Christian News Media, Washington, DC, Wednesday, October 23, 2024 —
Yesterday the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church, with world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and a membership of almost 30 million, voted on an article of reorganization, based on a decade of long-standing differences and numerous lawsuits between regional church leaders in the United States, Canada, Western Europe and the rest of the world church.
The preliminary agreement of reorganization, reached late Tuesday night, would separate the church into two distinct entities with no formal ties to each other.
Historically the SDA church has been able to minimize schisms compared to its protestant cousins. This would be only the second time in its 161-year history that a major split has occurred. The world church would retain the name Seventh-day Adventists; the new church would be called the Christian Adventist Church (CAC). The first major split occurred about a decade ago with the formal separation of the SDA church in China from the church’s Maryland headquarters.
The tension started in earnest in 2009 with disagreement over issues of interpretation of biblical creation, women’s ordination, tithing, the gift of prophecy, and the relevancy of some of its doctrines; namely the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment, which has had a long history of detractors. Failure to come to any consensus eventually led to many church districts moving out on their own against the guidance of the church’s administrative body, known as the General Conference.
“The departing churches,” as one administrator termed them, “are hurting the body and causing division and dismemberment when we should all be coming together and seeking unity of purpose especially at this eventful time in earth’s history.”
Another church official said, “By moving ahead on their own instead of seeking consensus, they are going against God’s design for His church and abandoning the counsel of scripture and His prophet. We pray for those involved in this desertion of God’s remnant church to reconsider with all haste.”
CAC leadership, when confronted about the impact their decision would have, commented that “it was a long time in coming, and that many members felt the church was not progressing, and in fact slowly dying [in Western democracies].”
One official stated, “We see ourselves as saving the church, not destroying it. For years the church has been rapidly growing in the developing countries of the world, but shrinking in North America and Europe where membership is now less than 4% of world numbers, yet we still give over 30% of all monies. If we are to survive, we must move forward.”
Not all of North America will join the new Christian Adventist Church; many members in Michigan and areas in the Southern US will remain as part of the world Seventh-day Adventist church.
The SDA church assets include not only church buildings, but a vast array of properties and educational institutions ranging from kindergarten through university, including a number of medical schools. Until recently, the SDA church had the largest protestant parochial school system in the world. When a church official was asked how these institutions would be affected by the split, he stated that many of the schools of higher education have been functioning on their own without the need of significant subsidies from the SDA church and have, in fact, had only a loose affiliation for several years.
With this change, the current SDA church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland will, in all likelihood in the near future, be moving out of the United States to a location more central to its world membership, while the new CAC will be headquartered in California.
Image: The 59th General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia in 2010, by Tabor Nudd.