Pastor Walter “Chick” McGill, the 66-year old pastor of the small, Tennessee-based Creation Seventh Day Adventist congregation, was freed from a California prison Sunday after thirty days behind bars.
McGill was imprisoned on Friday, July 13 after a federal warrant for his arrest was issued in a long-standing trademark dispute with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. During his jail time in the San Bernardino County Central Detention Center, McGill refused solid foods, taking only water and juice squeezed from oranges. In a statement issued to media outlets, McGill stated that he lost 6% of his body mass during his fast. He called the fast a spiritual, cleansing act. McGill’s associate, Lucan Chartier, was imprisoned for ten days after turning himself in to the Redlands Police Department. He too refused food in protest over what he viewed an unjust imprisonment.
In a press release, the Creation congregation’s leaders stated that they will continue using the name Seventh Day Adventist. The leaders believe the name to be the name given by God to mark true End Time believers. The release also stated that McGill was subject to physical abuse and threats from fellow inmates while in prison.
Pastor McGill issued a seven-point statement to the press. In it, he said, “I intend to extend the fast 10 additional days for a total of 40, emulating the wilderness fast of my Lord and Savior.” McGill wanted to make clear that he felt the Seventh-day Adventist denomination had pushed the courts to ensure his imprisonment, despite statements from the North American Division and the General Conference suggesting otherwise. Said McGill,
The public needs to understand that all court-ordered sanctions against me have originated from the Plaintiff church attorneys. This is a civil lawsuit, and the court relies on all lawful suggestions and demands from the plaintiffs in order to compose a contempt order. It was truly the Seventh-day Adventist Church that required my incarceration, though their spokespersons consistently deny any accountability in this regard.
On July 30, the Adventist News Network published a story on McGill’s arrest, placing the onus for the arrest squarely on the courts. “A North American pastor is in prison for defying a court’s ruling in a trademark infringement dispute case that underscores the significance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s corporate identity,” the article began. The article quoted Adventist associate general counsel Todd McFarland as saying, “Most such trademark infringement disputes are settled outside the court, with litigation a ‘last resort’ only after ‘months or years’ of dialogue.” The article named a website the biggest concern for the Adventist denomination.
In 2005, the Adventist world church’s Office of General Counsel first asked McGill to cease using the name “Seventh-day Adventist” on both his church building and several websites.
“At the time, everyone thought, ‘Oh, it’s just a little church in Tennessee,’ but our primary concern was McGill’s Web presence,” said Todd McFarland…”
Lucan Chartier disputes the claim that the denomination tried to relove things amicably with McGill’s group, and also told Spectrum that charges that the Creation group is diluting the Adventist brand are wrong on two counts.
I have never seen anywhere in Inspiration where the reputation of Christ or His people is to be counted as a “brand” to be “controlled” by the leading men of the church.What I see instead is the Saviour instructing the religious leaders to “make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” The entire concept of brand dilution is saturated with worldly mentality and policy. It is not the true church that is described as making “merchandise” of the souls of men in the Scriptures.
If our Church has not “diluted their brand” in 20 years, it will not do so now. Even granting (very generously) that the faith of Seventh-day Adventism is a “brand,” that it “belongs” to the General Conference, and that dilution by us were possible, what arguments of “brand dilution” and “we could lose our mark if we don’t protect it” amount to is “these men have not harmed us, and there is no sign they will, but let us take away their liberty just to be on the safe side.”
Both McGill and Chartier seemed undeterred by their imprisonment, and struck a defiant tone concerning the use of the name “Seventh Day Adventist.” McGill wrote,
I am willing to endure whatever the adversary designs for me in the future—I cannot and will not recant the exercise of my faith and religious practice as long as I remain a free man. Should I be forced by conscience to violate future court orders, let it be well understood—I must answer to the Supreme Court of Heaven which will ultimately decide my eternal destiny.