To all our brothers and sisters who believe on the Only Begotten Son of God,
Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers onto the prophets. Luke 6:22,23
Adrian, our new friend and brother in Christ asked me to tell of our experience sharing in the joy of the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Know that by sharing of my recent experience being disfellowshipped from the nominal Seventh Day Adventist church it is not my desire to focus on the faults of others or to find false security in believing that because I know the truth about God and they don’t I am somehow better than them.
Rather, I share this to encourage those of you who have, are currently, or may about to be called to witness for Christ at the risk of being disfellowshipped(separated: Luke 6:22); losing your positions of leadership; or ridiculed, scorned, and maligned by the very people who may profess to be your friends, mentors, and pastors to keep the faith. For some of you, like myself and the other four of my brothers and sisters who were disfellowshipped, as well as many others around the world before us, you may experience all of these trials.
I pray that our experience may encourage you to move forward, gird about with the Armor of God, and His armor only, for, as so many before us can attest, Satan will do everything in his power to get you to lose sight of Jesus Christ, our Comforter.
Take solace in the promise of Matthew 10:19,20 – take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father(Holy Spirit in Mark 13:11) which speaketh in you.
I had emailed some friends about a week before the church business meeting, which was to decide our status as members of the church, asking for advice. To my surprise and delight, thanks to a friend of mine, I received an email from my friend Paul saying some friends of his spoke with Adrian and said he would be willing to speak with us.
A few nights prior to being brought before the church, we connected with Adrian, and he related his experience to us, which was moving to say the least! He shared one particular passage that strengthened and decided his attitude while going before the church:
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father, which is in heaven (Matthew 10:32)
This profoundly affected us and God, though him, convicted us that rather than try and defend ourselves, we would share our love for these beautiful truths of the Bible and of the pioneers of our church.
Adrian’s decision to follow Christ’s counsel to love those who revile and curse you also profoundly affected us. Considering what he went through and the Spirit by which he did, we were convicted to surrender to Christ and allow him to help us to do the same if we found ourselves under similar circumstances.
Before I recount the events of our own experience on the night we were voted out of the church I will highlight some of the events that led up to this.
We underwent a process consisting of a series of about 6 meetings over the course of 5 months by which we were subjected to questioning that felt very much like interrogation, “study sessions”, and presentations, first by the pastor ad head elder, and then all of the elders. Early on in this process our pastor and his wife told us several times that we would not be disfellowshipped.
During this series of meetings we were accused of believing Christ was a created being despite what we presented repeatedly in person, in writing, and through emails. We were also accused of believing the Holy Spirit was only an impersonal force. We were told we did no understand the history of our church, that the scriptures should not be taken literally, and Christ was only a metaphorical Son. We were told that the pioneers were wrong, and that Ellen White always believed in the trinity, or that if she didn’t, she changed her beliefs in the 1890’s with the release of books like Desire of Ages.
After they exhausted their assault on the doctrines of the Bible and the writings of Sister White and our pioneers, they began attacking our characters. Words were put into our mouths’, people were silenced and forbidden to speak including several women who were disrespected repeatedly when they tried to speak throughout this process. We were told that we were ignorant and made out to be foolish for believing in the literal reading of the Bible unless the Scriptures plainly stated otherwise. Several elders said we were victims of Satan, who like a lion in the wild, preys upon the weak and the young.
One elder said we were going down the same path as some former friends of his who were amongst the Branch Davidians that were killed by FBI agents at Waco, Texas. We have been accused of sharing the same doctrine as the Jehovah’s witnesses, and in one of the final meetings our pastor and elders scoffed and laughed at our pioneers for continuing to eat pork many years after they had learned of the sanctuary message and the Sabbath. They repeatedly justified the trinity doctrine by saying that truth is progressive and completely misrepresenting new light.
Up to this point it was clear to us that it was only a matter of time before our membership would be brought to vote for removal from the church. We had been led through a process similar to that of those in other churches around the world. A secret elders meeting had been called and a vote was made(to which we don’t know what was voted on except that two of the elders refused to vote) prior to the board meeting where it was decided to take a vote to disfellowship us at the church business meeting. There was a clear agenda to ascertain our beliefs, attempt to get us to rescind, and if not then remove us from the church books.
We received letters personally delivered to us by our pastor, which were given less than two weeks prior to the church business meeting informing us that our fellowship with the church would be decided upon. The word disfellowship was not used. We did receive a txt message about two weeks before the meeting which read as follows:
“In the next two Sabbath I will be announcing a church business meeting so that on February 1 at 6:30 PM, in a Church Business Meeting, the Fox Valley SDA church will be making a decision regarding your response of Adventist beliefs and your future relationship with its fellowship. It is your privilege (like all other members)to be present. Prayerfully search your heart as we all need to in order to come together following His direction.”
In order to get enough people to vote us out of the church, announcements were made beginning two Sabbaths prior in the bulletin and from the pulpit. There was no mention that 5 members would be voted to remove our memberships from the church. The only thing announced was an important business meeting that everyone should attend. The bulletins read as follows:
Bulletin # 1 mentioned a church business meeting on Monday Feb 1- 7 pm regarding a membership update. Nothing else was included.
Bulletin # 2, printed the Sabbath before the meeting, mentioned that if anyone had any questions regarding the board meeting, to call the pastor or head elder.
On the evening of February 1st, four others, and myself were disfellowshipped from the church by a vote of 19-17 with 6 others abstaining from the vote.
We anticipated that we would have very little time to speak if at all and, which proved to be exactly what happened. Everyone who wanted to speak had a maximum of 3 minutes. Initially, the pastor was trying to tell those in attendance (around 42 people), that we had our chance to speak during previous meetings and set rules that only allowed for questions to be asked. Despite his best attempts to control the conversation, people other than us, eventually started making statements, and he was unable to censor them.
