French Report 2017
Adrian and I flew into Toulouse in Southern France, which became the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom in 418 after their conquests moving westward. The Visigoths are most famous for their armies under King Alaric sacking Rome in 410 AD, which according to our pioneers was the first trumpet in Revelation 8:7. It was the first time that Rome had fallen to a foreign army in 800 years, and was a major shock to people at that time.
Now Toulouse is famous for being the home of Airbus. We past their headquarters leaving the airport. Adrian's wife Lorelle and their son Daniel had flown in from Talking Rock Sabbath Chapel in America, and they had a happy reunion. We were picked up by Marc Fury, who is Adrian's contact in France and who translated 'Return of Elijah' 5 years ago after being extremely touched by it and its emphasis on the 'relational kingdom'. Marc, in essence, instigated much of the non-trininitarian movement in the French language with his translation of 'Foundation of our Faith' by Allen Stump in 2005-2006, whom he worked with for many years. Accepting the feasts, and now the character of God, has hindered their working together now (Sadly Allen Stump and much of the Godhead movement rejects the Feasts and our understanding of the Character of God). Much praise is due to our Father who has given Marc much courage to take these unpopular steps and lose even more friends in addition to the great sacrifice he originally made on taking a stand for the Father-Son. He comes from a family of Adventists, and his brother even is high up in the Adventist Union or division in France with a position in Education, if I remember properly.
He is married to Elizabeth, who studied in Hartland in America, and their two lovely sons Josue (14) and Daniel (12). It took us two hours from Toulouse to go to their house in Arifat, which is just outside Albi. This southern region of France, was the home of the Church of the Wilderness for centuries - and remains the center of Adventism in France now. According to Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word 'genocide' what happened in this region in the early 1200's was "one of the most conclusive cases of genocide in religious history". Of Toulouse, Wilkinson says this in his book 'Truth Triumphant':
The renowned city of Toulouse in southern France is an example of how certain communities held fast to the doctrines of the apostles from the early days of Christianity until they aroused the fury of an exterminating crusade. Toulouse is blamed not only as the breeding place of so-called heresy, but is also said to have successfully housed rejecters of Rome throughout the centuries, first in the days of Gothic Christianity, and later in tunes of the Albigenses and Waldenses. None of these dissenters can be called “reformed,” because they never diverged far enough from the early church either in beliefs or practices to necessitate a movement of reform.
As to the remote antiquity of the hated evangelicals in the city and kingdom of Toulouse, there is a remarkable statement from the chaplain who accompanied the bloody crusade of 1208-1218, which destroyed the beautiful Albigensian civilization. “This Toulouse,” he said, “the completely wretched, has, it is asserted, from its very foundation, rarely or never been free from the miasma or detestable pestilence of condemned heresy, handing down, and successively diffusing throughout generations from father to son, its poison of superstitious infidelity.”
We had meetings at Marc's house that weekend, with many from the region coming. Two older ladies who love the message drove many hours to stay the week with us, and then went with us also to Geneva for the meetings we did at Jean Claude's church (more on this unique institution later). A family had just moved near Marc's house from Columbia; they are doctors with children the same age as Marc's, and they had been convinced of the truth of the begotten son and had even joined in a Feast of Tabernacles last year. The father had converted from Roman Catholicism in 2006, and is an ardent student of the Advent message, who, even without such a good grasp of English, reads Jones and Waggoner in English. It means a lot to him. When he heard Adrian preach on Elijah and John the Baptist and how they "didn't understand the nature of Christ's kingdom" he was amazed. He said he had never heard anybody preach on Elijah in such a manner before. He said that he has family members who are non-believers due to this problem reconciling God the Father and His revelation in Jesus' life, and was highly interested that Adrian's theology was heading in a way to resolve this difficulty biblically. He said he would translate some material into Spanish.
