosen the world in our behalf, as our judge. C) The names of those doing the suing (the leaders supporting these litigation policies) are the ones that are really registered in heaven as “one with unbelievers.” D) Sacred trusts have been betrayed. Alan J. Reinach needs to be reminded of the fact that this is a name that was given to God’s faithful Sabbath-keeping remnant people by the Lord Himself. (Please see Selected Messages, vol. 3, 384.)

If you had really believed, brethren, that the Eternal Gospel congregations were not Adventists, why would the GC lawyers, after you won in court, then turn around and propose to the Perez lawyers that it would now be permissible for the Perez group to be allowed to use the name Seventh-day Adventist as an explanation in the second line of their title? Is this not highly manipulative? It most certainly is! The irony is that after this shameful and grievous court battle, and after all the time spent and sacred tithe monies used, brother Perez and his congregations are still being permitted to call themselves “Seventh-day Adventists” as a second line explanation in smaller print. What an incredibly compromising settlement! It provides a shocking and revealing disclosure that you well knew that these brethren were still “Adventists” after all. Additionally perplexing was the evidence provided by some independent publications that towards the beginning of the trial the Catholic judge had pleaded with you to try to settle out of court on the basis of 1 Corinthians 6. This, your representative lawyers refused to accept, in obvious harmony with your instructions and plans. The public reproach brought upon our church was compounded by the fact that this case involved a religious dispute. I trust that you must be well aware of the fact that when ancient Israel appealed to Caesar’s jurisdiction in the case of Christ’s trial, they actually “unchurched themselves,” and withdrew from the theocracy. “They cried out for the crucifixion of Christ and, as representatives of the Jewish nation, placed themselves under the Roman jurisdiction, which they despised, by saying, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ When they said this, they unchurched themselves.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 388. (See also The Desire of Ages, 737, 738; Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1149.) Notice the tremendous implication. The decision of the leadership becomes the decision of the body.

“I have written largely in regard to Christians who believe the truth placing their cases in courts of law to obtain redress. In doing this, they are biting and devouring one another in every sense of the word, ‘to be consumed one of another.’ They cast aside the inspired counsel God has given, and in the face of the message He gives they do the very thing He has told them not to do. Such men may as well stop praying to God, for He will not hear their prayers. They insult Jehovah, and He will leave them to become the subjects of Satan until they shall see their folly and seek the Lord by confession of their sins. . . .” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 302. There are at least two fearful issues standing out in the foregoing statement: First, regarding those who take their brethren to court, God will no longer hear their prayers. Second, Jehovah has been insulted and unless there is a seeking of the Lord by confession, the Lord will leave them to become the subjects of Satan. Can you honestly believe that this does not apply to your case? I again want to remind you of the grave implication of this warning.

Here are a few more pointed counsels that are highly applicable to the tragic litigation events that have transpired through your pursuit of wrong policies. “Another lesson Christ had to give, relating especially to Peter. Peter’s denial of his Lord had been in shameful contrast to his former professions of loyalty. He had dishonored Christ, and had incurred the distrust of his brethren. They thought he would not be allowed to take his former position among them, and he himself felt that he had forfeited his trust. Before being called to take up again his apostolic work, he must before them all give evidence of his repentance. Without this, his sin, though repented of, might have destroyed his influence as a minister of Christ. The Savior gave him opportunity to regain the confidence of his brethren, and, so far as possible, to remove the reproach he had brought upon the gospel.” The Desire of Ages, 811.

“The Lord never designed that His church should seek the aid of civil power, or work through devices of political expediency. He gave her His own all-power of the Spirit and the wisdom of the Eternal One. Walking in His way, trusting in His power she cannot fall.” Signs of the Times, vol. 3, October 27, 1898. (Does not come up on the Ellen White CD Rom).

“To lean upon the arm of the law is a disgrace to Christians; yet this evil has been brought in and cherished among the Lord’s chosen people. Worldly principles have been stealthily introduced, until in practice many of our workers are becoming like the Laodiceans—half-hearted, because so much dependence is placed on lawyers and legal documents and agreements. Such a condition of things is abhorrent to God.” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 303.

“The spirit that instigates accusation and condemnation in the church which results in uprooting those that are looked upon as evil-doers, has manifested itself in seeking to correct wrongs through the civil power. This is Satan’s own method for bringing the world under his dominion; but the Lord Jesus Christ has given us no such example for thus dealing with the erring. God has been misrepresented through the church by this very way of dealing with heretics; he has been represented as the one who empowered the church to do these wicked things.” Review and Herald, January 10, 1893.

“It has been revealed to me that the Lord proves and tries all who have named the name of Christ, but especially those who are stewards in any department of His cause. A connection with the special work of God for this time brings with it much responsibility, and the higher the position of trust, the greater the responsibility attached to it. How humble and sincere the one needs to be who is filling such a position! How fearful and mistrustful of himself! How careful to give all the praise and thanksgiving to God!” Testimonies to Ministers, 279.

“If a suit is instituted in earthly tribunals, and God suffers it to come to trial, it is that His own name may be glorified. But a woe will be upon the man who gives himself to do this work. God reads the motives, whatever they may be. I pray that the Lord will teach our brethren to be straightforward, and make no compromise in the matter. The cause of God has been bruised and wounded by any such men connecting with it, and the sooner they are separated from it, the better. . . . God calls for men of decided fidelity. He has no use in an emergency for two-sided men. He wants men who will lay their hand upon a wrong work and say, ‘This is not according to the will of God.’” Selected Messages, vol. 2, 153.

To be continued…

Taken from a letter written to the leading brethren by Miss Morgan of Wisconsin. Would you like to view back-issues of the Hartland E-magazine? They are now available at www.hartland.edu/emagazine/index.htm