I witnessed firsthand the disfellowship of my brother and sisters in Christ John, Joy and Annie Penman by the Whyalla SDA Church of SA on the 15th of May 2016. The family have been loyal members of the church for so many years until that night. I praise God for their faith and courage in standing together as a family in what they believe. This is my story.
Like the Penman family I was born and raised an Adventist. I attended Adventist schools and have always been a proud and committed member of the Adventist faith. I never dreamt of life outside Adventism, I believed and still do believe that it is the remanent church, the ship that’s bound for glory whose captain is our Lord Jesus.
I met the Penman family when my family moved to Whyalla in 2012. We were in the church board together. John was a church elder, Joy and Annie took on other leading roles in the church while I was the church treasurer. We organised and carried out various church outreach programs and became close friends.
The core of my story began in mid-2013 when John and Joy Penman once told me about their new found faith in God and His Son Jesus. The introduction was simple but it pierced my heart. It was not like anything I had ever heard before. For once it made perfect sense. A war raged within me, my heart hungered and thirsted after this new found truth while my mind was telling me “this is not right, how can you deny the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the God head?” so I chose to put it off for some time.
By then the church had instructed John and Joy to keep quiet about this matter, they were not permitted to share this or any other related material with any of us. That gave me enough time to take the matter to God in prayer.
Then one night I had a dream. In my dream I saw, what appeared to me like the presence of Jesus Himself. His appearance was as a fine young Arabian gentleman. He walked straight up to me with the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. He looked straight at me and I saw pure love in His eyes and felt the peace of God within me. He called me by my name and somehow I felt He knew everything about me. He told me He has better plans for me, He had some carrot and celery sticks which He shared with me. They tasted lots better than the ones we eat here every day. We ate, talked and walked together through what looked like a beautiful park, and then He vanished. I still felt the complete peace of God afterwards.
The very next day John and lovely wife Joy knocked at my door. I greeted them with a smile. They told me they had some DVD’s for me to watch and asked if I was interested in further bible study at their house. It was obvious the fire in them could not be supressed by any earthly authority. I didn’t hesitate this time, because I now knew this was the carrot and celery sticks I saw in the dream. I told my 4 children this is where God is leading us and since then we have never looked back. We now know who we're worshipping. We worship the One True God, the Father and His only begotten Son Lord Jesus Christ. We take every word of John 3:16 literally, there is nothing metaphoric about it. I mean, who am I to question God when He says “This is My Beloved Son”?
On the 15th of May 2016 a business meeting was called by the church pastor and the senior elder to disfellowship John Penman, his lovely wife Joy and dear mother Annie. The pastor stated that the General Conference was the voice of God, he went on about its 28 fundamental beliefs especially the first 5 beliefs and stressed how essential these creeds were to the church. Going against any of it would result in certain dismissal, he warned. I paid no attention to any of that as I had already made up my mind and all that didn’t bother me.
Then each of them was asked to make a statement before the church voted. John spoke first, he was very calm and collective in his manner and approach. The pastor and everyone present probably had expected a different approach because these people were seen as outcasts or rebels. He started with an introduction of himself, how he and his family were loyal members of this church for some 50 years. Then he went on to talk a bit about the pioneers of the Adventist Church and how they were non-trinitarians, and mentioned that the church had overtime evolved to accept the worship of the trinity. As he concluded he spoke with such power and confidence in his belief of the Father and the Son that I am sure half the members present were convinced this was the truth. However, it was sad to see the story of Jesus and Barabbas replayed here, they voted “disfellowship them! disfellowship them! Only a few of us voted against it but our concern was unconsidered. John didn’t protest his membership in anyway. He quoted 1Cor 8:5-6 and John 3:16, he told us he loved the Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus. He also said, he loved the church and appealed to the members to study the scripture for themselves.
Annie said she had been an Adventist for 58 years, she was baptised into the church with her husband who had sadly passed away a few years earlier. They always believed in and loved their Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus. She did not understand the fundaments beliefs taught a different God and Jesus until recently. She was approached by the pastor only four days before the business meeting. Sadly there was no sympathy for this faithful lady. I thought this action by the church was ungodly.
Joy who was emotional the entire time had courage to stand up and speak calmly when her turn came. She said, she had been a Catholic prior to joining the Adventist Church and according to her she saw no difference between the two churches on the concept of who God is apart from us keeping the Sabbath and the Catholics keeping Sunday. It was only when she came to understand and accept Jesus as the literal Son of God that her relationship with God improved and her worship became more meaningful. She said, “I have a son and I can relate to this concept easily”. How great the love of God must be, for us sinful humans, for Him to give up His Only Son for us. How true is that? Friends, how can we devalue the ultimate sacrifice of God by believing in the trinity?
There are NO 3 co-eternal, co-existing persons of the Godhead as the Adventist believe. If that teaching is correct God is a pretend Father and Jesus is a pretend Son, there is no real sacrifice, and Calvary is fake. That makes God a liar in saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” and that also makes Jesus a liar in saying, “My father and I are one, no man goes to the Father but by Me”. I don’t need a theology degree to elaborate any further this simple truth. I am happy to accept it just as it is.
Like the Penman family, my children and I believe in a tangible literal Loving Heavenly Father who paid the ultimate price for our sins and a Loving obedient Son, Lord Jesus who was willing to take up the cross for us. That is what Calvary means to us.
By Sharon Etmanok