Then we did the long drive up through the beautiful French countryside to Mornex, France, just outside of Geneva, Switzerland. We saw Michael Servetus' statue, who was burned by John Calvin in Geneva in 1553. This remains a sensitive issue, as this statue is not allowed in Geneva, so it is on the French side of the border in the town just across. Servetus' last book published in the year of his death, 'The Restoration of Christianity', is extremely rare, as it has been burned over and over, with only 3 copies left in existence. Of this book it is stated on wikipedia that "Servetus argued that God condemns no one who does not condemn himself through thought, word or deed." A seeming connection to the character of God, Matthew 7:2 - "As you judge, so shall you be judged." We gravely considered how tragic it was that the history of Christianity was so often driven by an oppositional mindset, where many wrote theology in response or in rebuke to others. Praise God for the relational kingdom of Christ that He has given to us!
Adrian preached to an actual church group that meets weekly. Led by Jean Claude, they refused to go along with the ecumenical movement and the French Adventist Church's rejection of the identity of the Adventist Church as the Remnant. In refusing to do the will of the Union or Division they were in, the church members were commanded to disfellowship the two families considered responsible for the 'insubordination'. This the church refused to do, refusing to vote them out, as they had grown up together and relationally it would be considered treason against their friends and brethren in the faith. In response the division interdicted the whole church. None of its members were allowed in their former church building, and they would have no pastor nor would any speaker be allowed to speak at their meetings anymore. Members of the church could repent and go to another church and asked to be allowed back into the mainstream church if they wished. So the church has, since 2004, survived as an independent entity. They accepted the Father-Son first, and recently are also open to the Feasts, along with the Character of God! Amazing.
This was Adrian's third time at this church. Many came from far to hear Adrian preach, and his books were given away to all. It was really special to see so many interested and studying the message; during the Q/A it was really obvious that people knew the material and had questions regarding the character of God and the Feasts. Adrian put the Feast material in a strong Righteousness by Faith framework, of needing more of the spirit, and it really appealed to the audience.
The first meeting is now available on maranathamedia.fr with more to come.
Collonges Adventist University is only 20 minutes from where this church meets. Collonges was the first Adventist University in Europe, and currently is maybe one of the most liberal Adventist universities in the world, teaching evolution, women's ordination, etc. I pray that some of these ideas reach that university and their openness to new ideas is really tested, and seeing as God judges by how we judge I presume that God will soon uncover how "open-minded" this school really is.
I am excited to see how the work is being accepted here in France, proving its historical trait of free thinking and independence true. There were people of many different nations at the meetings, including off the top of my head, West Indies, Madagascar, Columbia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and other nations, particularly African, that I did not have a chance to meet due to a language barrier.
Praise God always. I leave this interesting note from Raphael Lemkin's long work on the Albigensis. Remember that this is a secular historian:
"They [the Albigensis] did not believe in bloodshed for any cause." This is in contrast to that other great reformer of Switzerland, Huldrych Zwingli, who tragically died in battle in 1531.
Or as Ellen White states:
The abiding presence of meekness is an unmistakable evidence that we are branches of the True Vine and are bearing much fruit. It is an evidence that we are by faith beholding the King in His beauty and becoming changed into His likeness. Where meekness exists, the natural tendencies are under the control of the Holy Spirit. Meekness is not a species of cowardice. It is the spirit which Christ manifested when suffering injury, when enduring insult and abuse. To be meek is not to surrender our rights, but it is the preservation of self-control under provocation to give way to anger or to the spirit of retaliation. Meekness will not allow passion to take the lines. ST Aug 22, 1895
Lastly, as we delve deeper into this message, we see that the original pioneer position agrees with the position of the Church in the Wilderness:
General Conference Resolution - 1865
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
THIRD ANNUAL MEETING - May 17, 1865
OUR DUTY TO THE GOVERNMENT
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.
General Conference Resolution - 1867
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
FIFTH ANNUAL SESSION - May 14, 1867
RESOLVED, That it is the judgment of this Conference, that the bearing of arms, or engaging in war, is a direct violation of the teachings of our Saviour and the spirit and letter of the law of God. Yet we deem it our duty to yield respect to civil rulers, and obedience to all such laws as do not conflict with the word of God. In the carrying out of this principle we render tribute, customs, reverence, etc.