From the beginning, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination announced its stand as follows: “We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church, taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” –J. Loughborough: The Great Second Advent Movement, p. 352.
The same position was confirmed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United States during the American Civil War. They declared in 1864:
“The denomination of Christians calling themselves Seventh-day Adventists, taking the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, are unanimous in their views that its teachings are contrary to the spirit and practice of war; hence, they have ever been conscientiously opposed to bearing arms. If there is any portion of the Bible which we, as a people, can point to more than any other as our creed, it is the law of the ten commandments, which we regard as the supreme law, and each precept of which we take in its most obvious and literal import. The fourth of these commandments requires cessation from labor on the seventh day of the week, the sixth prohibits the taking of life, neither of which, in our view, could be observed while doing military duty. Our practice has uniformly been consistent with these principles. Hence, our people have not felt free to enlist into the service. In none of our denominational publications have we advocated or encouraged the practice of bearing arms, and, when drafted, rather than violate our principles, we have been content to pay, and assist each other in paying, the $300 commutation money.” –F. M. Wilcox: Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War, p. 58.
In 1865, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists reaffirmed their original stand:
“Resolved that we recognize civil government as ordained of God, that order, justice, and quiet may be maintained in the land; and that the people of God may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. In accordance with this fact we acknowledge the justice of rendering tribute, custom, honor, and reverence to the civil power, as enjoined in the New Testament. While we thus cheerfully render to Caesar the things which the Scriptures show to be his, we are compelled to decline all participation in acts of war and bloodshed as being inconsistent with the duties enjoined upon us by our divine Master toward our enemies and toward all mankind.” –The Review and Herald, May 23, 1865.
As this position of total obedience to the commandments of God was not practiced during World War I (1914-1918), a great crisis came upon the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While 98% of the members decided to obey the instruction of the officers of the denomination, taking part in the war, 2% decided to remain faithful to the law of God, upholding the original position, as taught and practiced up to that time. These faithful believers were disfellowshipped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe because they chose to uphold the church’s original position in regard to keeping the Law of God (all Ten Commandments).
In a booklet published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany, they announced the following change:
“In all that we have said we have shown that the Bible teaches, firstly, that taking part in the war is no transgression of the sixth commandment, likewise, that war service on the Sabbath is not a transgression of the fourth commandment.” –Protokoll, p.12.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Commentary Reference Series, the following explanation is given:
“On the German mobilization, in August, 1914, the SDA’s of that country were faced with the necessity of making an immediate decision concerning their duty to God and country when called into the armed service (see Germany, V; Noncombatancy). After counseling with the few SDA leaders locally available at that time, the president of the East German Union Conference informed the German War Ministry in writing, dated Aug. 4, 1914, that conscripted SDA’s would bear arms as combatants and would render service on the Sabbath in defense of their country. . . . Admittedly, the three SDA leaders in Germany took a stand concerning the duty of SDA’s in military service that was contrary to the historic stand officially maintained by the denomination ever since the American Civil War (1861-1865).” –The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Commentary Reference Series, Vol. 10, p. 1183, Edition of 1966.
The Adventist leaders declared:
“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 disfellowshipped because of their unchristian conduct. These unprofitable elements set themselves up as preachers and, with little results, sought to make converts to their propaganda of foolish ideas. They call themselves, falsely, preachers and Adventists. They are not; they are deceivers. When such elements receive their merited punishment, we regard it, in fact, as a favor done to us.” –Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten (A German newspaper), p. 3, April 12, 1918.
A newspaper correspondent gave his unbiased opinion about the situation, as follows:
“Since the beginning of the war there has been a division among the Adventist people. During the period 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 the same year, SDA leaders made another declaration, as follows:
“In the beginning of the war there were some members, as there are also in other places, who did not want to take part in war service, either because of their lack of unity, or because of fanaticism. They started to spread around their foolish ideas in the congregation by word and in writing, trying to convince others to do the same. They were admonished by the church, but because of their obstinacy they had to be put out, for they became a threat to internal and external peace.” –Stuttgarter Neues Tagblatt, September 26, 1918.
Those disfellowshipped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, not only in Germany but also in many other countries in Europe, had no intention of starting a new church. They were about 4,000 in number. Attempts at reconciliation with the main body were made just after the war, in 1920 and in 1922, but with no positive result.
Therefore, as their numbers increased, the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement was organized as a church, separate from the the main body of Seventh-day Adventists, when representatives from different countries met at Gotha, Germany, July 14-20, 1925. It is the purpose of the Reform Movement to continue with the original teachings and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In the General Conference Bulletin of the Seventh-day Adventists, May 13, 1913, pages 33, 34, E. G. White stated:
“It will be well for us to consider what is soon to come upon the earth. This is no time for trifling or self-seeking. If the times in which we are living fail to impress our minds seriously, what can reach us? Do not the Scriptures call for a more pure and holy work than we have yet seen?
“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. Every soul should now stand in a position of deeper, truer consecration to God than during the years that have passed. . . .
“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. My brethren, the Lord is speaking to us. Shall we not heed His voice? Shall we not trim our lamps, and act like men who look for their Lord to come? The time is one that calls for light bearing, for action.”
The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference first operated from Isernhagen, Germany, and then Basel, Switzerland. After World War II, the headquarters was moved to the United States of America, 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 U.S.A., the headquarters was temporarily relocated to Blackwood, New Jersey, before moving to its permanent location in Roanoke, Virginia. The SDA Reform Movement has already reached 131 countries and territories.