Many came to our defense, both those who believed the truth about the Father and Son, as well as those who wanted to make sure everything was fair and according to the manual, which the pastor violated many times.
The pastor spoke first and shared the purpose of the meeting in a politically correct manner without using the word “disfellowship”. He shared our response to his email sent to us 3 weeks prior, which had the following 3 questions:
"My beliefs regarding current Seventh day Adventist Church doctrines:
1. I believe that all of the fundamentals truths as currently stated by the Bible and the Seventh day Adventists Church are correct and true and it is my desire to not only comply with, but also promote those doctrines.
2. Even though I have some questions on the Trinity doctrine, I am willing to sit down and study these issues one on one with the pastor or one of the elders.
3. I believe that the Seventh day Adventist Church has strayed from original truth as taught by the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. It is my desire to withdraw my name from church membership as I can no longer support or promote these teachings."
"We have prayerfully taken time to consider the questions you provided in your email. However upon this consideration we have concluded that we cannot accept any of the options you have provided in numbers 1-3. We have therefore provided option number 4 that we ask you to consider. Option 4 best fits our spiritual and personal convictions concerning the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Option 4 is as follows:
4. We believe that the Adventist church has strayed from original truth as taught by the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. We can no longer support or promote the teachings taught by the Seventh-day Adventist church regarding the Trinity. We do not desire to remove my name from the church membership. We stand by the truth the church originally held. We will continue to prayerfully and lovingly entreat those who are receptive to simply consider the Biblical understanding, the teachings of the pioneers of our church, and those sealed by the Spirit of Prophecy regarding God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ as well as to consider the history of our church, not as stated by those with opinions in books of our time, but looking at the very statements made by those who lived during those events via letters, documents, periodicals, tracts, etc. That in the entreaty of this information, those individuals would have opportunity to come to their own conclusion, whatever that may be, and we would love those individuals of differing opinions regardless."
The pastor’s announcement as to the purpose of the meeting surprised some, and several in attendance spoke up asking why this topic was not brought up prior to the meeting? He explained that there was a series of meetings (closed to the general church congregation) by which they gave us chance to rescind our beliefs and return to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the church.
Time and time again God raised up someone who came to our defense outside of our group of about 13 brothers and sisters who believed the truth about the Father and Son.
In giving the reasons for disciplinary action against us, the pastor used here-say from someone who said they heard us say the church is Babylon, which was not true. Again, those in the church came to our defense calling him out on it numerous times and saying that evidence needed to be provided or the comment should not have been made. He eventually apologized and said he should not have mentioned that, but the damage had been done.
To the utter amazement of many, the pastor attempted to call for a vote and had the secretary begin handing out voting slips before anyone had a chance to ask questions. This audibly stunned many and people cried out in protest(We remained silent).
One of the members, admitted he was studying this subject to learn the truth as he didn’t know what to believe yet, and asked how we could vote on this with so few of the members of the church present?
One elder stood up and said there are many members that do not adhere to the fundamental beliefs by not keeping Sabbath, not paying tithe, drinking alcohol, and even going as far as to advertise these things on social media, yet they are still on the books. He asked “How can we disfellowship these 5 and not the others?”. He also read John 8:7 – He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
The pastor quickly sought to correct him saying the reason we are being voted on to be removed from church membership has nothing to do with our character.
One of the five of us stood and spoke reading the letter she received from the pastor, which stated why her membership was being voted on to be removed. She said the letter misrepresented her beliefs and shared that she does believe the Holy Spirit is a person (that of the Father and Son).
The same elder who read John 8:7, even though he did not believe in the True God of the Bible, came to our defense again, calling out the pastor saying that he told him no one would be disfellowshipped for this. He asked the pastor if this was true? The pastor responded saying it was, but he had a change of heart.
After fielding only a few questions the pastor again pushed for a vote. Again, people protested and asked why he was in such a hurry? Again, we were silent.
Many repeatedly spoke up as he tried to do this numerous times. It seemed as if Christ was raising up others to defend us, and they weren’t even from our group of believers in the Father and Son. Several spoke up saying that the vote should be postponed for several months or more to allow for a church wide study to learn the truth, as more than a few of the members in attendance felt blindsided, and rightfully so I might add.
One elderly, longtime member stated-there had not been enough comments and discussion for a vote yet, and according to the church manual, nonmembers should not be present(there were several present including the pastors daughter). He also said each person should be voted on separately. He was ignored.
The remaining four of us who were disfellowshipped began to speak for the 1st and only time, choosing to share the everlasting gospel and defend our pioneers.
Before the last of us was able to speak, despite having his hand raised as well as more than a few others, the pastor, without asking for a motion, forced the vote upon everyone.
Walking away from the meeting, we all felt a sense of peace and marveled at what appeared to be Christ prompting others to speak time and time again in our defense. There may even have been a few who walked away with a desire to study for themselves and learn who the God of the Bible really is.
After the meeting was finished one of the men, an elder, (whose wife was disfellowshipped with us) resigned from his positions at the church and withdrew his membership, thoroughly disgusted with the situation. Even though he condemned the hypocrisy in the church for wanting to disfellowship us while allowing others to commit open sins and advertise them on social media without any disciplinary consequences, he has resisted studying for himself to learn the truth, now choosing to “go it on his own”. We are praying for him.
No man holds sway over our position in heaven and the book of life is far more important than the books of the church on earth.
Remember, it is not you who are being cast out if your membership is removed, but rather, it is Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God and Our Comforter, who is being voted out.
We mourn and pray for those who know not what they have done in voting Jesus Christ out of the church.
God Bless you,
Unfellowship - Experience of Gary Hullquist
For my Love of the Son of God - Disfellowship of Pr Adrian Ebens